Sethe, sweet Sethe, is so self-righteous in her decision to protect her baby from slavery that she holds little regrets for murdering an innocent life. Her conviction is so internalized that she cannot be convinced she did any wrong. There is still guilt within her though. The surfacing of Beloved, who depended on Sethe “like a familiar,” with her “open, quiet devotion” brings back the memories of the dead baby. Beloved’s childlike affection juxtaposed with her insight into Sethe’s past forges a pathway straight to her heart, raising the suspicion that Beloved is indeed the dead baby. To Sethe, the murdered baby “com[ing] back to [her]” is a blessing. Maybe it means that her daughter has forgiven her. No decent mother could deny what is best for her child, so Sethe gives Beloved everything, and “the bigger Beloved got, the smaller Sethe became.”
After all, Sethe is trying to “make up for the handsaw” – for lost time and hidden guilt.
Denver, too young then to remember her mother’s rampage but old enough now to interpret her brothers’ and Nelson Lord’s accounts as telling of her mother’s dysfunction, is trying to find her way in the world. Poor Denver, huddled up in her “bower, closed off from the hurt” (30). She is determined to stay that way forever, not allowing anything to invade her safe space. Paul D is an intruder, he threatens her consistency, driving out the baby ghost, “the only other company she had” (20). Then Beloved arrives.
She’s similar in age, strangely needy, and the ultimate candidate to foster Denver’s self-importance which her mother’s stories can no longer feed. No matter what Beloved wanted, “Denver held it out to her” (58). Desperate Denver, the thought of Beloved leaving makes her frantic, she can’t stand to lose someone again, like how she lost the baby ghost – her dead sister. Her years spent isolated in the confines of 124 and then her bower makes her susceptible to others’ evil intentions. Her yearning for verification makes her blind to the stark reality of Beloved slowly draining them. No longer is her world about her, it now revolves around Beloved. But Beloved won’t love her back, at least not the way she wants to be loved.
Then Paul D, an intruder, looking inward but always facing outward, never standing still for too long. Tossed around, whether as a slave or as a free man, never staying too long in one place. Now with Beloved, even if he wants to stay, finding ultimate comfort and contentment with Sethe, he is moved “imperceptibly, downright reasonably … out of 124” (120). Paul D expelled the baby ghost from 124 but a grown woman is a different fight. Morrison clarifies that a child he can deal with, but Beloved’s “shining” and tempting womanhood only perpetuates the fact that he is less than manly (68). Any other man he has known would have given the effort to protect what they love most. Halle stayed quiet even after witnessing Sethe’s milk rape, knowing that speaking up would only instigate dire consequences for both of them. He drives himself insane with the fact that doing nothing is better than doing anything at all. Sixo and his Thirty Mile Woman, who carried his unborn son. He allows himself to die for her, laughing even at his imminent death because he understands that he has outsmarted those that viewed him as inferior and saved his most important people. Paul D has never had to make that sacrifice. Instead, he has run away from everything. He is lowly, even lower than a rooster. At least the rooster has a purpose though.
Those who live around 124 stays away. “124 [is] spiteful,” and filled with “hasty voices – loud, urgent, all speaking at once” (3, 180). Those who dare approach 124 know that there was something “wrong with the order of the words,” all that was audible above all else “was the word mine” (180). No one would visit “while the baby ghost-filled the house” (101). Everyone avoids 124, and easily, it is forgotten, left in the back of people’s minds – a mere spectacle rather than a home. Not all of the fear and avoidance can be contributed to the haunting though. People are always going to be bitter over what others have and what they do not. Baby Sugg’s feast had “overstepped, given too much,” and “offended them by excess” (145). So they stopped coming, no one wants to associate with someone who thinks the world of themselves, someone who flaunts their wealth so easily. Too bad their spite is unjustified and hypocritical, the excess as donated by the same people who reject 124.