by Toni Morrison
Character Role Analysis
We've got to admit, this girl sends some pretty mixed signals. First she wants Sethe to share things about her past. Then she tries to strangle Sethe. Then she kisses her and tries to make it better. Hmmm.
It's hard to say exactly what Beloved wants from Sethe, which may be why Sethe gives her whatever she has in order to soothe Beloved. Pretty soon, Sethe's starving, broke, and utterly worn down from all that giving. We're not exactly experts on mother-daughter relationships, but we're guessing this one doesn't top the charts as one of the all-time greats.
Oh—and need we remind you? Beloved's seduces Paul D. That seems a little antagonistic, don't you think? This girl is definitely creating some major obstacles for other characters in the novel (especially Sethe). And she does it in a creepy, evil way to boot.
So even if her whole dead baby backstory makes her a sympathetic character, she definitely does enough damage with her young adult body to make us want to reassess our sympathies for her.
Talk about a clear-cut case: schoolteacher, the bane of our protagonists' existence in the novel. He doesn't view Sethe and the other slaves as anything other than animals. He allows his nephews to violate Sethe in horrible ways, which makes him responsible for Halle's madness, too. And, of course, he's the reason Sethe goes crazy and kills her baby girl in the shed. He's both an obstacle to the slaves' attempts to gain freedom and a catalyst for the book's penultimate death scene. No question about it: he's a bad-to-the-bone antagonist.