Falling under the Shadow of the Dark Power
Just when we thought the "dark power" of slavery was over (after all, it is 1874), we learn that things don't end nearly as quickly as we'd like them to. Sethe once killed her first baby girl when she was attempting to escape slave catchers. Now, Sethe and Denver live in a house haunted by what seems to be a violent ghost-baby. When it does disappear, a strange new woman shows up in its place. A woman who goes by the name of Sethe's dead baby, Beloved. Dun dun dun.
Maybe the Dark Power's Actually Not All That Bad…
Soon after Sethe and Denver take Beloved in, they realize that she makes each of their lives better. Denver's not alone anymore. She has a sister to love. Sethe finds comfort in Beloved's interest in Sethe. Sure, Paul D's not so happy, but who really cares what men have to say, anyway? Not Sethe or Denver. And certainly not Beloved.
Whoops. We Spoke Too Soon. The Dark Power is Very, Very Bad.
Just when we thought that life at 124 was finally shaping up, it gets very, very, very bad. Beloved takes control of the women at 124. She's so needy that she might as well be a vampire sucking the life out of Sethe. And if Denver's collateral damage, well, that's just too bad. Denver and Sethe give Beloved everything. When there's nothing left to give, things start to turn ugly among the three of them.
There's supposed to be an angel descending to heal all wrongs, right? Isn't that what miracles are all about? Well, not really. In this novel, at least, the miraculous is figuring out how to come to terms with yourself. Denver figures out that she needs to go out into the world in order to save herself and the family. Meanwhile, the women of the town finally realize that they can't be jerks to Sethe forever. They band together and help drive out Beloved (along with Mr. Bodwin's presence). Even Paul D figures out his own demons enough to return to Sethe. There's no heavenly chorus at the end of this novel. But there is a chorus of women. And really, isn't that about the same thing?