Sethe’s daughter Denver is the most dynamic character in the novel. She is shy, intelligent, introspective, sensitive, and inclined to spend hours alone in her “emerald closet,” a sylvan space formed by boxwood bushes. Her mother considers Denver a “charmed” child who has miraculously survived, and throughout the book Denver is in close contact with the supernatural.
Despite Denver’s abilities to cope, she has been stunted emotionally by years of relative isolation. Though eighteen years old, she acts much younger, maintaining an intense fear of the world outside 124 and a perilously fragile sense of self. Indeed, her self-conception remains so tentative that she feels slighted by the idea of a world that does not include her—even the world of slavery at Sweet Home. Denver defines her identity in relation to Sethe. She also defines herself in relation to her sister—first in the form of the baby ghost, then in the form of Beloved. When she feels that she is being excluded from her family’s attentions—for example, when her mother devotes her energies to Paul D—Denver feels threatened and angry. Correspondingly, she treats Paul D coldly much of the time.
In the face of Beloved’s escalating malevolence and her mother’s submissiveness, Denver is forced to step outside the world of 124. Filled with a sense of duty, purpose, and courage, she enlists the help of the community and cares for her increasingly self-involved mother and sister. She enters a series of lessons with Miss Bodwin and considers attending Oberlin College someday. Her last conversation with Paul D underscores her newfound maturity: she presents herself with more civility and sincerity than in the past and asserts that she now has her own opinions.
More characters from Beloved
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