Halle is Baby Suggs’s son and one of the enslaved people at Sweet Home. When Halle asks Sethe to marry him, she accepts, knowing that those in his life consider him a kind man. Together, they have four children: two boys and two girls. Halle is a devoted son and husband, and he exhibits a quiet strength and masculinity throughout the inhumanities he faces as an enslaved man. Sethe notes that Halle’s care for her “suggested a family relationship rather than a man’s laying claim.” He even succeeds in buying his mother’s freedom through extra labor, and despite the difficult work he is subjected to, he remains optimistic about the possibility of emancipation for himself and his family.
Halle derives his self-worth from his ability to care for and protect his kin, and this is ultimately what breaks him. After the Garners turn the plantation over to the cruel schoolteacher, Halle witnesses Sethe’s rape and physical degradation at the hands of schoolteacher’s nephews. Hidden in the loft above and unable to defend Sethe from this attack, Halle suffers an emotional break, causing him to exhibit strange behavior such as smearing churned butter all over his face. Whether Halle is dead or alive in the present day of Beloved is uncertain, but it is clear that his continuous emasculation at the hands of his slavers and the atrocities inflicted on his loved ones effectively killed his spirit. He fails to follow through with the escape plan he hatched with Sethe, and she is forced to leave him behind. When Sethe criticizes Halle’s inaction to Paul D, he defends Halle, explaining that “he couldn’t get out of the loft.” Here, Paul D turns the literal loft into a metaphor, implying that Halle is mentally stuck in the state of abject horror that he experienced the day he witnessed Sethe’s rape.