Sethe’s former "master", Schoolteacher, is an embodiment of the evils of slavery. Mrs. Garner invites him to help run the Sweet Home plantation after the death of Mr. Garner. In contrast to the Garners, schoolteacher is an outwardly vicious man who views enslaved people as little more than a source of profit and subjects them to all manner of horrific treatment. Schoolteacher’s scientific approach to violence and his methodical observations exemplify how he views enslaved people as animals rather than people.
Schoolteacher’s callousness and disregard for human life come to a head when he finds Sethe in Ohio years after her escape, intent on bringing her back to his plantation. When he and his men appear on Bluestone Road, they are referred to as the “four horsemen,” figures associated with the apocalypse in Christian literature. Refusing to let her family return to the horrors of slavery, Sethe attempts to take her own life and her children's lives. While schoolteacher is disturbed by what he’s witnessed, he shows no awareness of the fact that his cruelty is the catalyst behind Sethe’s actions. In fact, he blames Sethe’s emancipation from slavery, thinking to himself that her breakdown is a “testimony to the results of a little so-called freedom.” His decision to leave Sethe and her family, rather than enslave them once again, is not an act of mercy or empathy, but rather one of business. Schoolteacher notes that the physically damaged children and Sethe in her current mental state would not be a profitable asset to his plantation.