Although he is not a main character, Stamp Paid plays an integral role in Beloved. As his self-given name suggests, Stamp Paid is a former slave who sees his freedom as a blank slate, all debts paid. He extends the possibility of this kind of life to others through his work with the Underground Railroad. He smuggles Sethe and her family across the Ohio River into Cincinnati, and he’s also present during the fateful moment when Sethe attempts to murder her family; in fact, he ends up saving Denver’s life.

However, Stamp Paid occupies a space of moral ambiguity throughout the novel. It is revealed that, before he escaped to freedom, he harbored a violent resentment toward his wife after she was raped by their enslavers. Similarly to the other male characters of Beloved, Stamp Paid has experienced the emasculation and helplessness of being forced to see their partner assaulted. But unlike Halle, Stamp turns the blame on his wife. After his escape, he attempts to wipe his slate clean, hoping to erase his past mistakes and the unbearable realities of slavery. However, Stamp’s need to be seen as a selfless community hero results in acts motivated only by selfishness. In the case of picking blackberries for Sethe and Baby Suggs, Stamp’s actions indirectly cause the community to ostracize the women. Consequently, the townspeople fail to warn Sethe when schoolteacher shows up in town. Rather than risk his reputation in the community, Stamp Paid abandons Sethe as well, both before and after Beloved’s death at Sethe’s hands.

Despite his failings, Stamp Paid wants to be good, which ultimately helps him battle his darker inclinations. While he remains a complicated character throughout his arc, he does right his past wrongs by aligning with Denver and convincing the community to help exorcise Beloved from 124. He seems to truly care for Denver, whom he refers to as his “heart.” Just as he did when he first escaped slavery, Stamp pays his debts to Sethe’s family, staying true to his name. In many ways, he is the physical representation of one of the central conflicts of Beloved: finding the balance between remembering the horrors of the past and moving forward toward a hopeful future.