Beloved

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Denver Character Analysis

Denver is Sethe’s youngest child. She is quiet and independent, but also craves attention and love from Sethe and Beloved. She loves to hear Sethe tell her about her miraculous birth. Toward the end of the novel, she gathers enough courage to venture outside of 124 by herself and get help for Sethe. As the novel ends, she seems to have a potentially promising future and to have been saved from the past that controlled Sethe’s life.

Denver Quotes in Beloved

The Beloved quotes below are all either spoken by Denver or refer to Denver. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Slavery Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Beloved published in 2004.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

“How come everybody run off from Sweet Home can’t stop talking about it? Look like if it was so sweet you would have stayed.”
[...]
Paul D laughed. “True, true. [Denver’s] right, Sethe. It wasn’t sweet and it sure wasn’t home.” He shook his head.
“But it’s where we were,” said Sethe. “All together. Comes back whether we want it to or not.”

Related Characters: Sethe (speaker), Denver (speaker), Paul D (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Denver is perturbed by Paul D's arrival and his conversations with Sethe. She interrogates them about their discussion of Sweet Home, to which they respond that the place continues to exert powerful control over their lives.

This exchange establishes the fraught relationship these characters have to the plantation from which they have escaped. Although the location signifies cruel memories, it is also part of Sethe’s personal history, as well as the communal history created among all the slaves who worked there. Her simple constructions—“it’s where we were” and “all together”—make the incontestable argument that the plantation functioned much like a home does. It played the same narrative and psychological role for these characters, whether they want it to or not, and thus it returns consistently in their interactions and lives.

As an outsider, Denver is unable to make sense of this pattern. Her distanced viewpoint allows her to notice, for instance, the irony in the plantation’s name itself. She thus stands for the role of a second generation of ex-slaves, as well as for the contemporary reader, who might be confused about why the plantation serves to connect Sethe and Paul D. Morrison thus points to a disjoint between these two generational perspectives: one that feels a continued link to the plantation and one that cannot make sense of that very link.

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Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

As for Denver, the job Sethe had of keeping her from the past that was still waiting for her was all that mattered.

Related Characters: Sethe, Denver
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Sethe ponders a potential future with Paul D, but notes that Denver must be her first priority. She worries about how her slave past may affect Denver’s future.

This passage inverts a traditional linear time-scale, for it positions “the past” to be “waiting” for Denver as if it is in fact in her future. Sethe has already spoken of the way the past can play a continued role in the present, but here she takes the claim one step further—observing that it can also affect the future. As a result, the past takes on qualities of aggression, even violence—things from which a child must be kept. That protecting Denver from these memories “was all that mattered” shows Sethe’s singularity of purpose: even as Paul D might allow her to engage with the present and future, her focus remains entirely on keeping the past from her child. (Ironically, this obsession makes Sethe herself deeply imbedded in the past.) Morrison thus shows how memory provides not only a continued struggle for an individual person, but also affects the ability of communities and new generations to live independent of previous atrocities.

Part 1, Chapter 18 Quotes

And if [Sethe] thought anything, it was No. No. Nono. Nonono. Simple. She just flew. Collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one else could hurt them. Over there. Outside this place, where they would be safe.

Related Characters: Sethe, Denver, Beloved
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

Paul D confronts Sethe about murdering her child. During their discussion, she tells this story of her escape from Sweet Home.

Morrison juxtaposes two forms of potential action: a well-reasoned escape plan in which the route has been rationally conceptualized; and the haphazard, desperate style characterized of Sethe. Indeed, Sethe's mindset here does not seem to revolve around “thought” at all, but rather the absence of thought—the blunt rejection of “No” that grows and replicates itself into “Nonono.” We have little insight into Sethe’s thought process, for her journey lacks a coherent direction, a clear set of objects that she saves, or even a certain destination. Instead, she maintains the vague goal of “outside,” similarly defined in terms of negation, as was the “No.”

The language of this passage mimics Sethe’s style of thought. Composed of short fragments, it avoids normal, fluent syntax in order to place the reader in the mind of someone making stressed and disordered decisions. It is as if Sethe is trying to convince the reader of her disorientation just as she tries to convince Paul D. And Morrison thus makes sensible to us what might have motivated a series of decisions by Sethe. In particular, she demonstrates how deeply one’s psychology can be warped by the experiences of slavery—to the extent that one may even murder their own child as an act of intended love.

Part 3, Chapter 26 Quotes

Yet [Denver] knew Sethe’s greatest fear was...that Beloved might leave.... Leave before Sethe could make her realize that far worse than [death]...was what Baby Suggs died of, what Ella knew, what Stamp saw and what made Paul D tremble. That anybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind. Not just work, kill, or maim you, but dirty you. Dirty you so bad you couldn’t like yourself anymore. Dirty you so bad you forgot who you were and couldn’t think it up.

Related Characters: Sethe, Denver, Baby Suggs, Paul D, Beloved, Stamp Paid, Ella
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

As life at 124 grows ever worse, Denver reflects on what is motivating Sethe to acquiesce to Beloved’s wishes. Sethe, she explains, wants to prove to Beloved that her infanticide offered her a better end than she would have had alive under slavery.

This passage casts Sethe’s relationship with Beloved in a somewhat different light than before. Whereas earlier sections justified her actions as derived from pure affection, this passage presents them as seeking some kind of repentance or justice. That Sethe wants Beloved to “realize” that another fate (slavery) was “far worse” reveals a wish for acceptance and forgiveness on Beloved’s part. She wants her, in a bizarre way, to understand the horror of an alternative past that she never experienced—in order that Sethe's decision will be deemed merciful and the result of love.

Denver’s focus on the loss of identity is intriguing here. She presents the worst end of slavery as that one “forgot who you were and couldn’t think it up,” which speaks to how mentally fractured Sethe had become by the time she fled Sweet Home. Yet if Sethe had sought to save Beloved from this fate, she also has caused it to come true: if Beloved is indeed the ghost of her child, she lost her identity and came blindly to Sethe without a clear sense of self. Morrison thus presents the murder less as a real escape from the institution of slavery, but rather as a reproduction of its horrifying ends.

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Denver Character Timeline in Beloved

The timeline below shows where the character Denver appears in Beloved. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...of the baby of Sethe, a former slave who lives at 124 with her daughter, Denver. They have lived in the house for 18 years. Sethe’s sons, Howard and Buglar, ran... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Shortly after Baby Suggs’ death, Sethe and Denver attempt to call forth the ghost to talk to it, but it does not appear.... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
...works at a restaurant and sews to make money in order to feed herself and Denver. Paul D remembers more of his past from Sweet Home: Sethe came to Sweet Home... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Denver meets Paul D and is shy around him, since she is not used to friendly... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
As Sethe and Denver start to prepare dinner, Denver makes a rude remark to Paul D and then begins... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
...her what she means and she explains: on Sweet Home, when she was pregnant with Denver and still lactating to nurse her infant (the baby that is now the ghost), two... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
After the house settles down, Denver takes the biscuits onto the porch and eats, while Sethe and Paul D go upstairs.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Home Theme Icon
Since she was a small child, Denver has enjoyed going to a growth of boxwood in the woods behind 124. The boxwood... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
The dress embracing Sethe reminds Denver of the story of her own birth. As Sethe has told her, she was running... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Thinking about the story of Amy, Denver enters 124 and tells Sethe about the dress she saw. She asks Sethe what she... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Denver asks Sethe about Sweet Home. Sethe tells her about Schoolteacher, who came to the plantation... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
Paul D has moved into 124, disturbing the house’s arrangement that Denver had grown used to. Denver had learned to take pride in the haunting of their... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
...she tells him that he can stay at the house. Paul D is hesitant, since Denver evidently does not want him to stay, but Sethe assures him that it’s okay and... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
At dinner one night, Denver asks Paul D how long he’s going to “hang around”, which upsets Sethe. Paul asks... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...that he will stay at 124 and help her, but she has to talk to Denver about making room in their life for him. He plans to take Denver and Sethe... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
...to the carnival. Sethe dresses up as much as she can for the occasion, but Denver is sullen. As they walk to the carnival, Sethe notices that their three shadows are... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Motherhood Theme Icon
...as having “new skin”. She sits down on a stump outside of 124, where Sethe, Denver, and Paul D find her upon returning from the carnival. Immediately upon seeing the woman,... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
Sethe and Paul D think Beloved is sick with cholera, but Denver defiantly says that she isn’t. For four days, Denver tends to Beloved, changing her sheets... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
...D says that Beloved is not as weak and sickly as she seems: he and Denver saw her pick up a large rocking chair with one hand. Denver lies and says... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6
Motherhood Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...to meet her on her way back from work at night. Time passes with Sethe, Denver, Paul D, and Beloved all living at 124. (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
...of earrings and told her that she wanted her and Halle to be happy together. Denver asks where the earrings are now and Sethe says that they are gone. (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
One day, as Sethe is unbraiding Denver’s hair, Beloved asks if Sethe’s mother ever did her hair. Sethe says she can’t remember... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...but that she couldn’t identify the body, even though she looked for her mother’s mark. Denver asks why Sethe’s mother was hanged, and Sethe says that she didn’t know. (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sethe ends her story and Denver realizes that she hates the stories that do not have to do with her own... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7
Slavery Theme Icon
...D. He is bothered by the fact that she arrived just as he, Sethe, and Denver seemed to be getting along together. (full context)
Home Theme Icon
...trying to get rid of Beloved, Beloved chokes on a raisin and then gets sick. Denver takes Beloved to her room, excited to share the room with her. Alone, Paul D... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Beloved and Denver are dancing upstairs in 124. Denver asks Beloved what it was like where she came... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Denver asks Beloved never to leave and then asks her not to tell Sethe who she... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
The narration jumps into Denver’s story: Amy has found Sethe, who tells Amy that her name is Lu. Amy cares... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sethe thinks that the baby she’s pregnant with (Denver) must be dead. She limps to the river with Amy, where Sethe suddenly goes into... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9
Slavery Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
...Baby Suggs lost her faith and stopped preaching. Missing Baby Suggs, Sethe decides to take Denver and Beloved with her to the Clearing. (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
...she feels invisible fingers massaging her neck. But then, the fingers begin to choke her. Denver runs to help her and the choking stops. Sethe guesses that it was the spirit... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
...him. Beloved sees this and is immediately jealous. She runs outside to a stream where Denver is. Denver accuses her of choking Sethe. Beloved denies it and runs off a short... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Denver recalls going to a schoolhouse when she was younger and how much she liked the... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 12
Slavery Theme Icon
Denver loves it when Beloved looks at her and prizes her attention. Sethe asks Beloved about... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
By contrast, Denver thinks that Beloved is the white dress that knelt next to Sethe, some presence of... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
Denver finally finds Beloved, who assures her that she is not going to leave, because she... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 14
Home Theme Icon
That night, after Paul D and Sethe leave the dinner table and go upstairs, Denver and Beloved talk. Denver says that Sethe likes having Paul D at the house, but... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 16
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...is holding a dead, bloody child to her chest in one hand and an infant (Denver) by its heel in the other. A nearby black man comes and takes Denver from... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
...the dead baby from her, but Sethe will not let it go. Baby Suggs exchanges Denver for the baby and Sethe breastfeeds Denver, with the blood of her dead baby all... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 19
Motherhood Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...pair of ice skates and asks what they are. Sethe decides to take Beloved and Denver skating. They go skating, laughing and enjoying themselves. They return to 124 and drink hot... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...the hand-holding shadows she saw on the day of the carnival were not Paul D, Denver, and her, but rather Beloved, Denver, and her. She thinks that Paul D tried to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 21
Home Theme Icon
Denver’s monologue follows Sethe’s. She asserts that Beloved is her sister and that they have a... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
When she was younger, Denver was afraid Sethe would kill her, too. She would dream that her dad, Halle, was... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 23
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Beloved’s thoughts are followed by a dialogue of thoughts between Beloved, Sethe, and Denver. Beloved says she comes from “the other side” and remembers Sethe. Sethe says Beloved is... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 26
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
...with Sethe, not obeying her and throwing angry fits whenever Sethe tries to assert herself. Denver worries about Sethe. She realizes that it is up to her to leave 124 and... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Lady Jones recognizes Denver and welcomes her into her house. Denver asks for work, so that she can bring... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Two days later, Denver finds food left on a stump by 124. All through the spring, various packages of... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Denver goes to the Bodwins to look for work. She tells their maid Janey about Beloved... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
One afternoon, as Denver is waiting on her porch for Mr. Bodwin to pick her up from 124 to... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
...and runs after him with an ice pick, but she is restrained by the women. Denver runs after Sethe into the crowd of women, and Beloved thinks that both Denver and... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 27
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Paul D’s thoughts are confirmed when Denver runs into him and Stamp Paid and tells them that she has lost her mother.... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Paul D asks Denver if Beloved was her sister. Denver says that she thinks so, but that Beloved was... (full context)