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Ella is a black woman who was locked up by a white father and son, who abused her. She is a friend of Sethe, but abandons Sethe after she kills her child. At the end of the novel, though, she organizes the group of women who come to rescue Sethe from Beloved.

Ella Quotes in Beloved

The Beloved quotes below are all either spoken by Ella or refer to Ella. 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 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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Ella Character Timeline in Beloved

The timeline below shows where the character Ella appears in Beloved. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 9
Community Theme Icon
...introduced himself as Stamp Paid and ferried Sethe across the river, where a woman named Ella found her and took her to 124. Once Sethe got there, Baby Suggs took care... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 12
Slavery Theme Icon
...up by a white man and never let outside. She knows a black woman, named Ella, who was similarly locked away and abused by a father and son. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 19
Community Theme Icon
...on Sethe’s door, but no one answers. He sees Beloved through a window. He tells Ella that there is a strange woman at 124 and decides to ask Paul D about... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 26
Slavery Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
...Yo Service” written on it. After Denver leaves, the news of Beloved spreads around town. Ella convinces the townswomen that they need to help Sethe. (full context)