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Stamp Paid Character Analysis

Stamp Paid is a former slave who works on the Underground Railroad and helps bring Sethe to 124 by ferrying her across the Ohio River. Late in the novel, he tells Paul D about Sethe’s murdering her child, which causes Paul D to leave 124. Stamp Paid feels guilty for his part in Paul D’s abandonment of Sethe, and works to make amends.

Stamp Paid Quotes in Beloved

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

The timeline below shows where the character Stamp Paid appears in Beloved. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 9
Community Theme Icon
...met a black fisherman who gave her food and water. The man introduced himself as Stamp Paid and ferried Sethe across the river, where a woman named Ella found her and took... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 15
Community Theme Icon
Stamp Paid visits soon after Sethe’s arrival and, seeing her healthy baby, goes to a nearby stream... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 17
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Back in the present, at the slaughterhouse where Stamp Paid and Paul D both work, Stamp Paid shows Paul D a news clipping about Sethe... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Stamp Paid plans to tell Paul D about the day Sethe killed her child, how the four... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 19
Community Theme Icon
Stamp Paid approaches 124, feeling bad that he has caused Paul D to leave the house. He... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Stamp Paid approaches 124 again, remembering how Baby Suggs became exhausted and stopped her gatherings at the... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Stamp Paid finally works up the nerve to knock on Sethe’s door, but no one answers. He... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Stamp Paid believes that the noises of 124 are the voices of angry, dead slaves and ex-slaves.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 25
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Stamp Paid arrives at the Church and meets with Paul D, who is attempting to drink away... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Stamp Paid says he wants to make up for showing Paul D the news clipping about Sethe.... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Stamp Paid tells Paul D that he was at 124 on the day Sethe killed her child.... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 27
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Paul D and Stamp Paid discuss the day when the singing women came to the house and drove away Beloved,... (full context)