Denver | Character Sketch in Beloved by Toni Morrison

Character Sketch of Denver in Beloved by Toni Morrison

Character Sketch of Denver in Beloved


Sethe’s daughter Denver is the most dynamic character in Beloved. Sethe had clasped Denver to her chest when she came to 124 Bluestone Road and was received warmly by her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs. Now about eighteen, with “far too womanly breast”, Denver claims to have sue allowed Beloved’s blood with her mother’s milk. She, too, claims Beloved, as her own. From her childhood, ever since Beloved’s death, Denver has come to accept Beloved’s ghost as her “secret company”. She is the one who hears the sound of Beloved crawling upstairs.

Protective of Beloved

Life for Sethe and Denver would have continued the same way, but for Paul D’s arrival at 124. It is he, one of the Sweet Home men, who chases the ghost away and breaks the bond between mother and daughter, the dead and the living. But the trauma cannot be chased away so easily and by such force. So Beloved returns, not merely as a sound “crawling up” but in flesh to challenge and interrogate the past and its relevance to the present. Denver, who cannot understand the fierceness of mother-love, wishes to secure Beloved as her own safe from her mother’s hands. She suffers from an acute anxiety for her own self and for Beloved:

“All the time I’m afraid the thing that happened that it made it all right for my mother to kill my sister could happen again … whatever it is it comes from outside this house, outside this yard, and it can come on in the yard if it wants. So I never leave this house, so it can’t happen again and my mother won’t have to kill me, too.”

Missing her Father

Denver has to handle Beloved, her mother Sethe and the dream of a father who surely must have been an “Angel Man”, she reconstructs the image of her father out of the memories of her grandmother. She would invent all sorts of stories which might have hindered her father’s return:

“Something was holding him up. He had a problem with the horse. The river flooded, the boat sank, and he had to make a new one.”

The solitude and quiet gives ample space for Denver’s imagination to grow and engulf her. Beloved’s return allows for more expansion of her imagination for “that just made the cheese more binding my sister come to help me won’t for my daddy.”

Defending Sethe from Beloved

Initially Denver sets out defending Beloved to see if any harm can come to her from Sethe, but she ends up defending her mother from Beloved. She watches Sethe’s health deteriorate, overwhelmed by her guilt and her all – consuming love for Beloved, who becomes mean-spirited and exploits her pain. All the thirty-eight dollars of Sethe’s life-savings go in indulging Beloved with the best of food and clothes.

“Anything she wanted she got, and when Sethe ran out of things to give her, Beloved invented desire.”

Reaching Out to the Community

Starvation forces Denver out of her mother’s porch. The first person she turns to for help is Lady Jones, the school teacher. She requests Lady Jones to help her in seeking a job. Lady Jones gives her some food and recommends her to the church committee formed to prevent people from starving. Every now and then women drop gifts of food at her doorstep. In turn Denver goes to thank than for their generosity. All of them knew her grandmother; some had even danced with Baby Suggs in the Clearing. Denver now turns to the Bodwins for finding work. She tells the housekeeper Janey how Beloved’s presence plagues her mother.

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The news spreads in the black community that Sethe’s daughter, whose throat she had cut with a handsaw, has come back to take revenge and, in fact, has threatened her life. After Beloved disappears from 124, she explodes right in front of the eyes of thirty black women who have to the spiritual assistance of Sethe and rescue her from her ghost-child.

The Denver that Paul D meets on his return to 124 has now matured into a fine young woman fending for herself and her mother. He then encounters the disoriented Sethe and makes efforts to reclaim her.

Denver’s Evolution

When we see Denver first, she is shy, intelligent, introspective, sensitive, and inclined to spend hours alone in her “emerald closet”, a sylvan space formed by boxwood bushes. Her mother considers Denver a “charmed” child who has miraculously survived, and throughout the book Denver is in close contact with the supernatural

Despite her abilities to cope, Denver has been stunted emotionally by years of relative isolation. Though about eighteen years old, she acts much younger, maintaining an intense fear of the world outside 124 and a perilously fragile sense of self. Indeed, her self-conception remains so tentative that she feels slighted by the idea of a world that does not include her – even the world of slavery at Sweet Home. Denver defines her identity in relation to Sethe. She also defines herself in relation to her sister – first in the form of the baby-ghost, then in the form of Beloved. When she feels that she is being excluded from her family’s attentions – for example, when her mother devotes her time and energies to Paul D- Denver feels threatened and angry. Correspondingly, she treats Paul D coldly much of the time.


In the face of Beloved’s escalating malevolence and her mother’s submissiveness, Denver is forced to step outside the world of 124. Filled with a sense of duty, purpose, and courage, she enlists the help of the community and cares for her increasingly self-involved mother and sister. She enters a series of sessions with Miss Bodwin and considers attending Oberlin College someday. Her last conversation with Paul Dunderscores her new-found maturity; she presents herself with more civility and sincerity than in the past and asserts that she now has her own opinions.

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