Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Thoughts on Denver

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As I read Beloved, I am having an incredibly difficult time sorting out how to feel about Denver. Especially in the early passages of the novel, she struck me as a greedy, petulant child – completely self-absorbed and unwilling to comprehend the motivations (or even the needs) of others. As the narrative goes on, though, I am, reluctantly, finding her to be a more sympathetic character, if only slightly. The more I consider it, the more it makes sense to me that she would be hardened and selfish: She has suffered great loss in her life (Baby Suggs, her brothers, even Beloved, though she does not technically consider any of these ‘her” loss), and after this, grew accustomed to living with only Sethe. As some sort of constant, a form of relationship that actually lasts, I can understand why Denver might be wary of Paul D – not only does he upset the already fraught house dynamic, but he is a very tangible sign that even Denver’s mother can drift away from her. Despite all this, though, I still find it frustrating that Denver – who we are to believe is about 18 years old – responds in a very childlike way to a lot of the events we have seen thus far; while there are certainly lots of ways to respond to change, trauma, loss, I still find her ultimately difficult. I sort of understand her wanting to have something of her own, and maybe part of the great tragedy of the narrative is that Sethe cannot convey this to Denver, that in their world, you can never truly have or hold on to anything, not permanently, not with any authoritative sense of ownership. So while I understand that half of Denver’s line of thinking, it is appalling to me that she refuses to let her mother find joy in the few areas of life where she still searches for it (as with Paul D, as with nursing Beloved back to health). This is further complicated, though, upon reading that Denver has struggled with the question for years of whether her own mother might be a murderer. I don’t have any conclusive thoughts, yet, as to Denver — I don’t want to form a full opinion until I finish the novel, but I think going deeper into the story is at least explaining her side of things more; allowing her to seem less childish, perhaps, and more (understandably) resentful, at having harbored these dark thoughts about her mother for so long.


One thought on “Thoughts on Denver

  1. I completely agree with you. Throughout this entire section that we have read, I have always thought of Denver as an eight year old child, although we have her age, it still dot not permit me to believe it. I understand that she has no one, that she has been alone all of her life needing and wanting attention but somewhere along the way, she had to grow up right? So, I feel bad for feeling this way because I cannot imagine what it feels like to be in such solitude for a number of years. I hope that Beloved will bring Denver some peace with her own mother and will allow her to then act her age?

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