Denver… Oh sweet, sweet Denver.
Her character truly develops throughout this novel and I have sat watching with wonder and awe for the woman that she becomes.
In the beginnings of the novel, particularly when Paul D arrived, Denver acted standoffish and tense- untrusting of everyone around her that wasn’t stuck within her immediate living situation.
Yet when Beloved arrived, Denver began to change.
Being intrigued by Trauma and Psychological studies, I’ve spent some time researching the effects of Trans-Generational Trauma, which is basically the idea that if a family member or adult with whom a child is in frequent contact has not healthfully dealt with their own trauma, it is then transferred down to the child. They experience it vicariously. I think this idea truly spans over Denver’s life; so affected is she by her mother and the entire unravelling of 124, as well as by Baby Suggs death, that it is all she can do to run in her hidden space of leaves and cope. Yet as Beloved arrives, bringing with her the weight of all the unspoken trauma, Sethe begins to divulge some of her fragmented memories. Denver hears about her mother’s earrings, the moments of shame and horror of her mother’s youth, and other horrific tales. There is a grim beauty to the sharing of these secrets, a freedom that allows Denver to see the world in new light.
As Beloved’s insatiable desire for Sethe increases, Denver begins to realize the reality of the situation: the repressed memory of Beloved has begun to kill Sethe slowly, day by day. And in a beautiful rite of passage, Denver returns to Lady Jones’ to ask for help, eventually acquiring a job to assist at her house.
This development is what, I believe, saves the story; this idea that even a girl so traumatized can taste hope. Hope in all it’s inefficiencies and shattering sorrow. She has become the redeemed of her family: not Beloved, the girl raised from the dead, but Denver.
Denver who walks into the world, embodying the spirit of her grandmother, who told her “there is no defense to the outside world…” but to “walk in it anyway” (Beloved 244).
And this is what Denver does, I believe. And she does it with grace… And it is her act of bravery, of going into the world with her defenses down and asking for help, that brings the shattered community together once again.