point of view · The anonymous narrator of Beloved speaks in the third person and withholds judgment on the actions described. When the characters serve as narrators, they generally use the first person and openly express their personal opinions.
tone · The text’s tone changes from character to character and reflects their varying, usually explicit attitudes toward the events. The primary “narrator,” regards the characters and their actions with a mixture of mournfulness, regret, and awe.
tense · Beloved fluctuates in tense between the immediate and distant pasts. It also includes occasional, jarring transitions to the present tense.
setting (time) · 1873, with frequent flashbacks to the early 1850s
setting (place) · Cincinnati, Ohio; flashbacks to Sweet Home plantation in Kentucky and prison in Alfred, Georgia
protagonist · Sethe is the primary protagonist, but Denver also drives much of the plot’s action, especially in Part Three.
major conflict · Having survived a traumatic escape from slavery, Sethe has killed her older daughter in a mad attempt to keep her from being taken back to the South by her old master. A mysterious figure now appears at Sethe’s home, calling herself by the name on the dead daughter’s tombstone.
rising action · A ghost has haunted Sethe and Denver’s house for several years. Paul D arrives and chases the ghost away. Beloved appears at the house soon after and causes memories to surface in Sethe, Denver, and Paul D.
climax · Because the novel follows two different stories, one told through flashbacks and one that is taking place in the novel’s present, there are two different climaxes. The climax of the flashback plot occurs near the end of Part One in Chapter 16, when the text finally reveals the circumstances of Sethe’s daughter’s death: eighteen years ago, Sethe attempted to murder all her children when she refused to hand them over to schoolteacher…