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Sethe Suggs is the key protagonist of the novel. She attempts to be a stable mother for her four children, even under the system of slavery, which defines her and her children as property. Sethe suffers from the many crimes inflicted upon her as well as the crimes she has committed due to the violent and oppressive nature of slavery. By the end of the book, Sethe has become a symbol for all black people who have suffered from slavery or racism.
Sethe’s main antagonist is the system of slavery and the pain it causes her, both directly and indirectly. Taken from her mother as an infant, she was never nurtured properly. When she has her own children, she does not really know how to care for them, for she has had no role model; but she is determined to do her best and to make sure that her sons and daughters do not endure the miseries of slavery that she has known.
In order to keep her children from being returned as slaves to Sweet Home, she tries to murder all four of them and succeeds in killing her oldest daughter. For the rest of the book Sethe is haunted by the memories of her past mistreatment as a slave and by her guilt over killing Beloved. She is made more miserable by her ostracism from the black community and by the presence of Beloved in her life, first as an infant ghost and then as a reincarnated young woman. She is so devoured by Beloved that she literally begins to waste away.
The climax occurs when the women of Sethe's community finally come to her aid and rescue her from Beloved.
Although Sethe’s story is truly tragic, at the end of the novel she has some hope. Since Sethe has begun to come to terms with her past, she defeats her antagonist. As a result, the novel ends as a tragic comedy. Although Sethe is still suffering physically, she is relieved that Beloved has finally ceased to haunt her and that the community has finally reached out to her. Sethe is also pleased that Paul D has returned to live with her and nurse her back to health. When he tells her that she is her own best thing, she realizes, for the first time, that she is truly a person in her own right, not just a mother or an ex-slave.