The novel attempts a reappraisal of slavery and it?s pervasive after effects. Set around the time of the American Civil War, the novel travels back and forth in time, charting the history of slavery through the remembered and retold experiences of five characters: Sethe, Baby Suggs, Denver, Paul D and finally, Beloved. House no. 124, where Sethe lived with her mother in law Baby Suggs and her three surviving children, is haunted by the ghost of her third child, a daughter that died as an infant. When the novel starts, both her sons have run away from home, waiting only till they were old enough, and Baby Suggs has given up on the world and died, having taken all she can endure from life. Sethe lives on in the haunted house with her youngest daughter Denver, until one day Paul D comes and drives the ghost away. Paul D was a slave at the same farm as Sethe before she ran away. Now, years after she made good her escape, she finally learns from Paul D the horrible truth of what happened after she left, and why her husband Halle, and the rest of the slaves, failed to meet her as planned. Of the five slaves on the farm, she was the only one who managed to escape, even though she was nearly nine months pregnant. Her husband Halle, hiding in a loft, was witness to her being assaulted by the white owners, and lost his mind. Two slaves were caught and killed, and Paul D chained up with a bit in his mouth because he was, after all, property, and could be sold. Sethe escaped but nearly died on the way, when she collapsed with swollen feet and a baby coming. She would have died too, but for a runaway white girl called Amy Denver who nursed her feet and helped her deliver the baby, named Denver after this girl. When Sethe finally reached Baby Suggs, up in the free North, she found her children, two boys and a crawling baby girl, whom she had sent ahead, safely arrived. Baby Suggs washed and cleaned her, dressing her wounds as best as she could, and then let her nurse her unweaned crawling girl, getting milk to whom had been Sethe?s driving motivation. But Halle never turned up, and one day a slave-catcher appeared with her old masters. She recognised a hat over the fence, and before anyone could react, she was in the wood shed with all her children. When they went in, they saw the two boys lying with their throats slit, the toddler bleeding dead in her arms, while she swung the baby at a rafter. Baby Denver was quickly snatched out of harm?s way, the boys were found to be alive, but the crawling child was dead. Seethe went to jail, but she had managed to prevent her children from being taken back to the farm at any cost. In the post civil war present now, when Paul D moves in and drives out the ghost, Denver feels a double anger; firstly at his intrusion, and secondly because he has robbed her of the only companion she still had left. Until one day they come home from the fair to find a young girl in new clothes sitting in their yard, weak and on the verge of fainting. The girl is vague about where she has come from and calls herself Beloved ? the one word Sethe managed to get inscribed on the tombstone of her unnamed child, paying with her body for ten minutes. The girl moves in and slowly entrenches herself, at the same time driving out Paul D. Denver is the first to realise who she is, and becomes obsessed with her. But Beloved is interested only in Sethe, constantly asking her about her past and wanting all her attention. Paul D, perceived as a threat, is slowly moved out of the bedroom, the main house and then off the property. When Sethe finds out who she really is, she reciprocates the obsession, staying at home all day trying to satisfy her every whim. Things come to such a pass that there is no longer any food left in the house, and Denver realizes she will have to overcome her fear and venture out into the world to ask for help if they are to survive ? Beloved has gotten fatter and fatter while Sethe actually shrinks and shrivels.. The community, after years of proud silence on both sides, instantly rallies around Denver and her call for help. Once it is widely known that Sethe is being tormented by the ghost of her child in real flesh and having the life slowly drained out of her, the women of the community decide to do something. They gather in front of no. 124 one evening and start chanting, intending to drive the ghost out. Seethe comes out to investigate, sees a white man in a hat, and instantly flies at him with and ice pick. The women tackle her, preventing catastrophe, and in the ensuing confusion, Beloved disappears, never to be seen again. The novel explores the pervasive and long lasting effect of the brutal past of slavery through the lives of its characters, every single one of whom has been affected by the horrible tragedy.