Slavery, brief freedom, and their lasting psychological presence. Some years after the Civil War, former slave Sethe lives with her grown daughter Denver outside Cincinnati. Sethe is stolid and hard working; Denver wants society. Paul D, a former slave who knew Sethe, happens on them and joins the farm and family, but not before the house rattles and pitches, as if spirits reject Paul D's coming. Next, inexplicably, a young woman about Denver's age arrives, behaving in childlike ways, speaking and walking awkwardly, calling herself "Beloved." Who she is, her effect on Sethe, and Paul D's responses propel Sethe into the past and Denver into a new maturity.