The family dog, Here Boy has a small but significant role within the novel Beloved
He is only mentioned three times within the text but each mention adds another layer to his role. In the first quote we see how Here Boy functions as a marker for ‘home’ and memory:
“Then something. The plash of water, the sight of her shoes and stockings awry on the path where she had flung them; or Here Boy lapping in the puddle near her feet, and suddenly there was Sweet Home rolling, rolling, rolling out before he eyes, and although there was not a leaf on that farm that did not make her want to scream, it rolled itself out before her in shameless beauty.” (Morrison 7)
The second quote reveals the relationship of Beloveds spirit with the dog; Here Boy becomes physically afraid of the spirit and its presence over the home.
“And when the baby’s spirit picked up Here Boy and slammed him in the wall hard enough to break two of his legs and dislocate his eye, so hard he went into convulsions and chewed up his tongue, still her mother had not looked away. She had taken a hammer, knocked the dog unconscious, wiped away the blood and saliva, pushed his eye back in his head and set his leg bones. He recovered, mute and off-balance, more because of his untrustworthy eye than his bent legs, and winter, summer, drizzle or dry, nothing could persuade him to enter the house again.” (Morrison 14)
In the final excerpt Here Boy returns to Sweet Home after Beloved ‘disappears’, signaling the release of the spirit from the area.
“Here Boy, feeble and shedding his coat in patches, is asleep by the pump, so Paul D knows Beloved is truly gone.” (Morrison 31)
Besides Here Boys obvious reason to avoid Beloved’s presence (i.e. his physical ailments), many cultures believe animals are extra sensitive to the spirit world.
The following video is about Scamp, a dog who helps predict deaths in an elderly home in Ohio, acting as their own adorable version of a grim reaper.
In the same thread, the popular show Ghost Hunters on Syfy just added a new canine member to the team, believing that the dogs sensitivity to the supernatural will help them on their televised ghost hunt.
So what does this mean in beloved?
By accepting Here Boy as a spiritually sensitive creature much is revealed about the nature of Beloved and here presence within the characters ‘reality’. Here boys re-emergence at the end of the novel guides the reader to believe that the baby’s spirit has left Sweet Home, releasing the invisible wall keeping Here Boy out. The theories of Beloved’s ghostly beginnings become grounded in the dogs physical absence during the Beloved’s stay and his immediate return when she departs.
Fliptopfilms. “Scamp , the Ohio death detection dog.” 09 April 2011. Online video clip. YouTube. Accessed on 23 April 2012.