Do Ghosts Have a Place in History?

Often, when we look for historical fiction books, we look for stories that seem real. We look for stories that make the past seem vivid and tangible.

I didn’t expect to find this in Beloved. One of the most important elements of Morrison’s novel is Beloved, a ghostly presence who haunts Sethe as a constant reminder of the horrors of slavery. I don’t believe in ghosts, and so I thought that the intangible Beloved would serve as a distraction of the real-life horrors the book touches on.

But Beloved is part of Sethe’s story. By writing about Beloved, Morrison managed to write about Sethe as a person, rather than just writing about her experiences. And in writing about a person, Morrison was able to describe the haunting impacts of those experiences.

Toni Morrison story was one with depth. It doesn’t just help us to understand history — it creates empathy.

9 thoughts on “Do Ghosts Have a Place in History?

  1. mayap

    I agree with this – originally I was very skeptical but I think that having this ghost character really added to the story and was a very interesting way of getting a message across about traumatizing pasts.

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  2. Spencer A

    I think that wether or not you believe in ghosts is not too important to the story. You can choose to take the ghost literally which would allow a more immersive experience into how the past affected the main characters. However, you could also simply recognized what the ghost itself represents, which would also be able to let you know how past decisions still “haunt” the characters.

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  3. Annie W

    I thought the same thing while reading Beloved, not thinking ghosts or anything you find in scary stories could add to the meaning. I do agree that it creates empathy for Sethe, and I also think it gives the reader an interesting way to learn about Sethe’s past in a powerful way, really showcasing the love that Sethe has for Beloved.

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  4. Alexis S

    I wrote a blog post on ghosts as well, and I think I do believe in ghosts. They are inconsistent creatures, but I think they can be a real thing. I actually think Beloved added a lot to the book, but it is hard to characterize a ghost, while it is easier to go in depth about a human, that I agree with.

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  5. Grace S

    I thought the same thing when I first started to read the book, why are we reading about a ghost when we’re talking about a slavery topic like slavery. Now I think that it is really important that Morrison added this aspect because it shows how the trauma of the past never truly goes away. Everything that happened during slavery should still be haunting us today because it is such a horrific act and I think that Morrison was really smart to incorporate Beloved into the novel in order to represent this.

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  6. Yasmin R

    I agree that by adding the aspect of Beloved, Morrison was able to make the story more personal. It was more than just another story about slavery. It was about the very real effects that slavery has on a person.

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  7. Monty E

    I agree. When I first learned Beloved was a ghost, I was confused about how she would fit into the story. But in reality, Beloved added a lot of value and knowledge to the story.

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  8. Zach B

    I think ghosts can fit into history, or at least stories like Beloved, when they add to the significance of the story. I was initially skeptical of Beloved’s inclusion, but as I read further and figured out how she accentuated Sethe’s story of survival and torture, I understood her utility to the narrative.

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