The Uniqueness of Toni Morrison's Ghost

Every culture has its ghosts, whether it be spectral images of the deceased such as in Hamlet, the monstrous spirits of Japanese folklore, such as the ones depicted in Spirited Away, or the more modern interpretation of ghosts, zombies. Every culture has their own unique spin on the ghost. Similarly, In Beloved, Toni Morrision creates a unique spirit to haunt 124. The beginning of Beloved would have the reader believe that the ghost haunting 124 is a fairly mundane ghost, with the rather generic ability to move objects around and causing some commotion in the house. This remains true even when Paul D. somehow banishes the spirit by causing some chaos of his own, most likely scaring the baby away from the house. 

When the spirit returns in the form of Beloved, however, Toni Morrison has truly created a unique spirit to cause chaos, in a way far different from the simple movement of objects, to the inhabitants of 124. Firstly, Beloved emerges, fully dressed, from a river, having aged alongside the rest of the world, which is very different from her previous form; Sethe reminds Denver that it was less than two years old and could not speak when it died, which explains why Denver could not communicate with it. Her new form is very similar to an Obake in Japanese folklore, who can change their appearance and impersonate others. The usually have a reason for returning, such as exacting revenge for wrongs committed to them during life. After fulfilling their purpose, they usually disappear, similar to how Beloved vanishes after the town chooses to help Sethe instead of abandoning her the same way they failed to warn Sethe of schoolteacher’s arrival along with Sethe’s decision to attack to who she believes to be schoolteacher instead of taking her child’s life.

Unlike the baby’s previous manifestation, Beloved is physically in the world, similar to a zombie. However, unlike a mindless zombie, Beloved has deep and complex thoughts and harms Sethe in a far more subtle way than any zombie. Beloved appears to have memories of being in a slave ship, crossing the middle passage, even though the baby was never in a slave ship. This implies that Beloved is far more than the spirit of Sethe’s deceased child, but embodies all the suffering that Slaves experienced. Beloved’s embodiment of slavery is similar to how zombies can embody mob rule as well as the fear of people who are different, xenophobia. Later on, Beloved appears to drain Sethe of her life by usurping the role of mother from Sethe and causing her to act like a child. During this, she appears to be pregnant with a child, most likely a representation of her new role as the mother. Beloved’s control over the household can be likened to possession, a common ability of ghosts in film, but in this case it is the possession of the entire family, not an individual. In this case Denver manages to see beyond Beloved’s illusion and resist the power of the ghost. All of these characteristics create a unique and memorable character to truly personify the horrors of slavery and how the ugly past manages to reach into the present, blinding it from seeing the future.

The Unusual Experience of Stream of Consciousness

Exit West, written by Mohsin Hamid, has one of the most unusual sentence structures out of any of the books I have read. Long and drawn out sentences with many distinct thoughts throughout them are not so uncommon, but to have them compose the entirety of the book is something unique. Each sentence is a stream of consciousness, not of Nadia or Saeed’s perspective, but the thoughts of the narrator who, I believe, is Hamid himself, although my opinion is certainly biased because I have heard Hamid reading his book. Regardless of whether Hamid is the one narrating the story, the narrator occasionally introduces his own thoughts into the book, such as when he describes the man who emerges from the closet as rolling his eyes “terribly”, and then takes back his opinion believing it to be too harsh. 


Hamid wrote Exit West, in stream of consciousness is to better capture the migrant experience, which is about flowing from one situation into another. By having the narrator almost endlessly flow through each description, never dwelling on one particular moment for too long, Hamid can instill uneasiness due to unfamiliarity onto the reader. One can debate whether Hamid’s decision to write the book in this way is for the better; On one hand it definitely gives the book a unique feeling and does what it is supposed to do, however, important events are sometimes described so quickly that the reader can miss them entirely due to their placement within a paragraph causing the reader to get lost and have to read the passage again. I certainly experienced this a few times, most notably when I passed over the part where Saeed’s mother’s death is hastily described in an otherwise wordy but unremarkable paragraph, leaving me confused about whose funeral Nadia was visiting. Obviously, I was reading too quickly, but I did feel that the book’s pacing was slow due to the sentence structure and wished it was a bit faster in pace. At the same time, this may have been intentional, as in reality, some events pass by so quickly that it is hard to process them and other events are drawn out with no resolution in sight. All in all, Exit West was a unique and interesting read that captured the migrant experience using stream of consciousness as a method of introducing unease into the reader

The Dangers of Existentialism

The Stranger, written in 1942 by Albert Camus, portrays existentialism as dangerous and unproductive through the protagonist, Meursault, who is a caricature of existentialism. Throughout the story, Camus reveals that Meursault is apathetic to most if not all people he encounters. This indifference to the world leads him into murdering a nameless Arab in cold blood. After being sentenced to death by guillotine, Meursault comes to terms with his death and accepts it while finally understanding the “gentle indifference of the world”.

At this point, the reader may feel that Meursault’s existentialist or possibly nihilistic views allow him to live his final hours in happiness. And although that may be the case, the reader has to pause and remember why Meursault is facing his execution; Meursault’s own nihilistic views resulted in him murdering a person due to realizing that he “could either shoot or not shoot”, and that it did not matter. Meursault himself does not know why he shot the man, which hints at his lack of self analysis. At this point, Camus is demonstrating the most exaggerated form of existentialism, which is nihilism, along with the most extreme situation possible, murder, practically telling the reader that existentialism leads to nihilism which destroys any morality in a person, which eventually results in him commiting murder.

In the second part of the book, Camus describes in detail Meursault’s existentialist views allow him to come to terms with both his incarceration as well as his execution. Meursault asserts in his head that he “was always right”, and clearly shows that he has no remorse for his actions. Unable to come to terms with his mistakes, Meursault has deluded himself into happiness as well as a sense of victory over society. In the second to last sentence of the book, Camus reminds the reader that Meursault was happy before his incarceration, revealing that Meursault does not need existentialism in order to feel happy, implying that his existentialism only led him to sadness and suffering even though he himself cannot realize it.

Alien Indoctrination

In Octavia Butler’s short story Bloodchild, the analogy between humans and their livestock and the Tlic and the Terrans is a crucial part of the story. Although the parasitic Tlic are using the Terrans as hosts for their children, the Terran’s are generally content with living with the Tlic and even consider the Tlic as part of their family. Even though T’Gatoi asserts that the Terrans “aren’t animals to [them],” the relationship between the Tlic and the Terrans is far closer to farmer and livestock than it is to family, and is a lot deeper than the fact that the Terrans are forced to wear armbands for identification.

The Tlic seem to live as part of a Terran family and are seen as “friends” by many of the Terrans including Xuan Hoa, but they are clearly in control of the preserve. Instead of oppressing the Terrans through force and violence, the Tlic choose to keep the Terrans docile through feeding them their sterilized eggs, which have a powerful narcotic effect in addition to prolonging life. The Terrans’ forced complacency is very similar to how people raise their livestock. Over thousands of years, people have domesticated animals by breeding the most submissive animals in order to get the desired docility. The Tlic have also spent “long years” to pacify the Terrans.

The indoctrination is pervasive. The Tlic have hidden the danger of egg implantation from the Terrans, as Gan seems unaware of the horrors of the implantation. Over the long years, resistance has dwindled and it seems that the Terrans are willing to continue submitting to the Tlic.