Thursday, November 8, 2018

Do Ghosts Exist in Beloved?

The first chapter of Beloved is pretty confusing because of all the flashbacks and unclear dialogue, but the most confusing part of it was the ghost in the hallway downstairs. Sethe and Denver both know and recognize the presence of the ghost of the baby Beloved, to a reader who doesn't believe in ghosts, it is easy to imagine that the ghostly presence is simply a figment of their imagination. Especially when she remembers the sadness of the presence, the reasonable assumption at the beginning was that there was no real ghost but instead Sethe was regularly remembering the sadness associated with losing her baby. 

However, the ghost's existence becomes more realistic when Paul D arrives and also recognizes the sad presence in the hallway. Again, that initial recognition didn't prove the existence of the ghost until the ghost acts up and Paul D has to physically attack the ghost. It was not until the ghost actually seemed to respond to the attack that I really accepted that the ghost was real. 

Another confusion, though, arose when the ghost seemed to disappear after Paul D's attack, which initially seemed like the ghost had just calmed down for a moment. But then both women in the house, Sethe and Denver, make references to the ghost actually being gone. So I finally accepted that the ghost existed in the first place, but now is the ghost gone for sure? Will it come back? 


  1. I also had difficulty in understanding the first chapter of Beloved, mostly because of the language and the prominence of the ghost in the story. I didn't think of it in the moment, but after reading your post, it seems to me that the biggest impediment to my comprehension was that as a non-believer, I am predisposed to be suspicious of the story, and therefore less able to engage with the text.

    I think that, in order to get the most out of any piece of literature, we must check our biases and preconceived notions at the door, including a rational skepticism of the supernatural, in the case of "Beloved". Besides, it's what Nabokov would have wanted.

    As for our particular baby ghost, I think it played much too large of a role in the first chapter to be gone for good. Also, Morrison indicated in the foreword that the novel would revolve around the ghost itself, not the characters it haunts. From page XVIII, "The figure most central to the story would have to be her, the murdered, not the murderer, the one who lost everything and had no say in it."

  2. The motif of the supernatural in Beloved is very confusing. Morrison's intent, I believe, in writing this way, is to follow the literary genre of magical realism.

  3. As I went into analyze in my blog post, I think the question is not whether the ghosts exist but rather what kind of ghosts may or may not live within each one of us. We all carry demons, literal and figurative. In telling a story that readily accepts the presence of a ghost, we can get past the barrier of believability and begin to understand the emotions of these characters through space and time in a completely new, "unusual" way. Morrison challenges us to become comfortable with our discomfort, which is what compels us to talk about it and figure out what it is making us feel.