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Toni Morrison's Traditions Of The Ghost Story.

1810 words - 7 pages

Discuss how Beloved revises and renews the tradition of the ghost storyBeloved is a ghostly novel. There is a question though, as to whether the character of Beloved is a ghost at all and if she is whether she falls into the African-American ghost genre or the classic Gothic ghost of American folk horror. There is evidence in the novel to support all three theories. Whether or not Beloved is actually the reincarnation of a ghost does not change the fact that she has a haunting effect on the novel as a whole and in many ways acts as a personification of the slave race collectively. Beloved can be said to be a symbol of the slaves who met their death during the years when the slave trade prospered, and in particular those who were on the slave ships which ferried between Africa and America.There is evidence to suggest that the woman calling herself Beloved is not the reincarnation of a ghost but in fact a real person. Sethe herself gives an explanation as to who this girl might be when she tells Denver: 'that she believed Beloved had been locked up by some whiteman for his own purposes and never let out of the door' (Page 235). There is a lot of evidence to suggest that Beloved is a ghost though, one such piece being that she has 'new skin, lineless and smooth' (Page 50). Sethe's explanation of this is that if Beloved was locked up from when she was a child and used only for sex: 'Folks say he had her in there since she was a pup' (Page 235). This would explain her not having the rough skin common among working slaves. Morrison makes the identity of Beloved ambiguous through such references. Whilst allowing it to be conceivable that Beloved is a real person she also uses references to Sethe noticing that her breath smelled 'exactly like new milk' (Page 99) and her own narration that a 'miraculous resurrection of Beloved' (Page 105) had taken place, to give a supernatural element to Beloved's character.In stating that Beloved has to be either a ghost or a human the novel is being placed in the American folk horror genre. The beginning of the novel has all the traits of such a ghost story. The house shakes fiercely when the ghost is aroused. The ghost moves furniture around, like a poltergeist trying to hurt the living. Just before Paul D rids the house of the ghost we see a 'table rush ... toward him' (Page 18). This is a classic American gothic ghost image. Another image putting the novel in the genre of classic American ghost stories is the 'pool of red light' through which the baby presents itself. Classic American ghosts do not appear in both human and spirit form, though. Morrison makes the spirit ambiguous by giving it some traits of a classic American ghost and some that go against the traditional stories.Morrison herself stated that it was wrong to state that Beloved must be natural or supernatural. She stated that she blended 'the acceptance of the supernatural and the profound rootedness in the real world at the same time with neither...

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