Ghost Stories: Reclaiming the Past Through Its ‘Telling’ as Reflected in Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Trauma, especially as it relates to the violent loss of a child, can have a transformative effect on its victims. The resulting transformation can negatively affect not only the sufferers, but also their family, friends, and community. In Toni Morrison’s, Beloved, Sethe is plagued by the memory of past trauma at the hands of slave masters. She endures years of haunting disturbances by the ghost of the daughter she murdered in an attempt to spare her the same physical, sexual, and emotional abuse she had experienced herself at Sweet Home, a plantation in pre-Civil War Kentucky. Though physical evidence of the haunting is visible to more than just Sethe, the poltergeist at 124 is less an apparition of the murdered child than a manifestation of Sethe’s own pain, grief, and guilt. In the end, it is the presence of the spirit child which serves as the catalyst for the reclamation of Sethe’s lost history and the redemption of her other self. The haunting at 124 is Sethe’s opportunity to rewrite the narrative of her past and “rememory” the tragic day that radically transformed her life.

…to read the remainder of this long-form essay, please download the PDF below.



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