Interpretations of an Ethereal Character
One cannot embark on a teaching unit centered around Morrison’s novel Beloved without opening up the discussion of the novel as a ghost story.
Although Morrison never comes right out and uses the word ghost or spirit to describe her hauntingly ethereal title character, she does leave a great deal of hints in her text that could denote Beloved’s presence in the house as the presence of a poltergeist. Although the novel is ambiguous enough to be read either way: Beloved as a ghost, or Beloved as a human way for Sethe to overcome the guilt she feels at her crime, it presents teachers with a wonderfully unique opportunity to have students examine their own interpretations, citing textual evidence as support.
Before beginning to teach the novel, use this power point download to introduce the lesson and start the class discussion:
Using these quotes about ghosts, ask students to choose a quote and take a definitive pro or con stance on their own personal feelings on ghosts. This will lead to an exciting class discussion, spark their interest in reading the novel, and also help them form the basis of a logical argument on whether or not the novel is a ghost story.
Ghosts and Hauntings
Once that assignment is complete, use the power point below that introduces and explains the Poltergeist type of haunting in more detail. Have students take careful notes, so they can track examples of this in the novel to use for or against a final conclusion.
For comparison to other ghost stories centering around slaves, use the power point on the LaLaurie mansion haunting.
- Do You Believe in Ghosts? An Introduction to the Poltergeist Experience
- Haunted by the Past: The LaLaurie Mansion, New Orleans, LA
Is the Novel a Ghost Story? Final Assignment
Finally, once the novel is completed, use the downloadable quote test, which ask students to paraphrase key ideas from Beloved and use them to support whether or not the novel is in fact a ghost story.
This unit will have students longing to come to English class each day; for a frightengly fun lesson!
This post is part of the series: Using the Novel “Beloved” to Teach History
- Toni Morrison Teaches History: Using Beloved To Teach Slavery
- Fact in Fiction: The Inspiration Behind Toni Morrison’s Novel Beloved
- A Ghostly Presence: Is Toni Morrison’s Novel Beloved a True Ghost Story?
- A Question of Ethics and Law: Using Beloved To Discuss Criminal Rights