Beloved The Ghost

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade November 2001

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The one aspect of the novel Beloved that I find most interesting is the nature of the girl Beloved. Is Beloved a human being or is she the ghost of Sethe's "crawling already? baby girl". I believe that Morrison intended Beloved to be the ghost of the "crawling already? Girl".

I have heard that there are only two reasons as to why a ghost would walk upon the earth: they have either unfinished business, or they died of a violent death and seek revenge. The "crawling already? Girl" fits both of these profiles. She died without growing up, without knowing why she died. As a result, she has unfinished business with her mother, Sethe. In addition, the "crawling already? girl's" death was also horribly violent. Sethe cut "crawling already? Girl's" throat with a saw in the cold shed, rather than have her and her children be brought back into slavery.

One may ask, "Should Sethe have been put in jail for this act?" I feel that I should comment on this question because recently when discussing this matter with someone they said to me that Sethe should have done jail time. My reaction to that question is; Sethe lived in a time when "should have" and "what was justified" was irrelevant. For anyone with the smallest ounce of morals, looking at Sethe's position from the outside, would see that she was put in such a position where se felt she did not have a choice. Sethe did not ask to be a slave, she did not ask to be beaten brutally, she did not ask to live among so-called people who treated her like an animal, who took the one gift that God gave her to nourish her child. Sethe came from a place where the word "life" was a dream to people of her kind. She had no control over the type of life her children would have. She almost died trying to protect her children from such a horrible imitation of life.

Many of the clues that indicate Beloved is actually the ghost of the baby girl are within the passages where she first arrives at the house on Bluestone Road. Each of these things put together support the idea that Toni Morrison intended Beloved to be the ghost of the "crawling already? baby girl".

The first clue is that she "had what sounded like asthma", meaning that her breathing was labored. If Beloved is the ghost, it would make sense that she would have trouble breathing; after all, because the windpipe is found in the neck, and Beloved's neck was nearly severed, her windpipe would have to have been severed also. She would have quick, raspy breathing, as people with asthma have when they can't hold a breath.

Earlier in the book, Morrison talked about how the ghost slammed Here Boy into a wall and hurt him badly. After that, he refused to come into the house because of the ghost's presence. When Beloved arrived, the scene was described with, "Here Boy nowhere in sight." Here Boy could sense that Beloved was the ghost and didn't want to be hurt again. Also, at the end of the book when Beloved was already gone, Here Boy returned.

One of Paul D's biggest questions about Beloved was her skin. Her skin was like "new skin, lineless and smooth, including the knuckles of her hands". Most women in that time had lined, callused, scarred hands by the time they were nineteen-the scarring from playing when they were children and lines and calluses from the housework. "The crawling already? Girl" died when she was one with baby new skin. It didn't have the time to become callused by labor and play.

Beloved also had trouble keeping her head up. She would, rest]her head in the palm of her hand as though it were too heavy for her neck alone. When Sethe killed the baby girl, she held its head up because she had cut so deeply, it almost severed the girl's head. If the Beloved were the ghost, she would have great troubles holding her head up because her neck had been severed.

When a person dies, certain things happen to their bodies. For instance, they become very cold because the heart is no longer pumping blood through the body. All the blood stops, and settles everything cools off. Also, bodies become very dehydrated because there are no more fluids being ingested. When Beloved arrives, she is very cold and drinks a lot of water. An explanation of her dehydration and coldness is that she had been dead.

When Beloved first arrived, Denver insisted on taking care of her. And one discovery that Denver made was that she thought Beloved was incontinent because she would defecate in her bed. However, there is another explanation besides incontinence. "The crawling already? Girl" died when she was one. The baby girl didn't have time to be potty trained. Because Beloved was the ghost, she only had the knowledge that the crawling "already? girl had when she died", and that knowledge did not include being potty trained.

Morrison also talks about Beloved difficult movements about the house. She "moved like a heavier one or an older one, holding on to furniture." "The crawling already? Girl" might have been crawling, but she certainly wasn't walking. Again, Beloved only has the knowledge that the "Crawling already? baby girl" had before she died, and that did not include learning how to walk. Beloved in the flesh had to learn how to walk.

One of the biggest clues in the beginning passages is the three little scratches on Beloved's forehead, although we don't discover why these are important until later in the book, when Sethe says, "I would have seen my fingernail prints on your forehead for all the world to see". Then it all becomes clear. The three little scratches are Sethe's fingernail prints were from when she held the "crawling already? girl's" head on.

Then there is her name. Beloved. The only two words that Sethe heard at her crawling already? girl's funeral were "Dearly Beloved". She only got the word "Beloved". Because the crawling already? girl's name was never given, it may be assumed that she didn't have a name or that her name wasn't used very often. The ghost could have heard the words "Dearly Beloved" at the funeral and assumed that Beloved meant her.

Aside from the clue in the first passages where Beloved become a main character, there are major clues in other parts of the book as well, for instance, the earrings. When Sethe got married to Halle, her owner gave her a pair of earrings. Her "crawling already? Girl" liked the earrings and liked to play with them. She liked the shininess. The girl Beloved asks Sethe to, "Tell me your diamonds." Beloved knows about the earrings because she saw them when she was a little girl.

Beloved also has a scar on her neck. When Denver and she are dancing, Beloved falls back on the bed and Denver, "saw the tip of the thing she always saw in its entirety when Beloved undressed to sleep." The tip is a scar that is in the shape of a smile. Denver sees the top of the smile. It is the same scar that the "crawling already? Girl" would have had if a slice across her throat could have healed. It is the scar from where Sethe cut her throat.

In addition, there is a very strange scene when Sethe is at the clearing. Beloved comes over and starts kissing Sethe's neck. Eventually, Sethe pulls away and she smells Beloved breath. Sethe describes it as smelling "exactly like new milk". Then Sethe goes on to tell Beloved that's she's "too old for that." I believe that "that" was nursing. Beloved was trying to nurse off Sethe like she did when she was a baby.

After the skating adventure, when Beloved, Denver and Sethe were at home, Sethe hears Beloved humming a tune that Sethe made up herself. That is the incident that finally convinces Sethe that Beloved is her daughter. The only way the Beloved could know the song is if Sethe had sung it to her. And the only way Sethe would have sung the song to her is if she were Sethe's child.

The last section that provides some clues as to the nature of Beloved is the disjointed section where we heard Beloved thoughts. In that section, she talks a lot of the hot place where she was always crouching. She says, "I'm small in that place." She also curls up in the fetal position when thinking about it. I think that she is talking about being in Sethe's womb. Her womb would be small, and dark and she would be curled up in the fetal position.

When all of the information is tallied up and the clues counted, all of the evidence points to the fact that Beloved is not a real life woman, but the spirit if the baby girl come to life. She could have reanimated the body from the hunter's cabin that Stamp Paid made a passing reference to, or maybe she created the body herself, and that is why she was so worried it would fall apart. That doesn't matter. What does matter is that all of the evidence points to the fact that somehow, Beloved did come back to life. She is truly the ghost of the "crawling already? baby girl".