Postmodernism and Place

Sarah briefly mentioned place in her blog post and that got me thinkin’. Since many folks out there have already weighed in on the Adams article, I decided I would go elsewhere with this post and try to make sense of place in some of the novels we have read.

The notion of place seems to be pretty flexible in postmodern texts. In gothic literature, for example, place is often easily described as antiquated. In genres like fantasy and sci-fi, place also fluctuates but tends to follow some basic rules (outer space, past feudal realms). Many people have posted about how difficult it is to place postmodernism within any strict walls or interpretive confines. I agree that this is tricky and as I’ve read books from The Crying of Lot 49 to House of Leaves to Tropic of Orange, I’ve noticed that there don’t seem to be any conventions that strictly define place in postmodernist writing.

As I looked closer I found that there is little overlap in location: Beloved occupies a small space in the rural South; The Crying of Lot 49 takes place in bustling, crowded cities across California. The size of the places also changes: there are the small confines of a house that can also grow to enormous proportions in House of Leaves; the small (but ever-changing) office where much of Lathe of Heaven occurs; Tropic of Orange sprawls all over LA and in Mexico too, across landscapes both vast (the urban ghetto, the highway systems) and localized (the house near Mazatlan). Places can occupy just about any form in postmodern texts, from rural to urban, small to large.

It’s how place feels to the reader and how it is handled by the characters in the stories that I think give many of the places we’ve read about a common characteristic: they are unreliable, sometimes to the point of becoming untrustworthy. Why do I see some of the places in this semesters novels as unreliable? How does this relate to postmodernism?

I don’t think anyone will disagree that the space in House of Leaves is unreliable. The house shifts, it changes, at times it attempts to trap people inside. However, the novel also takes place in the world of Johnny Truant. Johnny begins the novel with some forays into the city, but by the end, he is as shut-in as Zampano, with drapes over the windows and cardboard blocking the vents. Not only does he not trust his own space, he doesn’t trust the space outside.

In Crying of Lot 49, everything seems to be untrustworthy. Oedipa travels around to different cities, and as she does this, I never feel a strong sense of the location. Each city seems the same. What makes them important is that they conceal the hidden clues she so desperately seeks. Each place sends her to a new location, all another stopping point on a journey that leads pretty much nowhere. Those are some unreliable locales.

In Tropic of Orange place seems to be more reliable than these other two, but is it? Crabs in Mazatlan, located hours’ walk from the sea, signify that something isn’t right. Gun shots on the east side may be an every day part of life, but for Buzzworm, it can all be avoided, the space can be reclaimed–from the beuracrats, from the gangsters who do their best to claim it, from the vicious cycles that occupy that space and keep revolving and threatining to never let anyone out. Gabriel’s unreliable space takes the form of a two-headed monster: the quiet Mexico or the bustling LA where he can continue working as a journalist. These spaces all bring with them a strong sense of unreliability. This is not the house you grew up in or the bustling city that represents opportunity. No, these spaces, even when they’re at their best, are ever-changing, sometimes alien landscapes.

Manzanar seems to be one character who finds the space he occupies–highway corridors–to be reliable. However, upon closer expection, we see that they are only reliable as far as his music goes, but not reliable as a whole. Crashes occupy this wide-lane space and Manzanar also summons images of maps. Maps can be reliable, but for anyone who has used one knows they are subject to change. Unexpected, sudden change that leaves you at the end of a dead-end road, just miles from your ultimate destination in the middle of the night, wondering, “what do I do now?” The maps in this book also have layers–“for Manzanar they began with the very geology of the land…” (57). These multi-layered maps become so thick in their complexity and construction as to render them too numerous and too specific to serve much use at all. In chapter 13 Buzzworm thinks about maps and how little they really do to help. He sums this up with the early line, “if someone could put down all the layers of the real map, maybe he could get the real picture” (81). Only if all the layers are assembled can the maps provide a clear picture–and as the tone suggests, this will never happen. So even maps become unreliable in Tropic of Orange.

Some of the other novels we’ve covered also deal with unreliable places, but I felt that these were some of the shining examples. Places change, but their unreliability in postmodern texts seems to be relatively constant.

In postmodernism many aspects of life (language, morals, truth, etc.) are shown as constructs of society that we all end up buying into. In a postmodern novel, the author may investigate these constructs, and in so doing, help shed some light on their existence (the constructs’), which is usually enough to get people thinking. I can’t help but want to channel Saussure when thinking of place, who wrote about the signifier and signified in linguistics. I believe that while he mainly focuses on words, the same can be said for place. The signifier “home” or “city” will mean many different things to any number of different people (the signified). New York is the symbol of American freedom, LA of opportunity and fame, DC of power. However, to the people who visit and occupy these spaces year round, the cities become many different things. This may be part of the reason spaces seem so hard to trust in the works we’ve read. After all, when a space means something different to everyone occupying it, and seems ever-changing, there isn’t a lot to rely on. Just below the surface the labels we apply to certain locales (the peaceful setting of the South, the emblematic American cities) suddenly vanish. Each person takes something different away from their place. Each one views their place differently as well. I believe this root of unreliability is essentially postmodern becauyse it’s not only the observed that’s important, but who’s doing the observing, how they observe, and what that says about the unique spaces we all occupy and how they shape our unique perspectives.


I’d first like to just say that I think Yamashita’s use of music in her novel is beautiful. The book is written sort of like a song – with different characters working their way in and out of the text like instruments. I know it sounds really cheesy, but that’s the first thing that struck me. Small themes brought up in the beginning of the novel lead to great catastrophes or large events later on. Then, of course, there is the conductor who directs traffic. This, in and of itself, is a lovely image that lends itself to the text’s lyricism.

The movement of traffic is one thing that I think Adams explained nicely in her article. I like how she compared the freeway vein and impossible circuit of Pynchon’s California to Yamashita’s more musical and, in strange ways, hopeful freeway. I also like how she emphasized that Yamashita’s novel suggests the freeway is less crucial to the vital functions of a city. One infrastructure stalling doesn’t guarantee apocalypse. In the same way, the characters that survive are historically connected rather than flailing, and if they fail, that failure won’t necessarily destroy them. Adams makes some great points comparing the texts. I don’t think she’s disparaging Pynchon either – she’s more just calling attention to thematic and stylistic differences. In some ways I think the differences are just that (thematic and stylistic), and not necessarily bookends for an entire literary period. I feel like there’s a point where constantly arguing back and forth about whether something is postmodern just bogs it down and detracts from what we can get from the writing.

One thing I find strange was the emphasis placed on California, as if it’s this entirely different world and the center of everything. Maybe it is. At one point Yamashita mentions Joan Didion, and I kept thinking of her California freeway essay (and other CA essays) as I read the Adams article – how she made a game of the freeway, how she studied the freeway system, and felt completely connected to it. If California is this big a deal in the grand scheme of whatever postmodernism is, I sort of feel less connected to it than to Pynchon’s random red herrings and Cold War references.

There were a few other things I was wondering about. One was dialect – how did this strike other people? Adams mentions it in her article. At first I was wary of it because there are so many different conversational things happening, and for some reason I kept getting pulled from the story and thinking about screenplay dialogue. I’m not really sure why. But I see Adams’ point – that the use of dialect emphasizes a convergence of “underrepresented” people – I just wonder how accurate a representation it is.

The magical realism is also pretty stunning. In a weird way, it reminds me of Beloved – I guess just because it’s there, in this otherwise realistic piece. Perhaps the unreal elements sweeping into daily life emphasize the unreality or strangeness of real daily life.

Family Life in Postmodern Literature

I think it’s interesting how the chapters in Tropic of Orange correspond with the characters. I’m not really sure what to make of it. It’s clearly another expression of fragmentation, but it’s odd that she outlines it for us in the beginning. It almost seems like a key, in the way that some of the information in House of Leaves seemed like a key. Yamashita is, in a way, telling us how to read the book. She organizes the information, it seems, to help us make sense of the novel. Doesn’t this sentiment seem slightly anti-postmodern? However, I’ve never seen it done in another text, so it is an innovative technique. I wonder if anyone read the chapters out of order. I’d like to go back and reread this in a year, but instead of reading straight through, I’d read the chapters the way they appear in the outline. I wonder how that would change the meaning of the text.

I liked this book, in particular, because it gave me some ways to continue thinking about my research topic. Most of the books we’ve read don’t deal closely with family life. In fact, their seems to be a lack of families, or a tearing apart of families, in most of the books we’ve read. Pynchon doesn’t depict a family and gives very little weight to the one marriage in the text. In House of Leaves, the Navidson family is figuratively (and literally in the case of Tom) torn apart.  There is one marriage in the Lathe of Heaven, but it is also made to be a background issue. 

We do see marriage and family life in The Female Man, but it is completely different from the traditional idea of the nuclear family. In Belovedthere are families, but they are often separated by death and slavery. In this text, family members never seem to work as a cohesive unit, but instead stay isolated from one another. In Mao II, Bill, Scott, and Karen make up a sort of untraditional family unit.  However, this family is also torn apart by the end of the novel. In The Tropic of Orange, Rafaela, Sol, and Bobby are at the center of the story. Although family members, such as Rafaela and Sol, seem to operate in normal ways, their are various abnormalities surrounding them. In this case, the family life is altered, not internally, but externally as the geography around them twists and turns from its natural state.

 Sometimes the aspects that interest me most in a book are not what it says, but what it doesn’t say. There is an obvious absence of family life in the books we’ve read.  This lead me to wonder – where do families (especially nuclear families), marriage, and love fit into postmodernism?


I found Adams’ article, “The Ends of America,” really helpful in my (still feeble) attempts to form a working definition of postmodernism. She seems very confident in her definition of what we’ve admitted is a slippery category: postmodernism as the “dominant form of avant-garde literary experimentalism during the Cold War, a period marked by the ascendance of transnational corporations, the upheavals of decolonization, fears of nuclear holocaust, and the partitioning of the globe into ideological spheres” (Adams 2). Here, Adams is referring to the sixties through the late eighties (I would say it coincides with the formation and then fall of the USSR). However, stuff like the “upheavals of decolonization, fear of nuclear holocaust, and the portioning of the globe into ideological spheres” is sounding an awful lot like what’s going on today (I asked someone who lived through the Cuban missile crisis why they thought we don’t seem particularly concerned about the prospect of countries like North Korea or Pakistan getting nuclear weapons, and they said they think it’s because our generation has never had that much faith that the world wasn’t going to end, so there didn’t seem a point to panicking. I think they’re right.).


So anyway. If Adams is arguing that postmodernism was a reaction to the “containment culture of Cold War America,” (Adams 1) it would seem that the postmodern “moment” is over, as the particular historical moment that postmodern was a reaction to is more or less over as well. If so, I’d have to say that postmodernism seems to me to be the quickest-passing literary “moment” I’ve ever studied. (Is it possible that literary eras are speeding up? Why do I have to use so many parentheses?) Anyway, Adams argues that books like Tropic of Orange (and I would say also The Magical Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death-there I go again with the goddamn parentheses) are not postmodern per se but post-postmodern, or, in her terms, a reaction to the globalization of American literature. But do we agree that postmodernism has passed as its historical moment has passed?


But moving on, I thought I’d write a bit about my final paper and the issues I’ve been having and hopefully elicit some opinions and comments from other people. I wanted to take the discussion about Beloved and sort of run with it-I’d have to say it felt like the one book on the list that had the most to quibble about whether or not it was postmodern. But now I’m starting to feel like Oedipa, because it seems that each article or book I read just sends me ping-ponging from one position to the other. I’d like to make the argument that Beloved is a uniquely postmodern book. Here, Adams gives her list of what makes a postmodern work postmodern: “dark humor, themes of paranoia, skepticism, and conspiracy, preoccupation with close reading and textuality, and complex formal experimentation…[postmodern works] can be historicized as a response to and reaction against…the containment culture of Cold War America” (Adams 1). Given that Beloved has nary a nuclear reactor or conspiracy theory in sight, and it takes place in a history as yet untouched by the Cold War, is it still a postmodern novel?


Well, Adams goes on to write of Pynchon as the definitive postmodern author, citing his “preoccupation with paranoia and conspiracy, radical skepticism about foundational truth and authority of all kinds, deft mixing of genres, distrust of received historical knowledge, and confrontations with the sublime and apocalyptic” (Adams 3). Leaving out the paranoia and conspiracy part, I think a case could be made that Morrison’s work exhibits the same characteristics

Reconfiguring the Past

Well, it is very late, and I am wondering why it has taken me so long to come up with something to write about concerning Toni Morrison’s Beloved.  Perhaps, it has something to do with not actually liking the novel that much.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a fine literary achievement, but for some reason it doesn’t “strike a chord” with me (but I will leave my personal taste out of this discussion).

More importantly, I am struggling with the postmodern-ness of the novel (and of Toni Morrison in general).  So it is a relief to see that as a class, we seem to be struggling together.  I keep trying to find a postmodern entry into this novel but have found little success, and so my last resort is to attempt to situate Beloved with the other postmodern texts we have read up to this point.  Obviously, this is no walk in the park either…but I did find one thing that could prove useful, but could also prove worthless.

In Kimberly Chabot Davis’ essay “Postmodern Blackness,” she discusses the interaction between past and present in Morrison’s Beloved:

One way to free oneself from the horrors of the past is to reenact and reconfigure the past in the present, as Sethe does with an icepick at the end of the novel, attacking not her own children this time but the white man Bodwin, whom she perceives as a reincarnation of her slave master Schoolteacher. (251)

Could we not consider this idea (reconfiguring the past in the present) in terms of Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven?  I believe a comparison with Le Guin’s novel depends on how one reads the ending of Beloved.  As Davis explains, some critics see the ending as a positive resolution; however, Davis “find[s] that the last chapter denies such a simplistic closure.  Morrison ends the novel with the word “Beloved,” suggesting that the past is a lasting presence, waiting to be resurrected. […] Although the ending suggests partial healing, the spectre of the past reamins, waiting to resurface” (251).

To reinforce her claims, Davis turns to Hutcheon who I think can be used also to consider The Lathe of Heaven:

the past is not something to be escaped, avoided, or controlled. . . the past is something with which we must come to terms and such a confrontation involves an acknowledgment of limitation as well as power. (251)

So to try to pull this shaky argument together: Sethe’s icepick maneuver is comparable to the chaotic ending of Dr. Haber’s effective dream in The Lathe of Heaven.  These resolutions are not perfect.  Instead, the endings demonstrate an “acknowledgment of limitation”: Sethe cannot erase the past by stabbing someone with an icepick, and Dr. Haber cannot alter the wrongs of the past by changing the world’s present condition (Note: his attempt to do so results in chaos.  Had it not been for George reaching the “off” switch, the world would have been staring into the eye of an apocalyptic disaster.)

Alternatively, both novels demonstrate the failing attempts to reconfigure the past through the present: Beloved in terms of a personal, familial past and The Lathe Heaven in terms of a broader world history.

Well what exactly does all of this tell me?  By placing Beloved alongside a postmodern text, can a claim of postmodernism be made for Morrison’s novel?  I’m not sure.  As was stated in Davis’s essay, Beloved‘s ending can be read several different ways.  If we read the ending as a positive resolution, then I can see the case being made against a postmodernist reading.  Either way, a comparison between the two novels certainly raises questions about the reconfiguration of the past through the present, and whether or not this can be achieved.

Unity in Fragmentation and Brokenness

In many ways Toni Morrison’s Beloved reminds me of William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!  Both speak to issues of slavery and race; both narratives are told from multiple points of view and in non-chronological order, steadily fleshing out the many facets of the story.  I may be putting more faith in my reading of Beloved than Absalom, Absalom! when I say that I think Faulkner’s work is more post-modern in that in the end the reader is not sure what is true and what to believe; I think Morrison gives us a much more solid reality and a “center” that we can stand on.

I feel that the fragmented structure of the novel parallels the fragmented and broken nature of the characters in the work.  The setting of the narrative jumps around so the idea of home is difficult to pin down.  Sethe separates herself from the memory of Beloved, but Beloved cannot be repressed (sound familiar?  House of Leaves is back!).  At the same time, even though the characters lives and bodies are in pieces, the past of fragmentation brings them together and unifies them in the end.  I think that Paul D goes to Sethe with the hope that she might satisfy his needs and make him feel whole, unbroken.  He would not return were it not for some shared connection.  Granted, he does not understand the whole picture and when Beloved enters on the scene he gets uncomfortable and leaves.  Still, at the end, he returns and tries and offers to help heal and piece Sethe back together.  I also think that it is interesting that Sethe’s scars, her bodily brokenness, appears to form a tree.  The tree seems reminiscent of a family tree, showing that all of the characters, Sethe, Denver, Beloved, Paul D, are connected by the physical and not so physical wounds they bear.

The appearance of ghosts in this novel and postmodernism in general is an interesting one.  Going along with the theme I’ve already got rolling here, I think ghosts are great symbols for fragmentation: a ghost is a spirit separated from its body.  In the instance of Beloved, the ghost serves as a symbol of the mental wounds, the repressed, too.  With regards to Alyssa’s comments about ghosts, Morrison may not attempt to separate ghosts from religion, but I don’t think she tries to marry the two ideas together.  I feel the religion within the work comes out more in the form of a general spirituality than rigid establishments and dogmas.  If the work had been more about religion, then I think Morrison would have had the ladies at the end sing a hymn instead of one of Sixo’s(?) old tunes.  Ghost does not immediately connote religion; just think about how many horror movies have ghosts and then think about how many have priests in them.

Re-creating Reality

Although the narrative was much easier to follow reading it for the second time, I remain very confused about exactly what Beloved herself is. The text from Beloved’s own point of view exacerbated rather than cleared up my confusion, as, apart from the interesting form that Davis comments on, I could not understand the content, or the point. Davis mentions that Beloved’s sections reference the slave narratives of the middle passage, and I didn’t catch that at all when I read it, but now I see the references. If there are references, does Beloved then become the spirit of African American history? Is she the mythical “presence” that Morrison is quoted as saying African Americans possess?

Even the other characters in the novel seem confused about what she is. Once another character identifies her as probably a girl that had escaped being imprisoned by a whiteman. When she vanishes from the porch, some characters see her as fat, some as thin, and later a boy reports seeing a woman with fish for hair in the woods. Morrison herself says she blended Beloved from the murdered historical child and a woman in a photograph murdered by a jealous lover.

With all these different interpretations of her, it’s no wonder Beloved has trouble keeping herself together. Beloved mentions trying to keep herself intact, each part of herself, as if the integrity of her form was a function of her concentration, and if she let herself drift for a moment, she would all fall apart. This vulnerability to self-fragmentation is seen in Sethe as well, and it reminded me of the conscious re-creating of one’s reality the travelers in the hallways of House of Leaves had to do. Beloved’s own narrative is also fragmented, and she seems to see Sethe’s face as both the face she lost on the middle passage and her own face.

What is this ambiguity accomplishing? What is Morrison communicating that she felt Beloved would be the best medium for? And why do Davis (and apparently I) care so much about Morrison’s intent? I am fond of the imagery of Davis’s “wheel,” ever changing and adapting and never repeating – perhaps these are also the characteristics of the water from which Beloved came. Beloved herself is always changing, her form varying both over time and with the viewer. Yet in the end, no one can remember her and she seems to diminish in form to a kind of nature spirit, hiding in the forest. What does this development signify? Davis mentioned a theory that Sethe’s proactive reeactment of the past broke the hold of the past (in the form of Beloved) on her, making Beloved vanish and allowing Sethe to come to terms with her past in a way that still allowed her to live in the present.

In the normal ideal of a sane person in our society, the sane person clearly separates memory and imagination and the present, and also remembers all important events in their life. The characters in this novel clearly do not always fit that ideal, and even at the end when Sethe has been “liberated” from the past, she and others can not really remember Beloved, even though she played such a large role in their lives. Does this leave them functioning but insane? Does this ending shed some light on the way we construct our societal ideal of a functioning productive member of society?

Beloved- Morrison’s Definition of “Freedom” as Postmodern

I’d like to start off by saying that I find Beloved entirely mesmerizing, and this week when I was listening to NPR on the way to work, I was reminded that Patrick Henry gave his speech to the Virginia Convention two hundred and thirty-four years ago this week (March 23, 1775)– I just realized I originally posted this with a miscalculation. If you’ll recall, the last few lines of his speech seem awfully ironic, considering the practice of slavery by the colonists themselves:

Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

That said, one of the most moving motifs for me as I read Beloved was the characters’ discussion of what freedom meant for them. Toward the beginning of the story, Baby Suggs discusses how she gives up loving her children because “men and woman were moved around like checkers” (27). The narrator explains, “What she called the nastiness of life was the shock she received upon learning that nobody stopped playing checkers because the pieces included her children,” and then goes on, saying that after her third child was taken from her, “That child she could not love and the rest she would not. ‘God take what He would,’ she said. And He did, and He did, and He did and then gave her Halle who gave her freedom when it didn’t mean a thing” (28).

Then when Seth and Paul D are talking about what Sethe did to her children, she tells him, “Look like I loved em more after I got here. Or maybe I couldn’t love em proper in Kentucky because they wasn’t mine to love. But when I got here, when I jumped down off that wagon– there wasn’t nobody int he world I couldn’t love if I wanted to” (190-1). Paul D doesn’t respond aloud, but the narrator explains that he understands what Sethe means: “So you protected yourself and loved small. Picked the tiniest stars out of the sky to ownl lay down with head twisted in order to see the loved one over the rim of the trench before you slept. Stole shy glances at her between the trees at chain-up. Grass blades, salmanders, spiders, woodpeckers, beetles, a kingdom of ants. Anything bigger wouldn’t do. A woman, a child, a brother–a big love like that would split you wide open in Alfred, Georgia. He knew exactly what [Sethe] meant: to get to a place where you could love anything you choose–not to need permission for desire– well now, that was freedom” (191).”

The reason I felt so moved by these particular passages is because Morrison very successfully recovers a part of history that all of the American literary movements before postmodernism just gloss over:

What is freedom, not just for certain privileged Americans, but for those who have actually been enslaved and silenced?

Freedom, according to these excerpts from Beloved, means not having to ask anyone if it is okay to love one’s own children. The most natural and uncontrollable love, the love of a parent for his/her child, had to be controlled in order for people in our American history to survive.

Now, before I start to sound like I am on an Oprah show, I want to say that I think this conversation is relevant to whether Morrison’s novel ought to be considered Postmodern or not. I have to agree with Alana that there seems to be something inherently wrong with suggesting that Morrison is a postmodern writer, even when she claims she is not; it seems to be adding salt to the wound that she is writing about in her books. Then again, her book does challenge history. Davis points out the metaphor of the newspapers (which have been considered to contain evidence of “what really happened” in history) in the woodshed where Sethe killed her child and where Paul D sleeps with Beloved, and Davis suggests, “This metaphor allows Morrison simultaneously to point out the gap between representation and reality and to suggest that we can only know the past through discourse. She seems to concur with the poststructuralist view that reality is a function of discourse, yet does not let this point pacify her into accepting the representations that already exist-the voyeuristic news accounts and the constrained slave narratives” (248).

In effect, Morrison’s message about freedom, as Baby Suggs, Sethe, and Paul D all explain, meaning being allowed to love your own children–that is a postmodern element in this text. I suppose that’s as far as I would like to go–I feel uncomfortable classifying Morrison into a category she does not embrace herself–but I will say that there are various postmodern themes and motifs in Beloved, particularly that of the ultimate freedom to love. Unfortunately, it is that very freedom to love which leads to the terrible haunting that occurs in this story, particularly for Sethe– because Sethe finally allows herself to love her children, she tries to kill them and succeeds in killing the one who is quite overtly named Beloved.

As for Patrick Henry, I think perhaps he would understand Sethe’s choice given the last line of his rather ironic speech, only I am fairly certain that he and most of his fellow colonists were unable to see past their own feelings of “slavery” to see the reality of the slavery which they themselves perpetuated and deemed acceptable.

Ghosts and Postmodernism

With this book, I feel like I have more questions than answers.  But, who knows, maybe I can still offer some insight through my line of questioning.  I agree with the previous post that Morrison’s “Beloved” seems out of character compared to the other  “postmodern” novels we’ve read.  I think the fact that the book gives us an altered, unexpected view on a certain historical period is the main reason for labeling it postmodern.  However, there is a connection I made with this text and another postmodern text.  Like the character Beloved in Morrison’s text, Don DeLillo also uses a ghostly figure to focus his novella “The Body Artist.”  When I first read DeLillo’s book I was puzzled by the ghost.  I didn’t see how it fit with the postmodern agenda, or why he found the ghost to be a productive tool to convey his message.  With Morrison, the ghost makes more sense.  Ghosts are often linked with history because they can exist outside of time.  Also, the concept of “haunting” works well as a link for the guilty conscience.  Okay, so maybe it works for Morrison, but I still don’t quite understand the link between ghosts and postmodernism.

On the first day of class, someone said “All I know about postmodernism is that it doesn’t work with religion.”  It seems like most of the postmodern books we’ve read are working against any kind of ontology.  So why use ghosts?  Don’t ghosts represent a higher power, someone in control of things we don’t understand?  Can we separate ghosts from the idea of religion?  Morrison does not attempt to separate ghosts from religion, but DeLillo does.  DeLillo’s seperation struck me as somewhat jarring, where Morrison’s connection seems more natural. Morrison calls attention to the link between religion and ghostsby deliberately making Baby Suggs a preacher.  When Sethe visits the holy ground where Suggs used to preach, she finds herself choked by Beloved’s ghost.

What I wonder about is the way this all plays out.  Baby Suggs status as a gifted preacher seems to make the other town folk jealous.  Somewhere in the text (I could not find the exact page) a character posits the idea that the town folk fail to warn Sethe about the police because of their jealousy of Baby Suggs ability to talk to god.  After that, Baby Suggs stops preaching and appears to stop believing in a god.  By the end of the story, both god and Beloved’s ghost have disappeared as if they were never really there.  The way these events play out makes me think that Morrison wants ontological views to be seen as a negative force within the text.  Religion and the idea of the afterlife only cause problems in the book, never solutions.