Thematically, greed and dishonesty seem to play a strong part in the motivations of most of the characters in The Ghost Belonged to Me. Although Inez Dumaine died in an accident, the steamboat captain who had promised to keep her safe robbed her dead body and used her money to build a grand house for himself. Alexander’s mother and Lucille long to be members of high society in Bluff City and will let nothing stand in their way. Tom Hackett pushes Lucille into greater sexual involvement without promising her what she wants, and Lucille wants to possess Tom Hackett’s name more than she wants to possess him.
This greed does not stop with Alexander’s family. After Inez Dumaine’s remains are discovered, Brulatour and Jake McCulloch, the local undertaker, squabble over who will be able to use the body first; the undertaker wants to show off the bones as an advertisement for his services, while the reporter wants Inez’s bones for a story he intends to write concerning her return home.
Only Alexander and his closest friends seem unaffected by the displays of greed around them. Although Alexander comments initially in the novel that “the ghost belonged to me,” he never keeps her a secret, nor does he attempt to use her for his own advantage. Alexander is likened by his father to his great-uncle Miles, who is reputed to be the most honest man in Bluff City (a reputation that does not please Alexander’s mother), and Alexander...
(The entire section is 453 words.)
The Ghost Belonged to Me, an American Library Association Notable Book, and its sequels Ghosts I Have Been (1977), The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp (1983), and Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death (1986) are a bit different from Richard Peck’s usual writings. Peck has most often written books that deal with the problems faced by young adults, rather than children. Thirteen-year-old Alexander is younger than, for example, the fifteen-year-old protagonist of Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt (1972) and the three friends in Remembering the Good Times (1985). Peck’s most famous work, Are You in the House Alone? (1976), deals seriously with the after-effects of rape and never departs from its somber tone. The Ghost Belonged to Me is a book intended to entice young people into reading; its endearing characters have lives with a touch of mystery to them and that confirm the presence of the supernatural without being frightening.