So much of this book is built around the memories that the characters have of past events that rise up like ghosts and still have such a strong impact on the present, even though the events happened so long ago. Note how the novel is really various retellings from different characters' perspectives of the same story. This means that the various ghosts that people have in the form of memories and past events still haunt the present to an unprecedented extent. Consider, for example, how Pilate responds when Guitar tries to find out what year she is talking about:
The year they shot them Irish people down in the streets. Was a good year for guns and gravediggers, I know that... One morning we woke up when the sun was nearly a quarter way cross the sky. Bright as anything. And blue. Blue like the ribbons on my mother’s bonnet.
It is important to note that Pilate's response is not specific in terms of time, which contributes to the rather nebulous relationship with time that the novel creates. For Pilate, time is measured not by chronological means, but by the big events that happen and then by nature, or the exact positioning of the sun. The memories that are allowed to resurrect themselves therefore become even more vague and indistinct, detached from time as they are. Eventually, the reader sees that although memories are recalled in this novel, the ghosts of the past seem to have more power than the realities of the present, and many characters still live in a world where they are haunted by those ghosts.