The Ghost Belonged to Me

by Richard Peck

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 453

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 shares Miles’ concern for maintaining respect for the dead. Blossom Culp, who initially alerts Alexander to the ghost’s presence, never exaggerates her role in the mystery; she claims not to be able to see or speak to the Unseen.

Young people will find much to enjoy in this ghost story. Richard Peck’s writing style is light and effervescent, and he never quite takes his tale seriously; the book ends up as half a tribute to and half a spoof of the traditional ghost story. The novel moves along at a brisk pace that will keep younger readers entertained. For the older readers, the novel presents a deftly handled budding love affair between the protagonist and his friend. Although Alexander is tempted at the beginning of the book to think of Blossom as a poor, “spidery-legged spook” (Lucille calls her an arachnid because of her thin legs and her black wool stockings), she is allowed, appropriately, to “blossom” in New Orleans with the help of some new clothes and a becoming hairstyle. Alexander learns from Blossom the value of seeing beyond the surface of people—something that his sister Lucille and his mother Luella must learn the hard way.

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