Characters, Themes, and Quotes

Main Characters
Additional Characters
Central Themes


  • Isaac – The protagonist of the story. Isaac is a 10 year old Choctaw boy who has many special abilities, like being able to talk to ghosts and knowing how people will die. Isaac knows that he will die soon and decides to take risks in order to help other, since he has nothing to lose.  


  • Joseph – The grandson Old Man and Old Woman. He was initially captured by Nahullos and forced into servitude. He was able to make his escape because he can turn into a panther. Isaac befriends him and the two band together to help free Naomi.


  • Nita – She is Gabe and Ruth’s daughter and Nita’s younger sister. She befriends Isaac and bonds with him in a brother/sister relationship. She shows Isaac’s compassionate side, as he crafts shoes to protect her feet. Ultimately, she becomes a helpful guide for Isaac, as he continues his journey


  • Naomi – She is Gabe and Ruth’s daughter and Nita’s older sister. When her village was overtaken, she was kidnapped by the Nahullos. She is forced into being a servant for the Nahullos and does all of their cooking. Her rescue becomes Isaac’s number one priority.



  • Zeke – Isaac and Luke’s father. He is shown to be a leader in the community and people will follow his example. Along the way, he instills morals in Isaac and helps Isaac grow as a person.


  • Ochi – Isaac and Luke’s mother. She is shown to be strong and have great intuition, as she understood to not trust the Nahullos and the first blankets they were offered. She seems to be more in touch with the afterlife, much like Isaac.


  • Luke – Isaac’s older brother who is very protective of Isaac. He is shown to be very loyal and he provides assistance to others along the way.


  • Jumper – Isaac’s dog who is able to speak in both English and Choctaw. He is loyal to Isaac and is always there to provide help when Isaac needs him.


  • Gabe – Ruth’s husband and the father of Nita and Naomi. He helped Isaac’s family get blankets, so they could survive the harsh winter. He is the first person who Isaac confides in about the fact that he will be a ghost soon. 


  • Ruth – Gabe’s wife and the mother of Nita and Naomi. She provides aid for Isaac’s family, when they show up on the Trail of Tears. She is shown to be a loving mother to her daughters and just wants Naomi to be returned.


  • Mister Jonah – A man who lived in the same village as Isaac’s family. After he died in the attack on the village, he becomes a ghost and acts as a guide for Isaac.


  • Nahullos – A Choctaw word used to describe those who are not Choctaw, with it mostly being used when discussing white people. These are the men who forced the Choctaw people off of their land and onto the Trail of Tears.
    • Leader – The higher-ranking member of the military. He is depicted as having a short temper, as he shot at one of his own men for not following orders. He emerges as the primary antagonist and despite being in less than half of the book, he receives the most character development by the ending.
    • Round Man – A member of the military who is responsible for watching after Naomi.
    • Pointy Nose – A member of the military who is responsible for watching after Naomi.


  • Acceptance of Death – The most prominent events that occur within the story are the many deaths of characters. After these deaths, the story focuses on the respective families’ reactions. Each of these reactions is subdued, as the characters are able to remain strictly to their faith and they know that they will be able to see their relatives again and, in the meantime, their deceased relatives will be watching over them.


  • Strength in Adversity – The characters within the novel are put through the ringer in terms of terrible things that could happen to someone. First they are attacked, with friends being killed and houses burned to the ground, then they live in a swamp and endure a harsh winter, and finally they are forced to walk for hours on end, all the while they are seeing friends and family die. No matter how terrible things got for them, the characters remained strong and never showed weakness to their oppressors. If a family member died, they simply picked up the body and carried it with them.


  • Community – The sense of a strong community is front and center throughout the entire book. As the tribe is forced into walking the Trail of Tears, they stick together and act almost like a family unit. Gabe and his family welcomed Isaac’s family with open arms, even though they had never met before. Everyone was going through a similar struggle and they could bond because of that shared pain. Another sense of community is the afterlife and its relationship with the living Choctaw people. At one point, Isaac is able to see that while they are walking there are the ghosts of all the Choctaws who came before, walking with their people. Their sense of community and comradery can never be broken, even by death.


  • The Acceptance of Others – Throughout the story, the Choctaw people are being treated horribly by those taking their land. Even though they are being treated as if they are less than human, the Choctaw characters do not disrespect the Nahullos. They understand that they are people too, as shown in Isaac’s decision to save the Leader from being eaten by a wolf.






“Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before. I am a ghost. I am not a ghost when this book begins, so you have to pay very close attention. I should tell you something else. I see things before they happen. You are probably thinking, “I wish I could see things before they happen.” Be careful what you wish for." ― How I Became a Ghost, pg. 1





“You cannot keep your eyes on the bloody footprints you have left behind you. You must keep your eyes on where you are going.”  ― How I Became a Ghost, pg. 48



Mister Jonah:


“They came from all over Choctaw country,” he said. “They died from the fires. They died from sickness and they died from hunger. But they will never leave.”  ― How I Became a Ghost, pg. 44




How I Became a Ghost’s Homepage

Connor Keefe 2020

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