Beetlejuice Literary Elements


Tim Burton

Leading Actors/Actresses

Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder

Supporting Actors/Actresses

Sylvia Sidney, Glenn Shadix, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O'Hara






Academy Award for Best Make-Up

Date of Release



Michael Bender, Richard Hashimoto, Larry Wilson

Setting and Context

Sleepy New England town, late 1980s

Narrator and Point of View

No narrator; the movie's action is primarily, but not exclusively, from the perspective of the Maitlands.

Tone and Mood

Threatening, Foreboding, Irreverent, Comic, Grotesque, Fantastical, Quirky, Weird

Protagonist and Antagonist

The Maitlands are the protagonists and Beetlejuice is the antagonist

Major Conflict

The first conflict is that the Maitlands are trying to scare the Deetzes out of their house, and when they cannot, they misguidedly enlist the help of the nefarious Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice's presence becomes the next conflict, in that he does more harm than help, and wants to marry Lydia. Complicating things further is the fact that Charles Deetz is trying to buy up the whole town and use the Maitlands' ghostly presence as a money-making scheme, which would harm the world of the dead.


The climax occurs when the Maitlands vanquish Beetlejuice once and for all and save the day.


Lydia finding the Handbook for the Recently Deceased foreshadows her discovery of the Maitlands living in the attic. Also, we get several clues to the existence of Beetlejuice before he appears in the film. We see him in his underground lair, reading the paper and talking to himself, but he does not reveal himself until the Maitlands visit him in the model.


An example of understatement is the nonplussed attitude that the Deetzes have about the ghosts. Every time the viewer thinks that the Deetzes are going to be startled by the presence of the ghosts, they are completely nonplussed.

Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques

The main innovations are in the makeup and the lighting used. The visual world of the film is fantastical and over-the-top, and the many absurd and supernatural elements of the plot are reflected ingeniously in the visual world of the film.


Harry Belafonte music is used throughout. Beetlejuice makes reference to the movie "The Exorcist." Ozzy and Harriet, the television characters, are referenced.


Lydia is suicidal and tells two ghosts who would rather be alive that she yearns to be dead like them, and the ghosts tell her that being dead is no easier than being alive.