I spent a long time in grad school learning the word reify. I don’t know why it was so hard for me, but the definition just wouldn’t stick: reify, to take an abstract concept and give it form.
Sarah Moss’ Ghost Wall is in a way, about reification. The crux of the book is that a group of modern, mid-1990s people—an Anthropology professor, his three students, a bus driver, his wife, and his daughter—take something they see as a symbol, the “Ghost Wall” used by Iron Age Britons to magically defend their territory, and they make it real. They build it. They commit to the destruction necessary to procure animal skulls, they commit to the construction of gathering wood and putting up the wall. But they don’t put much thought into the symbolic aspect. What is a wall for if not to keep people out, or to fence people in? Who or what are you trying to keep out? The walls were used to be real, and have a specific purpose, but as time passed they became symbols in the minds of modern people. By making them real again the characters are giving form to the fears and beliefs of their ancestors—fears and beliefs that have no place in a modern world.