The Nature of Ghosts in The Woman Warrior Essay

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The Nature of Ghosts in The Woman Warrior



"Ghost." What images does this word conjure up in the average American mind? Perhaps you think of little kids draped in white sheets begging for candy on Halloween. Perhaps you imagine transparent versions of dead people wandering the earth for eternity. Perhaps you are reminded of a person who just saw something especially scary; they are "pale as a ghost".



So the word "ghost" - a word with many meanings - calls forth these images. What do they have in common? There's the idea of paleness - when was the last time you ever saw a black ghost? Silence - ghosts don't say much, except maybe they go "Boo!" once in a while. And, just maybe, there's a hint of unfamiliarity in the
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Ghosts - in any form - are far more prominent in Kingston's life than in ours. Perhaps this is because there are fantastic elements to the stories she tells, but it is difficult for we readers to separate fantasy and reality and we confuse the two. In some cases - such as with Brave Orchid's "Sitting Ghost", it never really becomes clear.



The primary meaning of the word "ghost" in the work is, of course, "American" or "white person". "White person" might seem more attractive because of the idea of paleness that we associate with ghosts, but there are "Mexican ghosts" and "Negro ghosts" - so "American" is more accurate. This is supported by the idea that those Chinese born in America are considered ghosts: "They would not tell us children because we had been born among ghosts, were taught by ghosts, and were ourselves ghost-like. They called us a kind of ghost. Ghosts are noisy and full of air; they talk during meals. They talk about everything" (183-84). Even one generation makes this difference. The mysterious Chinese name given to the "assimilated" Chinese by the new immigrants is "Ho Chi Kuei" (204), which Kingston is unable to translate in full (further demonstrating her assimilation) - but "Kuei" she knows means "Ghosts". This idea of Americans as ghosts goes even further in some of Kingston's titles for Americans,
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