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Chinese and American Ghosts (woman Warrior)

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In the novel The Woman Warrior Maxine Hong Kingston uses ghosts to represent a battle between American and Chinese cultures. The two cultures have different views of what a ghost is. The Chinese believe the ghost spirits may be of people dead or alive. Chinese culture recognizes foreigners and unfamiliar people as ghosts because, like American ghosts, they are mysterious creatures of the unknown. Americans view ghosts as spirits of the dead that either help or haunt people. American ghosts may or may not be real. There spirits are there but physical appearance is a mystery.

Chinese culture has many interpretations ghosts. One way they are seen as is people who have disgraced their family or country. An example of this in the novel is Maxine's aunt. She is considered a ghost because she disgraced her family by having a baby outside of marriage. They call her "Ghost! Dead ghost! Ghost! You have never been born." (Kinston 14) She drowns herself in the well to become one of the most feared ghost, the Shui Gui or watery ghost. These ghosts are said to be waiting for their victims, to pull them into the water to take the drowned ones place. In the novel another example of what the Chinese consider ghosts are American people. Sometimes they feel haunted by this unfamiliar culture, just as a ghost would haunt. "But America has been full of machines and ghosts- Taxi Ghosts, Bus Ghosts, Police Ghosts, Fire Ghosts, Meter Reader Ghosts, Tree Trimming Ghosts, Five-and-Dime Ghosts." (Kong 96) These examples are American people of any ethnicity. They are called ghosts because the Chinese are not familiar with the culture. Another example of the unfamiliarity is when, "Her husband looked like one of the ghosts passing the car windows, and she must look like a ghost from China. They [Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid] had indeed entered the land of ghosts, and they had become ghosts"(Kingston 153). This quote shows how the Chinese viewed Americans as ghosts. This quote shows how even the husband, a Chinese man, could look like a ghost. Once he was Americanized he easily blended in with all of the other Americans. The people look unfamiliar and are mysterious and have an unknown culture.

In the poem "Hunger", written by Lee Samantha Chang, the author shows how lost the Chinese characters feel in an American setting. Min, a Chinese woman who is stuck in the alien setting of America, tells one of her experiences: "Now I sat alone, I was overtaken by fear. I longed to be back home in Brooklyn, curled up in Tian's big chair, with a Chinese story book in my hand." (Hunger) Min was anxious because she was in a new environment and was surrounded by what Kingston would call ghosts. "And you--and eye not an I--/are walking through it."(Moon and Outgrass lines 6-7) In this line from the poem, Moon and Outgrass shows how the Chinese were viewed by the American "ghosts". As part of her culture, Maxine's mother tells her stories about ghosts giving her false impressions like when she was telling Maxine, "Once upon a time the world was so thick with ghosts, I could hardly breathe; I could hardly walk, limping my way around the White Ghosts and their cars. There were Black Ghosts too, but they were open eyed and full of laughter, more distinct than White Ghosts."(Kingston 97) Leaving Maxine baffled as to whether the stories were false or fiction because being brought up in the Chinese culture she did not know any better. When Maxine and her mother fight she becomes a ghost to the family because she has disrespected the family and her true culture. Maxine wanted to be like all of the American "ghosts." While arguing Maxine's mother calls her, "Ho Chi Kuei [Ghost]. Leave then. Get out you Ho Chi Kuei. Get out. I knew you were going to turn out bad. Ho Chi Kuei."

American ghosts are defined as, "a disembodied soul; especially: the soul of a dead person believed to be an inhabitant of the unseen world or to appear to the living in bodily likeness" ( The term ghost usually refers to anything truly unusual, an image, sound, smell, feeling, emotional state, or movement of objects, that represents some sort of force left over after death. The force can be that of someone who is still very much alive, also known as "Apparitions of the living." These ghosts can be people in distress or on their death bed who's spirit energy shows up at another location to say good bye. Americans visualize ghosts as roaming spirits



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