Ghosts

Jordyn Ferguson

Lidia Sferrazza

Shane Gresser

Michael Raymie

The etymology of “ghost” can be defined from the Oxford English Dictionary as “the soul or spirit, as the principle of life, also ghost of life, obsolete except in phrase to give up” (OED). Another definition from Dictionary.com describes a ghost as “the soul of a dead person, a disembodied spirit imagined, usually as a vague, shadowy or evanescent form, as wandering among or haunting living persons” or “a mere shadow or semblance; a trace.” When we think of ghosts, we may think of these definitions or even typical ghost stories that we heard growing up which often involve fear. Though the word has several meanings, they all somewhat define a ghost as a spirit and as something that is unseen or even ignored. It seems that the word has developed over some time throughout the course of history. Ghosts and ghost stories are very powerful because they can haunt someone or have a large effect on them without literally existing or at least not existing at this moment. The power of ghosts is demonstrated throughout The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston and Mean by Myriam Gurba.

Looking at the beginning of Mean, Gurba immediately tells us the story of Sophia, a girl whose tragic story had not been given enough attention to on the news. She had been raped and murdered in a park, yet she had only been reduced to a “transient” (3), which deprived her of being known at least as a real person who lived a real life. Because we find out later on in the book that Gurba had been sexually assaulted by the same man that killed Sophia, we can understand why Gurba feels this guilt. She grew up in a very different situation with stability, and she survived, unlike Sophia. This explains why Gurba may feel like “Sophia is always with [her]” and “She haunts [her]” because she knows that Sophia’s story is invisible, like a ghost, therefore she wants readers to be confronted head-on with the horror and violence (3). Even though she never knew this girl, her story is powerful because it is ignored, overlooked, and forgotten about, yet still, Gurba continues to remember her because she wants everyone to know who she is. After what happened to her, Sophia deserves at least that. In this case, Sophia’s ghost story can help readers to understand the power and significance of guilt in the book.

We see the idea of ghosts occur often in Maxine Kingston’s The Woman Warrior. These ghosts help tell her story, and they are used to give extra information about the author. The way the author describes a ghost gives us insight into the author’s life and how they see the world. The ghosts appear in different forms, but the most important ghost is her aunt. Kingston starts off her memoir with the main ghost, her late aunt who killed herself by jumping into a well. In the very first line of the memoir, she says ““You must not tell anyone.” My mother said, “what I am about to tell you. In China, your father had a sister who killed herself. She jumped into the family well. We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born” (Kingston 3). The last part of this quote is the most powerful because Kingston’s mother tells her that it is as if her aunt had never been born. The family had turned Kingston’s aunt into a ghost including her own brother, Kingston’s father. Her mother then reinforces that Kingston’s father has acted like his own sister didn’t exist because she had brought “shame” to their family by becoming pregnant by a man who was not her husband. After the villagers go to her house the aunt’s family tells her “Death is coming. Look what you’ve done. You’ve killed us. Ghost! Dead Ghost! Ghost! You’ve never been born”(Kingston 13 and 14). Before she even kills herself and the child the family has already started to turn her into a ghost by telling her she has never been born. Kingston talks about how her aunt’s ghost haunts her she writes “My aunt haunts me- her ghost drawn to me because now, after fifty years of neglect, I alone devote pages of paper to her…I do not think she always means me well. I am telling on her, and she was a spite suicide, drowning herself in the drinking water” (Kingston 16). This shows that her aunt even though she is not around still has an

effect on Kingston. She says that after fifty years someone is finally talking about her but Kingston does not think that her aunt likes this all the time. She feels as though her aunt doesn’t “mean her well” because she is telling the world that she killed herself and in Chinese culture that is frowned upon.

Even though Kingston never gets to meet her aunt, and she only knows about her through what her mother tells her, she still has an impact on Kingston’s life. Kingston, after learning that she had an aunt, starts to imagine that her aunt’s life was similar to her life and makes assumptions based on what she has experienced in life. The aunt also has an impact on Kingston’s life because the mother tells the story of the family turning the aunt into a ghost as a way to scare Kingston into not making the same “mistake” as her aunt did. She tells her “Don’t humiliate us. You wouldn’t want to be forgotten as if you had never been born. The villagers are watchful” (Kingston 5). Kingston’s mother tells her that if she makes the same choices that her aunt made that the family will also turn her into a ghost, making her into nothing but a distant and forgotten memory.

We also hear about the physical ghost that Kingston’s mother sees later in The Woman Warrior. Kingston’s mother, Brave Orchid, describes the ghost as “a full-grown Sitting Ghost loomed up to the ceiling and pounced on top of me. Mounds of hair hid its claws and teeth. No true head, no eyes, no face, so low in its level of incarceration it did not have the shape of a recognizable animal” (72). This ghost that Brave Orchid was describing was included in a story in which she was telling to Kingston. This story that Brave Orchid tells was from a ghost she made up in medical school to impress the students around her. The story of the Sitting Ghost, was a ghost that particularly went after newborn children, feeding off the weakness of humans. This ghost is very prevalent in the story, and represent one of the many ghosts that are described throughout the book. Kingston later goes on to describe the “ghosts” that Brave Orchid has told Kingston about. Although these aren’t the typical ghosts most readers would think about, such as “the soul of a dead person, a disembodied spirit imagined, usually as a vague, shadowy or evanescent form” (dictionary.com “Ghosts”), Brave Orchid describes the white people around them as ghosts. Kingston says that “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” (97). By telling Kingston that the white people are ghosts this implies that everyone living in America that is not Chinese is a ghost. Brave Orchid thinks of Americans as ghosts because of the different lives they live. Americans are viewed as ghosts because the Chinese people are unfamiliar with how the Americans live and their way of life. They’re culture and customs are a foreign concept to Kingston’s family. Brave Orchid passes down this idea of the ghosts to Kingston and because of this, Kingston grew up her entire childhood living in fear of all these different kinds of ghosts, the biggest reason is because of the story about her aunt that had “never been born” (3). This story resulted in Kingston growing up and living in fear because she did not want to disappoint the family as the aunt had in the past. Kingston lives in fear of the Ghost of her dead Aunt that her mother, Brave Orchid, said had “never been born” (3). Brave is living in fear of all non-Chinese people and passed this idea down to Kingston. Kingston lives in the fear of ghosts from all of the stories that her mom had told her. Kingston feels completely surrounded by ghosts, and it is because of these stories that Kingston struggles to figure out the things that are true in her life. Brave Orchid used the story and Kingston’s fear to control her behavior. Ghosts help us understand literature more as well as understand the author of literature’s life experiences and views. The author’s use of personal experiences to describe ghosts allows us to see more into their lives and learn more about them. It makes us have to also interpret their lives instead of them coming out and telling us things about them, it shows us who they are without them directly telling us who they are. Ghosts allow us to read literature with an open mind and allow us to interpret the text more in contrast to just reading facts for how they are.

Works Cited

“Free Image on Pixabay – Spirit, Creepy, Halloween, Ghost.” Spirit Creepy Halloween – Free Photo on Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/photos/spirit-creepy-halloween-ghost-2304469/.

“Ghost.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/ghost.

“Ghost, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2019, www.oed.com/view/Entry/78064. Accessed 5 December 2019.

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.Kingston, Maxine Hong. The

Woman Warrior. Vintage International, 1975.

Climate Change

For my poem, I chose an article from National Geographic about climate change. This article was about climate change around the world and how it has been and will continue to affect us. I chose this article for my found poem because the topic of climate change gets me anxious and I worry about the future, especially for my family and future family. When I read the article, it continues to upset me because there is not much we can do to reverse the damages. This article helped to put into perspective the amount of change that has occurred and how much the climate will continue to change.

When writing this poem I felt that cutting words was the most effective. The way I structured it was to put emphasis on words and phrases that were heavily discussed and most impactful from the article. I grouped the most common words and phrases that were repeated throughout the article together. Those seemed to jump out me as I was reading becase they were repeated so many times. I then spread the words and phrases out on the right side of the page because to me it felt as if those words and phrases were scattered like that when I was reading the article.

I really enjoyed doing this type of poetry. It is different and shows how each person thinks differently. It also shows creativity.

-Jordyn Ferguson

Importance of using the second-person point of view in a story -Jordyn Ferguson

In Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine uses her encounters with racism, second point of view, and imagery to allow readers to experience the encounters first hand rather than observing from afar. On page 7, Rankine states, “send adrenaline to the heart, dry out the tongue, and clog the lungs… they drown you in sound… like lighting they strike you across the larynx.” This descriptive passage is a reaction to the memory of a friend calling Rankin by her black  housekeepers name. The description of how this made her feel is then passed on to the reader by using strong words of imagery. The words make you get a feeling dumbfoundedness and sadness. Throughout the book and especially in this passage by using the second person it makes you feel it is happening to you personally. Even though from an outside perspective this could have just been seen as a mistake but by using “you” and “yourself” you picture how you would feel if you were involved in this econterment. A friend calling Rankine by a black housekeepers name makes her feel angry because is she being called that because “you two were the only black people in her life” or was is because she was distracted and did not realize that she had called her that? (Rankine 7). By the friend calling her that makes for an uncomfortable situation to speak up or correct someone and with the use of imagery it shows that. 

The encounters with racism and the second point of view is displayed again on page 15 when Rankine recalls the story of when her neighbor called the police on her black male friend who is babysitting her child, whom he thought was disturbed and breaking into the home. The neighbor took it upon himself to call the police before she could explained to him that he was friend babysitting. This action shows how racism is displayed in this passage. If the man in the house was white the neighbor would have probably not noticed anything off but since he was of color the neighbor felt it was needed to call the police. Using the second point of view throughout this passage makes the reader feel like you are in this situation and puts a sense of anger and feeling of uncomfortableness within them. The feeling of uncomfortableness happens when Rankine states on page 15 “your friend is speaking to you neighbor when you arrive home… your neighbor has apologized to your friend and is now apologizing to you”. 

Rankine’s encounternments continue on page 18 when she goes to visit her therapist whom she has only spoken with on the phone but is now going to meet for the first time. Rankin states that “when the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get aways from my house! What are you doing in my yard?”. By using the words “yells, at the top of her lungs” readers can picture how the woman is screaming and how Rankine is standing there. To compare and explain the level of aggression, it is later described “as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepard has gained the power of speech” (Rankine 18). This instance stresses the idea of racism and how even such a minor thing as knocking on a door as a black woman, for an appointment can be made into a big deal. By using the second point of view it makes the reader feel as if they are the one walking out the door and getting yelled at. At the end of the counterment on page 18 the Rankine’s therapist states “I am so sorry, so, so sorry” but this seems meaningless because there was no reason to yell and Rankine in the first place.

When looking at these smaller encounterments they may just be seen as mistakes or not big deals but when the reader looks at these together it shows all of these microaggressions add up and even though they seem like honest mistakes they make the person they are happening to frustrated and angry. 

Discussion questions:

  1. How does the second point of view make you, as the reader feel? Would it make a difference if it was third person or first person point of view?
  2.  What are some other examples of imagery seen throughout the sections?

Works Cited

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Penguin, 2015.

Hii

My name is Jordyn. I am a junior and my major is sociology. I am from Long Island.