Ghost Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Ghost” appears in The Land of Bliss as a critical reflection on the issue of racial difference in the multiethnic context of Hawaiian society, where, in 2000, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and native Hawaiians made up about 51 percent of the population and white people were a 24 percent minority. To understand this poem, it is useful to consider the fact that, historically, “ghost” (gwai) was a term often used among the Chinese to refer to people of other races (typically white Caucasians) perceived to be oppressive or repulsive. Although an epithet suggesting repugnance and contempt, “ghost” also signifies a sense of helpless subjugation, as racism against Asians had been rampant historically. Typical of the younger generation, the poet does not endorse the sentiments underlying the epithet.

In the first part of the poem, the speaker, a schoolteacher of Asian descent, refers to herself as a “yellow ghost” who flutters “like a moth/ invisible to these/ children of soldiers.” Despite this invisibility and potential lack of authority and recognition, the speaker acknowledges that she occupies a position of power. However, rather than perpetuating the pattern of domination, the speaker attempts to restructure the interracial self-other relationship in nonconfrontational terms, offering to share with her pupils “a jeweled seeded fruit,/ a poem I pare and peel/ that has no flesh,” a poem that “tastes like nothing/ they...

(The entire section is 535 words.)

Ghost Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Chang, Juliana. “Reading Asian American Poetry.” MELUS 21, no. 1 (Spring, 1996): 81-98.

Chun, Gary. “Poet Sings of Journey of Life.” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 11, 2002.

Cobb, Nora Okja. “Artistic and Cultural Mothering in the Poetics of Cathy Song.” In New Visions in Asian American Studies: Diversity, Community, Power, edited by Franklin Ng et al. Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1994.

Fujita-Sato, Gayle K. “’Third World’ as Place and Paradigm in Cathy Song’s Picture Bride.” MELUS 15, no. 1 (Spring, 1988): 49-72.

Hugo, Richard. Foreword to Picture Bride, by Cathy Song. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983.

Lim, Shirley. Review of Picture Bride, by Cathy Song. MELUS 10, no. 3 (Fall, 1983): 95-99.

Song, Cathy. “Cathy’s Song: Interview with Cathy Song.” Interview by David Choo. Honolulu Weekly 4 (June 15, 1994): 6-8.

Song, Cathy, and Juliet S. Kono. Introduction to Sister Stew: Fiction and Poetry by Women. Honolulu: Bamboo Ridge Press, 1991.

Sumida, Stephen. And the View from the Shore: Literary Traditions of Hawaii. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991.

Wallace, Patricia. “Divided Loyalties: Literal and Literary in the Poetry of Lorna Dee Cervantes, Cathy Song, and Rita Dove.” MELUS 18, no. 3 (Fall, 1993): 3-19.

Zhou, Xiaojing. “Intercultural Strategies in Asian American Poetry.” In Re-placing America: Conversations and Contestations, edited by Ruth Hsu et al. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2000.