The narrator of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is the subject of an elaborate ritual of initiation from childhood to adulthood, from the knowledge that “bad” is “hatred,” to the knowledge of the various forms that evil can take, and finally, to the knowledge of good. The Smelling Ghost represents evil as the tyranny of animal nature, and the Chief Ancestor of the River Ghosts represents it as the tyranny of magic and superstition. Both ghosts show how merciless these tyrannies can be. The tyranny of motherhood is represented by the Flash-eyed Mother, the queen of the thirteenth town of ghosts, for she shows how grotesquely symbiotic the relationship between a mother and her children, and how selfish and stunted the children in such a relationship, can be.
As the narrator learns, life may also be good. The function of the Super Lady ghostess is to allow him to experience not only the virtue of cleanliness but also the pleasure of sex and the comfort of love. From the Television-handed Ghostess he learns the usefulness of medicine and that some dilemmas have practical solutions, whereas the king of the fourth town of ghosts provides him with an opportunity to see that some dilemmas may be solved by irrational means (in this case, magic).
Of the major human characters in the story other than the narrator, the narrator’s brother and his dead cousin demonstrate what can be done to mitigate hatred in the world. His brother is a provider of food at the beginning of the story and a savior at the end in that he puts an end to the narrator’s suffering. The narrator’s cousin, as a Methodist bishop and a humanitarian, represents the civilizing influence of religious and civil power and education.