ENG441b: Contemporary American Literature, Fiction
Prof. E. Joy
5 March 2008                           

Dreams About Ghosts in Fiskadoro

Appropriately shadowing many post-apocalyptic works are apparitions of loss and loneliness—likely a result of being disconnected from the past.  In Fiskadoro, these feelings are manifested as wandering ghosts.  Ghosts haunt both Fiskadoro and Grandmother Wright, consequently connecting them to one another, though they have very little to do with each other in the plot of the novel.  It reminds us that loss and loneliness are inherent to life, regardless of the century, pre- or post-apocalyptic.

Fiskadoro and Grandmother Wright share the abrupt loss of their fathers and the prolonged sickness and loss of their mothers.  While Grandmother Wright's loneliness is a direct result of these losses, Fiskadoro carries a sadness about himself long before the death of his father and mother.  Early on, we can chalk his loneliness up to puberty—being misunderstood and restless.  It is no surprise that Fiskadoro makes wandering a pastime for himself; he cannot find his place among the fishermen, nor does he fit in with the kids his own age among the bonfires.  Once his father dies, Fiskadoro is even more distraught and unwilling to take the place of his father in the family.  This is why Fiskadoro feels compelled to follow the girl into the swamplands—to find his place, some kind of acceptance.

It is here, amongst the swamp people that Fiskadoro witnesses the ghosts wandering: “their air was unbreathable because it was turned into syrup by the cries of ghosts, the presences of ghosts, the secrets of ghosts” (170).  He feels even more isolated in this place, so much so that he believes it all to be a dream.  He begins to wander around the village, as he “considered himself a ghost among them, one of the waking world,” and soon has his memory erased, becoming even more like a ghost without a past, searching for something to fill that void (179).
Fiskadoro is slightly disgusted by the swamp people's disbelief in ghosts—their denial of ghosts living among them in their village—but perhaps it is simply his own preoccupation.  Perhaps the ghosts truly do not live among the swamp people, but have followed Fiskadoro, in his state of angst.  The swamp people do not seem to concern themselves with apparitions of the past or harbor any misgivings about their roles, and thus, have no business with ghosts.

Grandmother Wright's dealings with ghosts are limited to sightings of her dead father, but can also be extrapolated to signify a link to the past in general, to the pre-apocalypse.  Her visions as a delusional old woman (the oldest woman alive, in fact) are depressing recollections of what used to be, what nearly no one else remembers or was even alive to experience.  She herself is much like a ghost, hovering around Mr. Cheung, a constant reminder of what has been lost since the end of the world.  Once she is gone, much of the world's history will die with her.  For Mr. Cheung, this is a tragedy that he can hardly bear.  He imagines, at the end of the novel, what is to come: “In all likelihood it was a ghost ship, and the Israelites were ghosts, and the man standing at the bow was a ghost who had come for them” (220).

Loss and loneliness are facts of life, but within this post-apocalyptic setting, every human plight is amplified.  Grandmother Wright's loss is the loss of the past, and the lonely, disconnectedness that she shares with Fiskadoro is the isolation of the end-of-the-world generation from the hundreds of years before, which may never be reconciled.