Learn from the Stories
Having two considerably different cultures can cause a strife with one’s identity. In “No Name Woman,” Maxine Kingston’s mother tells her a story of her aunt that committed adultery which therefore led to her segregation from her own family and villagers. Kingston’s mother asserts that the story should not be told by anyone and the story’s purpose was to strike fear in her daughter. Then, Kingston explores the different scenarios that could have led to her aunt’s suppressed suicide. Through the use of characterization of her aunt’s desolation, animated imagery and diction, Kingston demonstrates the difficulty of finding an identity when different cultures conflict with each other.
Kingston attempting to relate to her Chinese or American culture becomes an arduous task as she explores her aunt’s characteristics of remoteness. In “No Name Woman,” Kingston claims, “...[Her] aunt used a secret voice, a separate attentiveness”(453). Her claim reflects this characterization of her aunt’s solitude because she was very private about the man who got her pregnant. Kingston’s characterization of her aunt creates a predicament in identifying with her cultures because she explains how Chinese people were very vocal and loud, but her aunt’s quietness does not reflect that same loudness of the Chinese people. Kingston also describes her aunt as “...one of the stars, a bright dot in blackness, without home, without a companion, in eternal cold and silence”(455). Stars in the sky are typically perceived as something outstanding or bright, but Kingston meant that her aunt was as isolated as a star in the galaxy. Although the aunt was well-known among the villagers, she was acknowledged for the wrong reasons and was shamed by them.
Kingston’s mother constructs this animated imagery to create a fear in Kingston so she would avoid the same state of being ostracized as the aunt for committing adultery. Her mother goes on saying, “...[They] began slaughtering our stock… the animals scream their deaths…Some of the faces stopped to peer at us… the hands flattened against the panes… and left red prints”(448). Kingston’s mother describes the cries of the animals as they die and how the villagers left blood handprints on the windows as they peered into it. Such ominous description of the raid would be effective in striking fear. The aunt committing adultery is a situation alone not at all acceptable in Kingston’s Chinese culture, but the consequences of her aunt’s mistake were blown out of proportion. Kingston begins to feel conflicted with her identity because in America, committing adultery does not create such calamity between the surrounding people but both her American and Chinese culture know that it is a shameful act. She feels confused because the act of adultery would be handled in a completely different way with different cultures.
Kingston description of the aunt and newborn illustrates their invisibility to the memories of the family....