Impact of Chinese Heritage on Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior
"Haunted by the power of images? I do feel that I go into madness and chaos. There's a journey of everything falling apart, even the meaning and the order that I can put on something by the writing." —Maxine Hong Kingston
It is true that some dream in color, and some dream in black and white. Some dream in Sonic sounds, and some dream in silence. In Maxine Hong Kingston's literary works, the readers enter a soundless dream that is painted entirely in the color of black—different shades and blocks of pigments mixing and clashing with each other, opening up infinite possibilities for both beautiful if frightening nightmares and impossible dreams.
An Asian-American writer growing up in a tight and traditional Chinese community in California, Kingston is placed by her background and time period to be at the unique nexus of an aged, stale social institution and a youthful, boisterous one. She has had to face life as an alien to the culture of the land she grew up in, as well as a last witness of some scattered and unspeakably tragic old ideals. She saw the sufferings and has suffered herself; but instead of living life demurely in the dark corner of the family room like she was expected to, Kingston became the first woman warrior to voice the plight of the mute females in both Chinese and American societies. The seemingly immeasurable and indeed unconquerable gap between the two fundamentally divided cultures comes together in herself and her largely autobiographical work The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts.
One of the most striking features about Kingston's writings in The Woman Warrior is her use of poignant imageries—ghosts, silence, and the austere colors of a faded wood painting. Weaving ancient Chinese mysteries and family lore into her surreal narrative, her works are given a dream-like quality. Sometimes her free style is not easily understood and sometimes not even altogether coherent to many readers, yet it is precisely in this ambiguity Kingston's entangled childhood years are recalled and understood. Blending fiction freely with the authentic story of her life, Kingston presents her audience with a fascinating and largely nightmarish dreamscape. Indeed, the reading of The Woman Warrior can be likened to a journey into time and one's subconscious where the jumbled and half-formed thoughts tightly entwine to create one's whole.
And I suspect, somehow, that there are pale ghosts lurking under her cerebrum membranes; nameless mocking faces that have haunted her all her life. The remains of the old strangulating traditions, the faces of their long gone victims, the bottomless anguish and the despair that could not be concealed—like the Greek Furies, ever so relentlessly they have pursued her. Gender relations and an individual's identity in the traditional Chinese society are two topics that can never be truly rested; but in both her...