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Women Empowerment Depicted In Maxine Hong Kingston’s Autobiography The Woman Warrior

1718 words - 7 pages

As newer generations take on the responsibility of passing down their people’s history and culture, ancestral costumes are maintained but altered to suit current social standards. Through Maxine Hong Kingston’s autobiography The Woman Warrior, a memoir of myths and her mother’s narratives, the author is given a sense of empowerment as she discovers her own identity and, thus, her place in the world. Growing up, Kingston struggled with her dual heritage, not knowing whether to follow her family’s Chinese customs or live up to American society’s cultural and social norms. As a Chinese American, Kingston adapted the principles of these two distinct cultures to suit her own lifestyle, this led to her dual oppression by both American and Chinese culture and society; her mother often disregarded her opinions because she considered her to be “half a ghost”; a Chinese American. Although the autobiography does not reveal much of Kingston’s personal struggles, the narratives within it do reflect and follow her discovery of her personal identity. Her mothers’ parenting skills of complying to and contradicting stereotypes of oriental women, permitted her to visualize the potential to attain a better life and to be the exception of the ongoing stereotype of the submissive oriental woman. By rebelling against certain aspects her Chinese heritage, Kingston set high standards for herself and other Chinese American women and this serves as an inspiration for other oppressed oriental women.
Uncertain about her identity, Kingston relied on her mother’s narratives to aid her in the process of finding her independence and discovering who she was. Although Brave Orchid frequently enforced Chinese customs amongst her daughters, she often contradicted them by telling narrations of brave, diligent, Chinese women who fought against submissiveness. As Kingston recalls “She said I would grow up a wife and a slave, but she taught me the song of the warrior woman, Fa Mu Lan. I would have to grow up to be a warrior woman” (Kingston 20) Brave Orchid discreetly introduced her daughters to victorious female characters, allowing them to find an inspiration for their future. Although Brave Orchid constantly spoke of the need for submissiveness, she contradicted it by becoming a prestigious female Chinese doctor. Upon migrating to the U.S., Brave Orchid retired from her practice but she continued to value education; she showed her medical diploma on rare occasions to maintain its value. As Kingston recalls, “Once in a long while, four times so far for me, my mother brings out the metal tube that holds her medical diploma” (Kingston 57). Although Brave Orchid did not continue her practice in the U.S, she values her diploma because it is her way of stating her independence and intelligence. Unconsciously, Brave Orchid aided Kingston in the process of discovering her voice and independence and this led to Kingston’s desire to become a scholar. By confronting her mother,...

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