“No Name Woman” Maxine Kingston's Memoir, The Woman Warrior Describes

1306 words - 5 pages

?No Name Woman? Maxine Kingston's memoir, The Woman Warrior describes the struggles of a Chinese-American woman growing up as she attempts to find a balance between two cultures and to find her own identity within them. Kingston's novel abounds with imagery, from the ghosts and barbarians, to the different colors (black, white, and red). Every character is introduced in a way to clarify Kingston's motives for writing. Through her stories, she makes it evident that she experiences many conflicts between what she is being taught at home and what she is experiencing in American society.Kingston clearly establishes her beliefs and values of Chinese culture in each story and then points out the contrasts with American culture. Her mother wants to instill traditional Chinese values in her daughter, with the desire that her daughter become a strong, unique individual - a ?woman warrior.? This story describes the shunning of the aunt who has an affair with, and becomes pregnant by, an unnamed man in her village. The seriousness of her betrayal was conveyed through the repeated words like ?forbidden,? ?alone,? and ?separate.? ?The villagers punished the aunt for acting as if she could have a private life, secret and apart from them? (p.13).The Chinese culture is initially portrayed as brutal and ever present in Kingston?s home where ?even now China wraps double binds around [her] feet? (p.48). She explains her fears of not being good enough in her mother?s eyes when she tells us, ? we Chinese girls listened to the adults talk-story, we learned that we failed if we grew up to be but wives or slaves (p.19). In the chapter entitled ?White Tigers,? Kingston explores the tale of Fa Mu Lan, a daughter who took her father?s place in the war against the Han. Through this story, Kingston realizes that being a failure (wife or slave) for a female is traditional in the Chinese culture and therefore recognizes the importance of becoming stronger and unique. ?She said I would grow up a wife or slave, but she taught me the song of the warrior woman, Fa Mu Lan. I would have to grow up a warrior woman,? (p.20). She also recognizes her mother as being a warrior. Brave Orchid, Kingston?s mother, was an important figure in her village back in China; she had attained a doctor?s degree. ?I?m never getting married, never!? ?Who?d want to marry you anyway? Noisy. Talking like a duck. Disobedient. Messy. And I know about college. What makes you think you?re the first one to think about college?? (p.202). Brave Orchid hints to her daughter that getting married is a tradition that is to be taught but not necessarily followed; like her mother, Kingston has the opportunity to be an individual.As a Chinese-American woman, Kingston seeks to balance the two ideals of tradition and individuality. The American culture creates a force that pulls her away from her mother, and away from being traditional. She sees that women in traditional Chinese cultures are silenced and they have no real...

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