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Talking Story In Woman Warrior By Maxine Hong Kingston

1567 words - 6 pages

What Are You Talking-Story About?Maxine Hong Kingston is arguably one of today's most outspoken contemporary feminist writers. However, when she was initially thrown into an American lifestyle by her parents, she faced enormous difficulties in cultural divergence, leaving her to question everything she has ever learned. Her memoirs, The Woman Warrior, celebrate this victorious journey from a once silenced Chinese immigrant to a liberated Chinese-American young woman. The most integral part of this coming of age is the constant storytelling or talk-story by her mother, Brave Orchid, which acts as a stimulus for Kingston's individual thought. Each talk-story allows Kingston to break free from cultural biases and aids in her successful integration into the Western world and a respect of her native traditionIn China, Maxine Hong Kingston's native land, childrearing is a direct result of Confusion tradition, "one of the world's most durable ideological systems" (Miller 557). Within this tradition, shame is seen as a virtue, and great value is placed on teaching, discipline, and acceptance of social obligation. Also within this framework, a key principal of Chinese "parenting is that children be taught and disciplined from an early age, as soon as they can talk and walk" (Miller 557). This means that they would not shield a child from the misfortune in the world but rather teach the child about it with minimal explanation. Thus, they would leave the child contemplating what was said (Miller 559). Ultimately, Chinese parenthood prepares the child for the highest socialization goal of filial piety, which "refers to the principal that one conduct oneself so as to bring honor and not disgrace to the family name and encompasses such precepts as devotion and obedience" (Miller 558). One of the primary ways Chinese parents could assist their children in attaining this goal is with the socialization tactic of talk-story.In her Critical Companion to Maxine Hong Kingston, E D Huntley describes talk-story (or gong gu tsai) as"a community discourse, an inherited oral narrative tradition that incorporates family tales and genealogy, history, familiar adages, folklore, myth, heroic stories, even didactic and cautionary pronouncements that have been handed down-and embellished-by successive generations within an extended clan." (66)From this definition, talk-story is more consequential than merely a story. Instead, it is a complete system of education for the Chinese in accordance with Confusion socialization goals. The speaker of the talk-story is knowledgeable in all areas, much like Brave Orchid, lending to the addition of classic characters of literature and ancient philosophical teachings (Miller 558). While talk-stories are certainly not lies, they have a certain malleable character such that the speaker can keep the talk-story factual while still adding small modification to accomplish an educational task (Huntley 66). Thus, the talk-story evolves from...

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