The Theme Of Identity As Developed Within The Novel "The Woman Warrior" By Maxime Hong Kingston

1220 words - 5 pages

I am going to explore the theme of identity as developed within the novel "The Woman Warrior". In "The Woman Warrior", the first-person narrator illustrates the progression of the search for her identity as a female torn between two cultures: Chinese and American. Maxine Hong Kingston, in my opinion, subverts the traditional definitions of what is justified by many as independent identity, and more specifically she attempts to question the definitions of 'woman' from a social position of ethnic diversity.She questions throughout the text the definition of identity, both from a viewpoint of gender, and from a cultural viewpoint. This is used in an attempt to question cultural institutions within both Chinese and Chinese-American societies. She challenges the tradition of those who attempt to define a singular concept of womanhood, by exploring the idea of what it means not only to be a woman, but a woman in an ethnic minority. This allows her to explore and attempt to re-evaluate the idea of a singular stable self upon which many of these viewpoints have been established.The way I believe she illustrates this most successfully is through the medium of language and voice. As an American-born Chinese who has never visited China, the first narrator's only experience of Chinese culture lies in her mother's contradicting tales. To find her identity, the narrator has to start by sorting out the truths from the lies in the Chinese culture presented through these stories. She questions the stories that her mother tells, whether they are "true stories,.. or just a story,.. [she] can't tell the difference" (202). For example, when the narrator first starts menstruating, her mother uses her father's unspoken sister, the "No Name" aunt as an example to warn her of the dangers of sexuality. By having an illegitimate child when her husband is not home, the aunt brings dishonor to herself and the community. To show their disapproval, the villagers "throw mud and rocks and smear blood on the doors and walls" (4). Ashamed by her actions, the family disowns her and subjugates her existence.After telling the story, Brave Orchid orders her daughter "you must not tell this to anyone" (3). This causes the narrator to ponder why her mother would tell her about her aunt but then turns around and instructs her not to ask questions relating to what has happened. As a result, the narrator responds to her mother's teachings with ambiguity. She refuses to dress "American-pretty" in order to prevent her aunt's past to reoccur with her. However, in doing so, she also "hexes herself... [She has] no dates,... [and she wants] to stand up, both arms waving and shout out across the library, 'Hey you, Love me back!'" (12). This action clearly illustrates her internal struggle to find who she is.Contrary to the voiceless image of the "No Name" aunt, Brave Orchid relates the tale of a courageous woman warrior, Fa Mu Lan. Fa Mu Lan, the legendary Chinese woman warrior, goes into...

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