Global Lit.

December 3rd, 2010

The Woman Warrior

Posted by mea1234 in Uncategorized

“The real punishment was not the raid swiftly inflicted by the villagers, but the family’s deliberately forgetting her.”

Kingston reflects on her aunt’s story and the implications and significance of it. She concludes that the real lesson is not how the “No Name Woman” dies ( that is by drowning herself and her newborn after giving birth in a pigsty); but rather, why she was forgotten.  Kingston goes on to suggest that the act of writing out the story her mother tells serves as an act of remembrance to the No Name Woman. Because Kingston cannot ask about her unnamed aunt, she invents her own fantasies about why her aunt gave in to her forbidden passions. Kingston convinces herself that the baby was probably a girl(and as such would already have been considered practically useless to society, a theme that reappears throughout) and her aunt decided to kill her baby and herself in order to spare the child a life without family or purpose. At the end of the chapter, Kingston imagines her aunt as a lonely, wandering ghost, begging for scraps from the gifts given to other ghosts by their loving relatives.

[My mother] 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 a warrior woman.

The struggle of Kingston’s aunt, is likened to the struggle of Kingston herself, who is attempting to make sense of the old customs and traditions (which she knows only from her mother) in an extremely different country. The story of Fa Mu Lan provides an alternative to the traditional Chinese beliefs. Kingston’s use of fantasy is what allows her to imagine herself as a warrior.  To be able to envision oneself in a position, enriches the chances of it happening.  She is a Chinese female, struggling to define herself in a place where the old traditional ways are esteemed by the elders (that is her mother and those in the old country) and the new forward ways put forth by this new/different society.  Role reversal and gender bending plays a role in many different aspects of the story, symbolizing in many instances her need and want to do “those things that men do”, rejecting her traditional role of womanhood.  Some examples: how Kingston’s husband in the fantasy leaves battle to return home and care for her son, how the men conscripted in the army are described as “lowly as slave girls,” or how ladies with bound feet go on to form a mercenary army.

The significance of Kingston’s fantasy is not that it transcends time and space, but that it transcends the rigid customs and traditions with which she grew up.Kingston is not ready to take on the role of mother or wife and rejects the limitations placed on women by both society and her parents. Rebelliously she burns food and refuses to clean dishes. She is repulsed by Chinese women who are entirely dependent on men, whose feet are symbolically bound by their role as mothers and wives. Still, she cannot escape the power of tradition, “the ghosts that still haunt her”, and is envious of those who, like Fa Mu Lan, are “loved enough to be supported.”What, then, is the point of Kingston’s fantasy? The last few paragraphs of the chapter compare the powers Kingston does have, her words, to the powers of Fa Mu Lan. Like the sky sword created out of thin air, Kingston’s words have only as much power as she can give them. The implication is that her words can poke holes through stereotypes. In this way Kingston can become a new sort of “female avenger,” one who can give birth to new ideas, not just babies, one who can also tear down her enemies as a fierce warrior woman.

Maxine Hong Kingston

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