How did Maxine Hong Kingston rebel by writing The Woman Warrior, and what did she achieve through this rebellion?

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linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Kingston's act of rebellion was to put in writing stories about the oppression and persecution of women in Chinese society. "The Woman Warrior" is a collection of such stories. By making their stories known, Kingston herself becomes the warrior woman of the title, fighting the battles of the women who could not fight for themselves. Many of the women she writes about are members of her own family. The story "No Name Woman" is about her aunt, whose family and other villagers harrassed her so harshly for having an illegitimate child that she drowned herself. Since she compounded her first sin by committing the worse one of suicide, now family members are forbidden from even speaking her name. Other stories deal with foot binding and female infanticide.

What did she achieve through her rebellion? Kingston brought to light societal practices that had only been hinted at as legends.

durbanville's profile pic

durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Maxine Hong Kingston (born Maxine Ting Ting Hong) is a first generation Chinese-American and The Warrior Woman is her attempt to fight the cultural and historic traditions that influence her search for her own identity. It is autobiographical and steeped in Chinese mythology and the lessons which the females in the Hong family learnt the hard way. Kingston discovers many shocking truths about her own family and her heritage which she refuses to accept as part of her culture because it can never be acceptable for men to treat women badly and never have to face the consequences of their actions. "You must not tell anyone" are the words of Kingston's mother at the beginning of the book and this prepares the reader for the frustrations and almost impenetrable world that Kingston seeks to expose. She rebels by doing exactly what her mother warned her against by telling others and by effectively giving the women of her family and other "nameless" Chinese women a voice.  

Kingston thinks that she is unlikely to have much influence or achieve any real change as an "avenger" and while she acknowledges that "the less you struggle the less it'll hurt," this only encourages her to keep searching and it does not stop her from rebelling against the basic human rights abuses that she exposes through writing about them. it is difficult to combine an American lifestyle with the complex Chinese traditions which cloud her judgment and Kingston compares herself to Fa Mu Lan. Writing is her way of vanquishing her demons. "The reporting is the vengeance." 

Kingston sees people fighting a losing battle. Girls are a burden in Chinese culture and any achievements they make have no real merit as a girl will never "turn into a boy," making her attempts appear futile. However, for Kingston, the hurt and despair she uncovers as she learns more about oppressive Chinese culture or American stereotypes (being referred to as a "chink" ) are also the things that can heal her or give her her victory. She is constantly conflicted however as there the gulf between her Chinese heritage and her Americanism is huge and uncompromising. 


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