The Woman Warrior Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series The Woman Warrior Analysis

Maxine Hong Kingston

Masterpieces of Women's Literature The Woman Warrior Analysis

In this work, Kingston explores the ways in which women can find their voices in patriarchal cultures that seek to silence them. Although Kingston begins her autobiography with her mother’s injunction “not to tell,” she breaks her silence in order to relate the story of No Name Woman and to begin a search for self-expression, finding ways to challenge sexist and racist oppression.

Kingston uses the stories of her two aunts—No Name Woman and Moon Orchid—to highlight the danger of silence, which Maxine associates with victimization and the loss of identity. Because of her illicit affair, No Name Woman’s family blames her for the community’s punitive actions and after her death attempts to forget her existence; they attempt to “silence” her by eradicating her very memory. When Moon Orchid confronts her unfaithful husband, he turns upon her and effectively silences her. Soon after, Moon Orchid becomes insane. Later, Maxine observes, “I thought talking and not talking made the difference between sanity and insanity. Insane people were the ones who couldn’t explain themselves.”

As an antidote to these “silenced” women, Maxine imagines the stories of powerful women such as Fa Mu Lan and Brave Orchid. While Fa Mu Lan is a woman warrior who fights to “right the wrongs” carved on her back by her parents, her independent mother Brave Orchid is a strong-willed matriarch, a “champion talker.” There are ways, however, that both Fa Mu Lan and Brave Orchid perpetuate the values of patriarchal cultures. Fa Mu Lan is able to be a leader precisely because her followers assume that she is a man; when she finishes her fighting, she resumes the duties of the traditional Chinese wife and daughter. Although Brave Orchid lived an...

(The entire section is 724 words.)