At the end of “White Tigers” in The Woman Warrior, the Chinese American narrator states, “The swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar.” In what ways are they similar and dissimilar?

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In the “White Tigers” chapter of Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, the author/narrator inserts herself into the myth of Fa Mu Lan, a woman warrior who uses a sky sword to defeat her enemies and free her people even as she pursues the traditional roles of wife and mother. The narrator says that she and the swordswoman are not so dissimilar, and in some ways, they are alike, but in other ways, they are quite different.

The narrator lives in the United States, yet she is immersed in traditional Chinese stereotypes about women. She is supposed to be a wife and a mother, roles for which she does not feel ready yet. She is a disappointment because she is female, and she ends up fired when she tries and fails to stand up to a racist boss. Her family and community consider her education and her love of learning and writing rather useless, and they wish she would insert herself into traditional women's roles. The narrator wishes she were truly strong like Fa Mu Lan so she could stand up and take the place she wants to take.

Yet there is one way that the narrator feels like a warrior, and that is through her words. Her words are her swords. With them, she can cut through the stereotypes, revealing them for what they are and giving power to people who want to overthrow them. She can be a warrior in her writing. She can know what it feels like to cut down her enemies (at least metaphorically), to show the weakness and irrationality of their ideas. The narrator can be Fa Mu Lan through the power of her words, accepting what is good and renouncing what is bad, and uniting others behind her cause as a “female avenger.”

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