Maxine's mother gives her mixed messages about what a woman is
supposed to be in society. She tells her about Fa Mu Lan, a woman
warrior, but then she constantly puts down Maxine's dreams,
warning her with stories of No Name Aunt. Chinese traditions
require that a woman must serve her husband and their in-laws. She
should be his maid and his mistress, putting his needs first and
denying herself anything. The husband provides for the family. If a
woman breaks these traditions, she must be punished. American
Chinese further the hatred of women, as is evidenced by the
grandfather of Maxine's cousins who calls the girls "maggots".
Maxine is also troubled by the special treatment her brothers
receive. Their birthdays are big celebrations, and they are
given great gifts. The girls receive gifts that will help prepare
them for service and there is no party on their birthdays. Maxine
wants to be the woman warrior who breaks the traditions.
In trying to please her mother, Maxine is frustrated at every
turn. Her American accomplishments, such as getting good grades,
only lead her mother to call her "bad girl". Her brothers learn to
speak English, but Maxine is discouraged in doing so.
The No Name Aunt's real name is never spoken because she
disgraced the family by getting pregnant by someone other than her
husband, who had already gone to America. As a result, the aunt
kills herself and her baby, knowing they would never be