In “No Name Woman,” Kingston invents scenarios about her aunt about whom no one will openly speak. The aunt’s situation highlights the way gender roles limit the lives of women. In “White Tiger,” Kingston indulges in a fantasy of the woman warrior, Fa Mu Lan (a piece of Chinese folklore), in response to both her aunt’s story and the constant marginalization she experiences on the basis of her gender. How does her fantasy relate to the story her mother tells her of her aunt and the description of the way she is treated?

Kingston’s fantasy about Fa Mu Lan in “White Tiger” relates to the story of her No Name Aunt as an image of female fierceness and independence that contrasts to her aunt’s despair after being sexually abused and tormented.

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In the story of the “No Name Woman,” the woman whom Maxine’s mother does not name is the girl’s aunt. This No Name Aunt endured sexual abuse and physical abuse in her home village in China. In her husband’s absence, she was sexually assaulted and impregnated by another man. When she bore his child, the villagers turned against her. Their ostracism, criticism, and scorn became violent, and they attacked her in her home. Distraught and seeing nowhere to turn, the woman took her own life and that of her child by drowning.

The young Maxine reacts to this story with horror, unable to regard it as a cautionary tale about male aggression and female chastity. Instead, Maxine takes to heart other stories that her mother, Brave Orchid, shares about the legendary woman warrior, Fa Mu Lan.

In the story “White Tiger,” Kingston elaborates on a fantasy world in which this fierce female hero carves her own niche. Not content to follow the traditional roles of wife and mother, she rejects subservience both to individual men and to the entire patriarchal structure. As a woman who fights for justice, however, she adopts a male disguise so she can travel unmolested, but she also appropriates traditional male weaponry and methods, becoming a “swordsman” who strikes fear in her opponents. Maxine’s conception of empowerment for women, paradoxically, requires at least partial male embodiment.

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