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In Maxine Hong Kingston's novel, The Woman Warrior, eNotes Study Guides describes several themes. While a search for identity and self is the primary theme, secondary themes are sexism and flesh versus spirit.
Sexism can be seen in Part One, with the aunt who becomes pregnant and is so grievously punished. Her sin is evident by her obvious pregnancy, but no mention is ever made of the man she slept with. When Moon Orchid comes to America and discovers that her husband, who traveled there years before has married another woman and started a new life, Moon Orchid suffers, going insane. There is no censorship of her husband who agrees only to provide his true wife with money to support herself. There is also the message that Kingston receives at the hands of her parents—that girls are not valued, but boys are; it is something integral to the Chinese culture (in terms of religion, senior care of parents by the son, and inheritance). This is, however, a major stumbling block for Kingston as she desperately tries to find not only a sense of who she is, but her value as a person—regardless of being a woman—and even pride in being a woman. The book is entitled The Warrior Woman, alluding to the battle a woman faces, especially in a culture that so favors men. The sad thing is that this preference for boys over girls follows girls into the Chinese-American culture as well.
Flesh versus spirit is another theme we see. It is present when Brave Orchid (Kingston's mother) is a young woman attending medical school. She is admired by the other students when she spends the night in a haunted room, "wrestles" with a ghost, survives, and leads the other students to banish the ghost from that room. However, it seems that ghosts are things that follow Brave Orchid when she moves to the United States. Here she is not allowed to practice the art of healing, she loses her sense of self, and she see Americans as ghosts.
This same theme is seen when Kingston complains to her mother about the stories she tells her daughter. Kingston struggles to find a way to know what stories are real and what stories are imaginary. It also how the stories speak to Kingston in enabling her to learn about her culture and decide who she chooses to be.
Maxine struggles to free herself of the ghosts that her mother has shared with her and those of her Chinese ancestry and culture.
When she does this, she finds she is able to accept both her mother and her own Chinese heritage.
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