Tripmaster Monkey

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Given the recent upheavals in China, Wittman’s vision of returning to his ancestral homeland, and of what he will find there, is sentimentally single-minded: “Everywhere demonstrative customs of affection--holding hands, sitting in laps, pats and strokes on heads and backs, arms around waists, fingers and cheeks touching cheeks. . . . Men are brothers holding hands, and women hold hands, and mothers and fathers kiss children.” Sentimental too, though bitterly so, is his vision of what becomes of these unified, loving Chinese people after arriving in America: “they’re walking apart. They’ve learned not to go about so queer. They have come to a lonely country, where men get killed for holding hands.”

The tension between one’s yearning for a sense of belonging in a community and one’s bitter feelings of homelessness and displacement, visibly Chinese but not culturally Chinese in America, will be familiar to readers of Kingston’s earlier books. Wittman, like this novel, is filled and driven by that tension; so intent is he upon exposing how Chinese Americans are dealt with prejudicially, that he frequently seems obsessively paranoid (for example, he makes love with a white woman and then, once finished, he quizzes her about which of his characteristics she finds attractive).

Six feet tall and verbose, Wittman devotes himself to writing and staging an impossibly huge version of numerous Chinese novels and folktales in the form of a play requiring a cast...

(The entire section is 610 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Fans of Kingston's use of fable and myth in contemporary settings will enjoy discussing her utilization of this technique in...

(The entire section is 257 words.)

Techniques / Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book is an unusual book in terms of both its narrative technique and its rich variety and odd mixture of...

(The entire section is 377 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although in many ways it is very different in tone and technique from her earlier books, Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book continues...

(The entire section is 180 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Chang, Hsiao-hing. “Gender Crossing in Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey.MELUS 22 (Spring, 1997): 15-34. Chang explores the ways in which Kingston intertwines two kinds of gender crossing: masculine gender anxiety and feminine blurring of gender boundaries. Within this context, Chang discusses Kingston’s use of psychic and linguistic dislocations to destablize fact/fiction, history/myth, and Chinese/American polarities.

Furth, Isabella. “Bee-e-een! Nation, Transformation, and the Hyphen of Ethnicity in Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey.Modern Fiction Studies 40 (Spring, 1994): 33-49. Furth explores the continuous transformations and complex relations between nation, ethnicity, and wounds caused by separation in the world Kingston has created. She focuses on the hyphen, a symbol of both the blending and distinctiveness of the Chinese and American cultures.

Ling, Amy. Between Worlds: Women Writers of Chinese Ancestry. New York: Pergamon Press, 1990. Contains an informative section on Tripmaster Monkey. The book is also an excellent introduction to the tradition behind Kingston.

Lowe, John. “Monkey Kings and Mojo: Postmodern Ethnic Humor in Kingston, Reed, and Vizenor.” MELUS 21 (Winter, 1996): 103-126. Lowe’s examination reveals Kingston, Vizenor, and Reed’s novels as examples of ethnic humor from a postmodern perspective. Focusing on the trickster character in each novel, he demonstrates that the works owe much to the folklore tradition of Chinese, Native American, and African cultures.

Schueller, Malini J. “Theorizing Ethnicity and Subjectivity: Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey and Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club.Genders (Winter, 1992): 72-85. Schueller presents an analysis of Kingston and Tan’s novels, focusing on the common theme of discovering a feminine identity that does not marginalize racial or ethnic orientations.

Tanner, James T. F. “Walt Whitman’s Presence in Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book.MELUS 20 (Winter, 1995): 61-74. Tanner explores the numerous references to Walt Whitman in Kingston’s novel. He particularly focuses on the main character, Whitman Ah Sing, and demonstrates how the character’s mottos follow the poet’s own ideas for America.