Quest for Identity in Maxine Hong Kingston's Autobiography, The Woman Warrior

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Quest for Identity in Maxine Hong Kingston's Autobiography, The Woman Warrior

Maxine Hong Kingston's autobiography, The Woman Warrior, features a young Chinese-American constantly searching for "an unusual bird" that would serve as her impeccable guide on her quest for individuality (49). Instead of the flawless guide she seeks, Kingston develops under the influence of other teachers who either seem more fallible or less realistic. Dependent upon their guidance, she grows under the influence of American and Chinese schools and the role models of Brave Orchid, Fa Mu Lan, and Moon Orchid. Her education by these counselors consequently causes her to abandon her search for an escort, the bird to be found somewhere in the measureless sky,
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The first response, "'Yes, I have . . . Thank you.'" signifies the conventional Chinese response, "valuing politeness, displaying modesty and consideration of the other, saving face" (Ling 147). However, Kingston wants to give "the assimilated American response, valuing honesty and directness, frankly looking out for number one, and tinged with humor," and Kingston thinks to herself "'No, I haven't. . . . I'm starved. Do you have any cookies? I like chocolate chip cookies'" (Ling 147). As evidence of Kingston's indecisiveness, Ling clarifies Kingston's cultural disorientation perceptible in her word choice:

The expressed fondness for chocolate chip cookies seems a playful and somewhat greedy response, which I'm sure Kingston intended. Can it then be that Kingston is advocating Chinese politeness at the same time that she is complaining about it? Is she subverting American directness while seeming to embrace it? (Ling 147).

At this point in her autobiography, Kingston remains disoriented about her position in the two enveloping cultures, and Ling suggests this idea by considering the significance of Kingston's two culturally different responses rather than only one- either American or Chinese.

Another result of American integration and participation in American

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