The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston

1722 Words7 Pages
In The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston crafts a fictitious memoir of her girlhood among ghosts. The book’s classification as a memoir incited significant debate, and the authenticity of her representation of Chinese American culture was contested by Asian American scholars and authors. The Woman Warrior is ingenuitive in its manipulation of the autobiographical genre. Kingston integrates the value of storytelling in her memoir and relates it to dominant themes about silence, cultural authenticity, and the cultivation of identity. Throughout her work, Kingston reaches a variety of conclusions about the stories her mother told her by writing interpretations of her mother, Brave Orchid’s, “talk-story”. Brave Orchid’s talk-story is a form…show more content…
She considers that “some man had commanded her to lie with him and be his secret evil.” (Kingston 6). Kingston writes her initial version of the “No Name Woman,” who was raped, raided, and died an outcast, but Kingston determines that this telling does not fit her understanding of China. Therefore, Kingston entertains another hypothetical, that her aunt took a lover and saved him from shame by giving “silent birth” and not revealing the lover’s identity (Kingston 11). Here, Kingston critically examines the inherited talk-story of her mother to determine the meaning she should obtain from the death of her aunt. Her mother’s conclusion is that she must not become pregnant, but Kingston is uncertain about the simplicity of her mother’s story. In the “No Name Woman,” Kingston introduces the fictitious memoir structure that she utilizes through the variety of interpretations of her aunt’s story. Consistently through the memoir, Kingston writes contrasting accounts of the same stories and imagines the stories of others to further her themes about silence, authenticity, and identity formation. Kingston begins The Woman Warrior by writing a story which started with her mother insisting that she “must not tell anyone...what I am about to tell you.” (Kingston 3). Kingston’s first written words are a defiance of this silencing. Silence is a motif that permeates the entirety of The Woman Warrior; Kingston
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