Thursday, January 30, 2020

Kingstons Women Warrior Gives Voices and Identities to Chinese and Chinese American Women Essay Example for Free

Kingstons Women Warrior Gives Voices and Identities to Chinese and Chinese American Women Essay Growing up with a family of five sisters and myself as first generation Korean Americans, The Women Warrior focuses on the author’s life were she struggles to find her voice. Maxine Hong Kingston’s writing of this book is an example of how ancient talk stories, myths, and beliefs help one find her voice in America. The Women Warrior takes us on an adventure through five main female characters and five chapters that helps us understand how she finds her voice in America. The five chapters integrate Kingston’s experiences through the five women brought to life throughout the book. The references in the book refer to Kingston’s emotional struggle while showing the reader the benefit of finding ones personal voice in America. The book shows how the five women in this book along with the talk stories help in the search for individual identities. Through Kingston’s writing of this book the chapters help show how she manages to give her aunt an identity, Chinese women an identity, her mother a voice, and finds her own identity and voice in America. If women do not have voices in traditional Chinese culture, then the talk stories that mothers pass on to there daughters may be considered subversive tales and instructions for their daughters. In the first chapter of The Women Warrior, Kingston’s mother Brave Orchid tells the story of her sister and the relevance of the no name women. This talk story was told by Kingston’s mother in order to teach her daughter of proper women behavior. The fact that the story starts with her mother saying not to repeat the story makes this book a way of bringing Kinston’s aunt to life. The story was based back in the village in China where it is believed that she brought disgrace to her whole family by having an illegitimate child. â€Å"You must not tell anyone, my mother said, what I am about to tell you† (Kingston 3). This is how the book starts and the story of Kingston’s mother’s sister who killed herself with her newborn daughter. The no name women had become pregnant while her husband was off to war. The thought of what China was like painted a confusing picture for Kingston. She knew that the village that her aunt had killed herself by throwing her and her daughter in the village water well shows very little error for family values. It is here were the reader can come to know that the struggle of her aunt is the struggle she herself is going through while trying to make sense of all the tradition of China while living in America. The point of Brave Orchid to tell Kingston the story of her husband’s sister is to warn her to be careful and cautious. â€Å"Now that you started to menstruate, what happened to her could happen to you. Do not humiliate us. You wouldn’t like to be forgotten as if you had never been born† (Kingston 5). The story truly begins through this talk tale. Kingston is not allowed to mention the story of her aunt she has to create her own fantasies to complete the story. Kingston feels that the story makes more sense to her as if her aunt was rapped by a villager that ordered her to be with him. She also feels that her aunt may have stepped out of the normal social order and her sexual passion could have been incest and the whole town turned there backs and even her own family turned there backs. The birth took place in a pigsty and since the aunt already knew her fate she walked her daughter to the well and they drowned themselves. The whole idea that it was a daughter or a girl makes the story more interesting because the customs in China may have already named the girl useless and immoral. This chapter is often one of the more frequent anthologized sections of the book. The talk story of her aunt opens the door for more stories to follow. The place of women in Chinese society comes to question while the thought of Kingston’s place in America comes to question as well. Her reference to the village society of her aunt was vital to eliminate sexual attraction. This came true to Kingston herself who would try not to make herself to attractive to boys. The chapter is mainly a talk story told by her mother and the rest is the writing of Kingston. The first chapter makes the reader wonder if the stories are fiction or nonfiction. The tales from Brave Orchid seem to trouble Kingston from what is real and what is fantasy. You can see the struggle of where Kingston and her aunt seem to be voiceless throughout their lives. The fact that the no name women never told anyone who the husband was shows that she was protecting him with silence. By writing about her aunt Kingston gives her a voice. â€Å"The real punishment was not the raid swiftly inflicted by the villagers, but the family deliberately forgetting her† (Kingston 16). Although Kingston never finds out her aunts name, the symbolic act of naming her the No Name Women honors her memory. The second chapter White Tigers is based on another talk story about a female warrior Fa Mu Lan. The fact that the story is told in the first person gives Kingston her ability to become a warrior. This chapter develops some background for Kingston and her voice is heard through the story of the Fa Mu Lan. The warrior in the story starts her training at the age of seven and since it is written in the first person we can picture the warrior to be Kingston herself. In the fantasy Kingston follows a bird up into the mountains until she comes to the hut of an old couple who want to train her to become a great warrior. As part of her training she spends years on the mountain, fasting for days and eating only roots and vegetables while drinking snow water. At her hungriest moment she was sitting by the fire and a rabbit sacrifices itself for her to eat. â€Å"The rabbit seemed alert enough, however, looking at me so acutely, bounding up to the fire. But it did not stop when it got to the edge. It turned its face towards me, then jumped in the fire† (Kingston 26). Her starvation in the mountains causes her to hallucinate. â€Å"I saw two people made of gold dancing the earth’s dances† (Kingston 27). She eventually returns at the age of fourteen and her mentors teach her to fight. She is able to see images of her family in a gourd of water and she can see her family preparing her wedding to a childhood friend. She saw her husband and brother taken away and she wanted to help so badly but the training was not over. She was to wait until she became twenty two. When she is ready to leave the mountain she has learned how to us her magical sky sword and is given powerful beads by the old couple. Kingston returns home and her parents in preparation for battle tattoo a list of grievances all over her back to symbolize revenge. In men’s armor she rides her white horse and prepares to lead an army. This is probably the most exciting chapter in the book. We can see that Kingston is retelling the story as if she was the great Fa Mu Lan. This chapter follows a Chinese myth that the women would fight in place of their father. â€Å"We are going to carve revenge on your back, my father said. We will write out oaths and names† (Kingston 34). The tattoo that was actually carved in a man’s back is carved into Kingston’s back. She is pretending to be a man and becomes a great warrior at the head of a huge army. She defeats and wins over the army of a giant. Her husband then joins her and soon she is carrying a newborn baby under her armor. She eventually leads the entire population of China to overthrow the corrupt emperor and put a peasant in his place. In the fantasy Kinston takes on the role of a powerful man warrior and yet is also a female avenger. She has the ability to create life and to take life. These dual powers let her maintain both her sense of womanhood and duties of a wife. When she is a warrior she would wear her hair up and reveal the tattoos and when it was time to be a wife she lets down her hair to cover the tattoos. He wept when he took of my shirt and saw the scar words on my back. He loosened my hair and covered the words with it† (Kingston 39). When in battle her husband joins her and after birth to the newborn the husband leaves to care for the child. This sign of role reversal gives more meaning to Kinston’s life. She is able to transcend the rigid customs and traditions in this chapter. At the end of the chapter the reader can see that the customs of women constrict her in America as well. â€Å"Did you know the restaurant you chose for the banquet is being picketed by CORE and the NAACP? Of course I knew that is why I chose it. I refuse to type these invitations, I whispered, voice unreliable. He leaned back in his chair, his bossy stomach opulent. He picked up a calendar and slowly circled a date. You will be paid till here and we will mail you a check† (Kingston 49). We can see her trying to stand up to her boss in America and he simply fires her. In reality the only powers Kingston has is through her writing. It is in her writing that her aunt and her voice are heard. The end of the chapter states the real powers of Fa Mu Lan. The sky sword created by Kingston is as powerful as she wants just like her words. They can only have as much power as she can give them. The fact that the women with bound feet created an army in her writing gives them much deserved credit for all that they have endured The point of this chapter is through writing Kingston found a way to give voice to all Chinese women. She has found a way to poke holes through old stereotypes and thus through her writing she can change customs and give women a more important role in society. Although chapter two was the most adventurous it is in the third chapter that the reader can actually see that Kingston gives her other a voice and even finds out more about her own self. Shaman focuses on Kingston’s mother, Brave orchid and her childhood in China. The chapter traces her life in China after her husband was in America. Kingston is able to bring the talk stories of her mother and along with other storytellers Kingston writes of her mothers accomplishments becoming a doctor. The chapter brings her mother to life. In America she has no voice and in China she was a remarkable doctor. It was at the To Keung School of Midwifery were Brave Orchid truly excelled as one of the top students. â€Å"It rolled over her and landed bodily on her chest. There it sat. It breathed airlessly pressing her, sapping her. Oh no a sitting ghost, she thought† (Kinston 69). It was here when she defeated the ghost at her school and impressed the other students. It was as if she could perform magic. When Brave Orchid returns back to her village she had the ability to heal the sick and defeat the ghosts. Kingston feels that her mother’s power comes from her being able to eat any beast. She remembers one talk story that Chinese people ate the brains out of the head of a monkey. One day Kingston and her mother went to purchase a slave. I am a doctor, she told her new slave, when they were out of the dealer’s hearing† (Kingston 81). It is here that Kingston feels some uncertainty towards her mothers talk stories. Her mother recalls spending two hundred dollars for Kingston when she was born. Kingston remembers her mother commenting on the fact that they gave away girls that were infants. Here Kingston is torn with the fact that she cost her mother money and that being a girl was almost a burden on her family. The struggle with honoring her mother’s powers and with identifying herself is clear in this chapter. The fact that Kingston comments on her being a girl and being useless is what she truly struggles with. Many families in China look down at baby girls and it isn’t until Kingston writes about her mother and herself to give them an identity. The second part of the chapter takes place in America where Brave Orchid a once powerful doctor has no voice in America. She couldn’t speak English so the simple language barrier silenced her. The way to get Kingston to understand her mother was through the talk stories and ghosts Brave Orchid made up. But America has been full of machines and ghosts, Taxi ghosts, Bus ghosts, Police ghosts, Fire ghosts, Meter reader ghosts, Tree trimming ghosts, Five and dime ghosts† (Kingston 97). The surroundings of America contained many ghosts but the reader can sense that Kingston is happier that she is in America. The chapter ends on the present day during a visit by Kingston. Brave Orchid complains about how hard they work in the laundry and tomato field businesses. Her mother claims that even the time goes faster in America. Brave Orchid never stopped calling China home. She seems to understand little of the political situation in China. She has finally told Kingston that they would never return to China. The chapter is best summed up as the ghost chapter. The new ghosts in America along with the ghosts from China can be terrifying. The deformed baby that was kicked out to die in the outhouse would haunt Kingston. The chapter of Shaman is the chapter that depicts the conflicts of Brave Orchid’s life and the mother daughter relationship she has with Kingston. The reader can see how frustrating Kingston is as she tries to find her identity in America. If there were no talk stories of her mother’s life in China then Brave Orchid could have never had her own identity. Brave Orchids life in America is completely opposite and in America she struggles with her own identity because she only speaks Chinese. The next chapter At the Western Palace is where Brave Orchids sister Moon Orchid comes to America. It is through these women that Kingston can identify with herself. Brave Orchid sends for her sister and she makes the trip to America from Hong Kong. â€Å"Brave Orchid momentarily saw, like a larger, younger outline around this old woman, the sister she had been waiting for† (Kingston 117). The two women kept describing how old each one looked. The fact that Brave Orchid sent for her sister to come to America raised question as to why her husband, who lived in America, never sent for her. It is here that I noticed that Moon Orchid was a lady with no identity in America. Brave Orchid insisted that Moon Orchid should go demand her life as a wife to her husband. â€Å"Moon Orchids eyes got big like a child’s. I shouldn’t be here, she said† (Kingston 124). This was Moon Orchids reaction to her sister’s rambling about her reclaiming her husband. Moon Orchid got money from her husband. He sent her money and she never worked a day in her life. She tries to tell Brave Orchid she was not abandoned and that he sent money for all the food and servants one could need. He even sent their daughter to college. Brave Orchid pressured her sister till finally one day they went to Los Angeles to confront her husband. Brave Orchid tells her sister to demand her place as the first wife but Moon Orchid wants no part in it. They came up with a plan after Brave Orchid saw his doctor office. They would send Brave Orchid’s son to the office and make the doctor come out thinking their was an accident. The plan did bring him out but it failed in Brave Orchids mind. He mentioned his new wife did not know of the first marriage and that he wanted no part in her life, but he would continue to send money to his daughter in care for Moon Orchid. The doctor embarrassed Moon by calling them grandmothers. This made Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid ghosts and the comic and tragic story of Moon Orchid takes form. The daughter takes Moon Orchid in after brave Orchid realized she was useless in helping her. She could barely fold towels and she got to hot to work. Her inabilities to perform the easiest tasks became annoying. Like many women in China they would marry the men just before they left for â€Å"the Golden Mountain† America. The fact that Moon Orchid comes to America and is useless to Brave Orchid and her husband wants nothing to do with her raises more speculation to her identity. The women in this story seem to have to find their own place and are voiceless. Like in previous chapters Moon Orchid comes to life through Kinston’s writing. In this chapter Kingston is hardly present. This is the first appearance in the book of her siblings and her father. Brave Orchid is embarrassed that her children are unaware of respecting or understanding Chinese culture. The fact that Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid become ghosts while confronting her husband takes a lot out of Moon Orchid. She slowly begins to deteriorate and Brave Orchid tries to comfort her but she ends up sending her to away to a home. The stories in this chapter are an important reminder to Kingston and her feelings for her mother. The fact that these women both had great lives in China can show the reader that in America the women were of no use and in America they struggled to find their identity. It s in the final chapter A song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe, Kingston finally begins to focus on her own life. We can see Kingston in some of her most important turning points in her life. She is insecure, quiet and an alienated young girl. Kinston has begun to see the world logically and as a more mature person. She embraces her roots and her past and finds strength in her writing. Kingston and other Chinese Americans are constantly told not to tell anyone outside the community about their lives. This makes finding ones identity harder. It is very important that Kingston does not spare herself in the final chapter. Here the quiet girl even has two long rants showing her words were often bottled up. Her ability to write made her more mature and gave her a clear perspective of her place in society. In America silence is a trait of Americans and Kinston finds herself as quiet and American-feminine. â€Å"So I had to stop, relieved in some ways. I shut my mouth, but I felt something alive tearing at my throat, bite by bite, from the inside† (Kingston 200). This is when you can see that Kinston remaining quite only kept things bottled up inside. The story ends with another talk story about the Ts’ai Yen who had to translate the songs of the Barbarians back to the people. It is here that the reader can sense that Kinston has found a way to communicate from her writing to her readers. Kinston’s identity seems to be in between American and Chinese American culture. The culture of both worlds has come to life throughout this book and it is in this chapter that Kingston realizes that she can give anything identity through her writing. Kingston’s ability to find herself in both cultures reveals her true identity. It is through her mother’s talk stories and through the other women in this book that helps her find her own identity. Kinston also gives identity to her No Name Aunt as well as Moon Orchid, and her mother. This novel focuses on the stories of these women and there struggles to find their voices. After realizing her place in society Kinston gave herself and all the other women in this book a voice and an identity. The women who have no identity and the struggle of a Chinese American women makes this book reveal everyone’s place and identity. Through her writing, talking about her past becomes the cure for silence and the cure to achieve an individual voice as a Chinese American Women.

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