Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior

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Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior

Maxine Hong Kingston's novel, The Woman Warrior is a semi-autobiographical collection of short stories that chronicles her childhood in California. It gives the reader a feeling of how it feels like to be a Chinese American girl growing up with traditional parents in a world that is quite different from theirs. Throughout the novel, both she and her mother refer to the outside world as "ghosts." The subtitle given to the book is Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. To figure out the meaning behind this subtitle, one has to try to see what Kingston means when she and her family use the term "ghost."

When people think of ghosts, it can be said that thoughts of death and non-existence come to mind. When this term is used in her family, it shows that the outside world is non-existent, or useless to them. Whenever a non-Chinese person is talked about, that person is referred to as "ghost." These non-Chinese people are strange to Kingston's family. Kingston's mother, Brave Orchid, has a slight disgust for ghosts of all sorts. In the chapter titled Shaman, she fights a ghost in one of the rooms of her medical school. The ghost is symbolic of everything that is, and will be, an obstacle to her. Fighting this threat to her and her friends, has given her the strength to live in a world where the women are deemed to be not as important as the men. It has also given her a reputation amongst her ...

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Kingston tells the reader a story of a Chinese poet by the name of Ts'ai Yen. She was captured by a rival tribe and lived with them for a while. Eventually, her captors, the barbarians, learned from her while she learned form them as well. Kingston writes, "She brought her songs back from the savage lands, and one of the three that has been passed down to us is ‘Eighteen Stanzas for a Barbarian Reed Pipe,' A song that the Chinese sing to their own instruments. It translated well." This shows that Kingston acknowledges all the "ghosts" in her life. She has taken all of the stores she heard and all of the experiences she has went through, and used them to make her stronger.
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