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The Woman Warrior: A Tale of Identity

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The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston is a collection of memoirs, a blend of Kingston’s autobiography with Chinese folklore. The book is divided into five interconnected chapters: No Name Woman, White Tigers, Shaman, At the Western Palace, and A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe. In No Name Woman, three characters are present: Kingston, Kingston’s mother, and Kingston’s aunt. This section starts off with Kingston’s mother retelling the story of her aunt and her shameful past where her aunt took part in an adulterous relationship and expressed her sexuality openly, then Kingston’s interpretation of this story, and later what the story ultimately means to Kingston - the act of the family forgetting this aunt entirely. In White Tigers, it tells of the myth of Fa Mu Lan. It begins with Kingston recounting her mother’s story of Fa Mu Lan and her training where an elderly couple trains Fa Mu Lan into a warrior for fifteen years, then Fa Mu Lan’s role as a leading warrior and wife in which she replaces her father in battle and seeks revenge and lastly Kingston’s comparison to Fa Mu Lan’s life with hers.
In Shaman, Kingston recounts her mother’s story of when her mother was a student and doctor. It starts off with Kingston’s mother at the To Keung School of Midwifery, then her mother, Brave Orchid’s, return to her village, and finally Kingston’s mother telling Kingston of her life in America and how she tells Kingston that every person is a “ghost”. At the Western Palace, it tells of Kingston’s remembrances of her elderly mother and her mother’s sister, Lovely Orchid. It begins with Brave Orchid meeting her sister Lovely Orchid at the airport after not seeing each other for 30 years, then welcoming ...

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...spectives that it makes it quite difficult for a reader to see the progression of the autobiography and the progression of Kingston’s growth from a child to a woman. However, growth is evident in the narrative and one could see that the many facets of Kingston – her cruelty, her teenage rebelliousness, her meekness, and her strength. She grows from a child who could not speak for herself in school to a woman who can speak her mind on paper. She grows from a child who cowered from her mother’s story telling to a woman who accepts the dark crevices of her past. Kingston grew in her book from a person who suffered under scrutiny and conflicting values and customs to a woman who has found her identity and has composed beautiful prose about her heritage.

Works Cited

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts. New York: Knopf, 1976.
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