Essay about Maxine Hong Kingston's No Name Woman

Essay about Maxine Hong Kingston's No Name Woman

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Maxine Hong Kingston's No Name Woman

A person's identity cannot be given to her, instead a person must achieve a sense of her character through personal experience and self-reflection. In "No Name Woman", Maxine Hong Kingston recalls the events of her aunt's life in the vague world of her Chinese roots. The story of her aunt is told by her mother and Kingston recreates the events into an exploratory story to help herself figure out what part of her identity is Chinese and help her better understand the Chinese culture. In retelling her aunt's story, Kingston seeks to reconcile both her Chinese and American identities and mold her own identity as a result. Kingston, a first generation American, finds that as a result of her cultural heritage and current surroundings, it is extremely difficult in resolving her identity. Although growing up in America, she is a product of a very strong Chinese culture so her identity becomes multifaceted. In attempting to resolve who she is and what her cultural roots are, she discovers that her identity is characterized in relation to her Chinese identity and her American environment.

In the opening scene of the story, the audience is immediately presented with a tragic story within a story. The events viewed in retrospect through the eyes of the narrator's traditional conservative mother seem skewed and moralistic, delivered in an instructive voice. The mother's speech is purely didactic. She is telling this story to Kingston to teach a lesson; never do what your aunt has done and do not bring shame upon the family name. Instead of clearly accepting this tale, Kingston has a hard time believing and consenting to her mother's message. Although Kingston is to never speak of the aunt and pretend...


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...ry brazen act for a Chinese woman, but influenced by her Chinese upbringing, she was still reticent about her actions.

The narrator's struggle to make sense of the story through her Americanized perspective also helps to reveal a great deal about traditional Chinese culture, the aunt and mother's traditional viewpoints allow us to better explore and understand the Americanized view of the daughter. What she discovers is that the Chinese women back in the Old Country, like their male counterparts, had to sacrifice their individuality, personal goals, desires, and loves in order to more fully harmonize with the community. This is a problem for Kingston because she was raised in a nation that emphasized individualism and assertiveness. As a result, she is caught in a struggle to find meaning in her cultural roots as a Chinese woman and in her American upbringing.

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