The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston presents the story of a girl trapped between the cultures of her surrounding environment and that which her mother and family have forced upon her. Knowing only the Chinese way of life, this girl’s mother attempts to familiarize her daughter, whom is also the narrator, with the history of their family. The mother shares this heritage through the use of stories in hopes the narrator will be prepared for her ultimate return to China, which is a life completely foreign to her own. Through these stories and the strong influence of the surrounding American culture, the narrator’s life and imagination spin off in a new direction. She is confronted by many obstacles, which cause problems with not only her mother, but also with her attempt to discover her personal identity. Although the narrator’s assimilation to the American culture causes numerous conflicts with her mother, she is able to overcome adversity and come of age as a Chinese-American with the help of her mother’s stories.
In Kingston’s first story, “No Name Woman,” the reader is first introduced to the stories of the narrator’s mother. This particular tale involves an aunt that the narrator never knew, who was shunned from her family for having an affair. It was through this story that the narrator learned how careful a young woman must be when growing up in the Chinese culture. Years after hearing of her aunt’s misfortune, the narrator realizes that she has carried on this ostracism and is equally as guilty as the others who participated in this punishment of silence. However, the narrator feels an intense connection with the outcast of her family. “My aunt haunts me—her ghost drawn to me because now, after fifty years of neglect, I alone devote pages of paper to her…” (16). Perhaps the narrator feels this bond because she herself feels completely alienated from the family and could never be fully connected to her Chinese heritage. Although she is angry for the terrible punishment inflicted on her aunt, she feels remorse for “telling on her” (16). This shows that the narrator does not only disapprove of the Chinese culture, but also feels sorry for those who must suffer in an eternity of exile.
“White Tigers” brings readers into the creative imaginatio...
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... seems to plague the narrator endlessly. She knows she can never break away from one culture without having to completely abandon the other. In the end, however, she realizes that she must leave home if she is ever to discover her purpose in the world, be it in China or America. The harsh criticisms and endless disapproval causes detrimental effects to the narrator, while at the same time giving her strength to overcome this lifelong struggle by facing her mother. Although the stories of her mother’s Chinese experiences and the insistence on her daughter living there push the narrator further away, it eventually causes an interest to discover what is really true. “Soon I want to go to China and find out who’s lying…” (205). Though some can constantly feel sorry for the narrator, we can also feel sorry for her mother not knowing any better. This is what ultimately caused the nonexistent relationship between the two. Through this complicated life, the narrator gained the strength, intelligence, and experience that allowed her to overcome numerous obstacles. Contrary to the belief of some, I feel she has her mother to thank for these gains, and that may have made all the difference.
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