The Search for Human Identity
All humans encounter the search for personal identity at some point in
life. As an "American Chinese" Maxine Hong Kingston tries to find out
what defines her. Let them be her mother’s traditional world, her new
American home, or herself as an individual. Undoubtedly, Maxine is
strongly interested in the margins between certainty and falsehood,
remembrance and tradition, honesty and deceit. As she grows up, she
realizes that indeed, part of becoming a young mature woman is
figuring out what makes up her own individual. She also questions who
she really is, and where she belongs in her family. Maxine Hong
Kingston begins her search with the story of an aunt, to whom the
first chapter in No Name Woman talks about. Throughout the story,
Maxine tries to define whether she can see herself as a product of her
family’s history and how their story may define her as an individual.
Maxine is also concerned with exploring how her Chinese culture can
be submissive with her emerging sense of self as an American.
Kingston must learn more about what Chinese cultural history really
is. This is why she listens to her mother’s “talk-stories” about her
family’s enigmatic past.
In the course of The Woman Warrior, Kingston refers to her mother’s
historical tales as “talk stories” from which she learns. “Whenever
she had to warn us about life, my mother told stories that ran like
this one, a story to grow up on. She tested our strength to establish
realities.” The story her mother tells about Kingston’s aunt is a
cautionary tale, for it is meant to prevent Maxine from engaging in
premarital sex. “Now that you h...
... middle of paper ...
she tries to uncover. When Maxine’s aunt goes against the standards
of acceptable behavior in her community, “the villagers punished her
for acting as if she could have a private life, secret and apart from
them.” This is when Kingston realizes that she has her own private
life, and that no one but Maxine may define who she really is.
Finally, Kingston questions her family’s traditional views to find out
whether they fit her life principles and her own views as an
individual. This serves as an example to prove how Maxine is her own
individual, and how her family’s history is nothing near defining her
own identity as a person. Maxine has a family and feels like part of
it; yet she knows that the standards of being part of her Chinese
family are totally different to what she views as her own standards of
life, which she has decided to live by.
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- Imagination is a quality that everyone has, but only some are capable of using. Maxine Hong Kingston wrote “No Name Woman” using a great deal of her imagination. She uses this imagination to give a story to a person whose name has been forgotten. A person whose entire life was erased from the family’s history. Her story was not written to amuse or entertain, but rather to share her aunts’ story, a story that no one else would ever share. The use of imagination in Kingston’s creative nonfiction is the foundation of the story.... [tags: Family, Woman, Maxine Hong Kingston, Culture]
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