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The Woman Warrior: Memoir of a Girl Among Ghosts Maxine Hong Kingston Nikki Boulany Introduction This novel is one that has been chosen for student-reading all across the United States. It gives an outlook to students that gives knowledge of life in other cultures. In this particular novel, you will gain knowledge of the Chinese culture and tradition. So it is important to keep an open mind. Theme There are many things she wants you to see in this novel. She wants you to grasp the concept of how Chinese women are looked as unimportant in society. Kingston also wants you to see the idea of how the Chinese people tend to try to be secretive of their life as much as possible and the most important idea is her journey of trying to grow up as a Chinese-American girl. The Characters Maxine Hong Kingston: She is the narrator of the story. In this novel, she struggles with her identity as a Chinese American child growing up in the United States who was raised on traditions and legends of her Chinese background. Brave Orchid: This is the mother of Maxine. She is the brave and strong woman who can do anything that comes her way. She also is the one who always tells the stories of Chinese life. The Characters Kingston’s Father: He is rarely talked about in the novel, but he is the one that brought the family over to America in the first place. Moon Orchid: She is Brave Orchid’s younger sister who comes and lives with the family in an effort to find her husband that emigrated to the United States thirty years earlier. She is a very fragile and incapable person which annoys the family very much. Memoirs In the first chapter, No-Name Woman, it is the story of Kingston’s father’s dead sister. She was pregnant with a baby who was obviously not her husband’s. The villagers consequently ransacked the house and tore up all their belongings. That night the aunt had slept in the pigpen and had born her baby there. Memoirs The next morning, the aunt and the newborn baby was found clogging up the family well. It is a shame to have such a woman in the family, so that is the reason the family has denied her existence. Kingston’s father had never spoke of her and hence she was in Kingston’s mind titled No-Name Woman. Kingston yet thought of her great-aunt as a bad person, but gave her the benefit of the doubt and made up excuses for her tragic life. Memoirs In the chapter White Tigers, it is based around the story of Fa Mu Lan. Kingston makes believe that she is a strong, powerful woman warrior like her. She climbs up to a tall mountain and is trained by this couple, who she later discovers is very old. After she finished her training, she went back home to her parents. They were very pleased to see her and they knew she was chosen to fight against the baron’s army. Memoirs She was disguised as a man and led a great army. All who fought against her were defeated. She became to be known as a great warrior. This contrasts to her reality because women are actually thought of as weak and useless. She wanted to break out of the mold of the belief that all women were weak. She wanted to become her own soldier. Memoirs In the chapter Shaman, it concentrates around Kingston’s mother, Brave Orchid. After her first two children died of unknown reasons she goes to school to become a doctor. She tells of how the school is haunted with many ghosts and her fight against the “sitting ghost”. This leads to her references of how all American people are “ghosts”, such as the “paperboy ghost” and the “milkman ghost”. Memoirs In chapter four, At the Western Place, Moon Orchid comes into the story. She came over to America because her sister convinced her to find her husband that came earlier. Moon Orchid is incapable of doing anything helpful for the family. Most of the family see her as a burden. Later she moves to Los Angeles to be with her daughter, but goes insane and has thoughts of “Mexican ghosts” plotting to kill her. Memoirs In the last chapter, A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe, Kingston tells how she has bad speech so she keeps quiet in school. Yet, she is jealous of the silent girl in her class. This girl never talks unless she reads aloud. She especially doesn’t like her because they are both the most unpopular in the class. Kingston torments the girl when they are alone and makes her cry. She is punished by falling ill to a mysterious sickness and was bedridden for a year and a half. Memoirs After her recovery, her mother sets up dates for so she can find her husband. She doesn’t want any of them so she acts crippled. Then she thinks that the village will make her marry a retarded boy. She becomes furious and blames her mother for always lying to her about her “talk-stories” and her mother calls her a “Good Foundation Ghost” meaning a person who was raised in America with all the advantages. She combined stories of her grandmother and an old poetess and brought back an old Chinese hymn, “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe”. Review In the beginning of this book, it was confusing to understand what was fantasy or reality of the book. Yet, it was fun to read and learn about the Chinese culture. I think anyone who is open to other traditions should read this book. You learn to have respect for other people and their beliefs.
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