The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston, is a book a young woman trying to develop her own identity. Throughout this book, Kingston spends countless days trying to find herself in the cruel world. In a culture where men superiority rules, Kingston attempts to recognize herself as her own person, and not as a slave. Kingston attempts to create a world where both men and women are treated as equal. Through all of her days and conquests, and in all of her efforts to produce equality, Kingston eventually discovers her own identity. Kingston is on a journey to discover her personal identity.
That is to have her own personal uniqueness, not remain a slave. She attempts to discover herself as a Chinese person in an American civilization. However, she grapples to differentiate Chinese from American. Striving to construct her own voice in America, she says, “We American-Chinese girls had to whisper to make ourselves American feminine. Apparently we whispered even more softly than the Americans” (Kingston 172). Wanting to be included in the American society, Kingston writes, “We invented an American-feminine speaking personality… (Kingston 172).
Kingston struggles with an uncertainty about herself, about her appearance and attractiveness, which renders it difficult to find herself a date. As herself, it is hard for her to find a date, but with her developed personality can. On the quest to discover her own likeness, she wrestles with her own intellect between who the person she wants to be is and the person she truly is. Among multiple things, Kingston talks of her desires to have an American accent. In The Woman
Warrior, Kingston becomes a female vindicator, or avenger, seeking vengeance on the society that repudiated contentment for her family as well as herself. She views herself as an effective, brawny, pitiless mercenary. Through this, she views herself as a man in camouflage. The side of Kingston that is not a vicious warrior, she is unhappy with. She is not able to become the person she aspires to be and scuffles to meet the expectations she has set for her. Whilst attempting to discover herself, Kingston bungles to discover her voice and her place in America.
While Kingston is seeking for her place and her voice in America, she nearly becomes taciturn. Kingston writes that as a child, she used to conceal her photographs in black. This is what she beings to do to her own self. She covers the individual she is in a contrasting color. Kingston does not like her Chinese accent. In attempting to cover her Chinese accent, she nearly becomes mute. In a homogenous manner, concealing her Chinese voice would result in losing a substantial amount of herself and who she is. To find herself, she must once again discover China and the Chinese ways.
Kingston writes, “Those of us in the first American generations have had to figure out how the invisible world the emigrants built around our childhoods fits in sold America” (Kingston 5). In wanting to discover herself, Kingston discovers the “invisible world” of the Chinese culture. She wants to “come to terms” with her correspondence to her culture. However, when she does this, she becomes terrified. Kingston realizes that in the Chinese culture, she has no more value than that of “geese” or “maggots”. She realizes that she is worth no more than just a “slave”, and all this only because she is a woman.
This being said, Kingston cannot accept this. Kingston writes, “When one of my parents or the emigrant villagers said,” ‘Feeding girls is slike] feeding cowbirds,” “I would thrash on the floor and scream so hard I could[not] talk. I could[not] stop” (Kingston 46). The villagers and her own family would continuously repeat the same locution over and over again, but there was nothing she could do to stop that. Filled with rage, she realizes that she is bound to China. The savagery and brutality of China has Kingston shocked.
In the chapter “Shaman”, Kingston writes of a baby who was born with no anus in a pigsty, and was left alone to die. She also talks about the female infanticide. Kingston begins to ponder whether her own mother Brave Orchid, who was a midwife, murdered infant girls by clasping their faces in ashes, as tradition in China. Kingston writes of a custom in China where the villagers will take a monkey and eat it alive. While the monkey is crying in agony, the villagers just laugh. Kingston turns to China for answers, but when she receives the answers, she denies the answers she obtains.
She can not “come to terms” with China and the Chinese ways. Kingston can not conceivably view herself as a fragment of the same brutal, inhumane world which Brave Orchid lived in. However, in the same brutal world, Kingston finds her voice as a renegade. She rebels against the culture of China and their customs. Even though Kingston cannot establish it completely, the words “geese” and “maggot” destroy her impression of herself and her pride. The one thing Kingston is not disposed to “give up” for China or America. Her self gratification would deny her to accept herself as anything less than equal to a man in either China or America.
However, this being said, it occurs that in the Chinese culture, she is, in fact, inferior to men. Kingston writes, “I marched to change the world, but I did not turn into a boy” (Kingston 47). Even earning straight A’s in all of her classes had no input to her parents’ view. She was still only a female. As well as in China, Kingston is considered a second-class citizen. She writes, “And I have so many other words—’chink’ words and ‘gook’ words too—that they do not fit on my skin” (Kingston 53). Her self pride will not allow herself to be viewed as any less than equal to a man.
She will not let herself be viewed as a “second-class citizen”. In her own eyes, she is a woman who can conquer an entire army of men. In her eyes, she was the one who would show her mother and father that girls had no outward tendency. Kingston rebels to the scheme that men are superior to women in any way, even labeling her own father as “frail”. Kingston writes, “At my great-uncle’s funeral I secretly tested out feeling glad that he was dead—the six-foot bearish masculinity of him” (Kingston 47). Kingston wants to get rid of the proposition that masculinity rules.
If she got rid of the proposition that masculinity rules, she would be no longer a “maggot” but a whole individual person. While wanted to abolish masculinity, Kingston is envious of it at the same time. She envies the male gender because they get everything. They get recognition, love, acceptance, etcetera. This begrudge rolls into a dislike for men and masculinity. Kingston writes about her aunt “No-Name Woman”. She writes, “The other man was not, after all, much different from her husband. They both gave orders: she followed. ‘If you tell your family, I’ll beat you. I’ll kill you. Be here again next week.
No one talked sex, ever. And she might have separated the rapes from the rest of living if only she did not have to buy her oil from him or gather wood in the same forest. I want her fear to have lasted just as long as rape lasted so that the fear could have been contained. No drawn-out fear. But Women at sex hazarded birth and hence lifetime. The fear did not stop but permeated everywhere. She told the man, ‘I think I’m pregnant. ‘ He organized the raid against her” (Kingston 7). Kingston perceives men as “cowards” and “brutes”. Like the man in the story of her “No-Name” aunt, men do not have the audacity of the “female avenger”.
However, the men are still violent. They will take part in acts of rape, but they will not own up to it or receive the consequences they deserve from it. While Kingston is continuously searching for impartiality between men and women, she perceives men as weaker than women are. She believes that men are “frail”, women are warriors. In “A Song for the Barbarian Reed Pipe” Kingston writes, “I hated fragility”. She has developed an intolerance for weakness. Although typing up the invitations and execute her bosses command would have been a portent of frailty.
Although Kingston knows she is not the female who “Storms across China to take back [her] farm from the Communists… to rage across the Unites States to take back the laundry… ” (Kingston 49), she knows she is a very strong woman. She knows she is as strong as a man. Throughout this story, Kingston goes through many struggles and pain. She grapples in her own societies that consistently deny her her true strength of being a female. These writings of Kingston reflect her struggles. Through all of these things, Kingston is trying to discover who Maxine Hong Kingston truly is. The Woman Warrior.