In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose

The Woman Warrior in "Shaman" and "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens"

In Maxine Hong Kingston’s semi-autobiographical memoir Woman Warrior and Alice Walker’s short essay “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” the mother figure, the “Woman Warrior” in each tale, plays an important role in shaping the author’s understanding of personal or racial identity. Nonetheless, although Kingston’s and Walker’s mothers do not behave similarly—in the tale “Shaman” in Woman Warrior, Kingston’s mother, Brave Orchid, displays a visibly proud personality that contrasts with the more quiet character of Walker’s unnamed mother—the matriarchs in both “Shaman” and “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” are truly the epitome of the “Woman Warrior” because they find positive means by which to express themselves.

In their respective environments, both Brave Orchid and Walker’s mother wisely use their skill, not their voice, to demonstrate independence. At medical school in China, Brave Orchid, who “quickly built a reputation for being brilliant, a natural scholar who could glance at a book and know it” (Kingston 62), took pride in the fact that fellow students never saw her cramming as she “studied far in advance” (Kingston 64). Brave Orchid realizes the power and respect she is able to gain from her peers and teachers if she...

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