The narrator's mother. She is an unwavering woman who immigrated to the United States from a small Chinese village during World War II. She had two children in China, but they died before she left. In China, she was a renowned doctor. In America, she and her husband run a laundry. Brave Orchid is wedded to Chinese tradition. She cares about her children, but she considers them ungrateful and disrespectful because they do not understand her ways.
A neighborhood woman, the daughter of Christian converts. When she was a toddler, her parents emigrated. They sent for her when she was "almost twenty and crazy." The narrator and her siblings avoided Crazy Mary at all costs. It is Crazy Mary's prescription that the pharmacy mistakenly delivers to Brave Orchid.
Fa Mu Lan
A legendary woman warrior. At the age of seven, she is summoned into the mountains, where two kindly immortals teach her how to fight. When her family is conscripted, she returns to her village in a male disguise to fight in her father's place and save her brother. Fa Mu Lan becomes a great army leader and helps unseat the corrupt emperor and reclaim her village from the hands of an evil baron.
Brave Orchid's sister, who immigrates when she is already a senior citizen and has not seen her sister for thirty years. She has one daughter, who is already in America and married to a Chinese-American man. Moon Orchid does not wish to see her husband, but Brave Orchid forces her to confront him. After he breaks her heart and shames her, Moon Orchid slips into a state of paranoia from which she never recovers.
Moon Orchid's Husband
He immigrated to the United States many years before, and he has no contact with Moon Orchid or their daughter other than sending them money. In Los Angeles, he is a brain surgeon and is remarried. When Moon Orchid confronts him, he tells her she should not have come and that he never wants to see her again.
Moon Orchid's Daughter
She is Moon Orchid's only daughter. Brave Orchid helped her gain citizenship by matching her with a "tyrant" of a Chinese-American husband. Like her mother, she does not feel angry towards her father and is hesitant to confront him in the way Brave Orchid wishes.
She is a first-generation Chinese-American who grew up in the Chinese immigrant community of San Francisco. The narrator feels distanced from Chinese culture but at the same time wants to understand it. She generally has a hard time speaking up, except in the case of her mother. From an early age, she was determined to be the opposite of what her mother expected. The novel is her exploration of her cultural and familial inheritance.
One of the narrator's siblings. In Los Angeles, Brave Orchid makes him run up to Moon Orchid's husband's office and pretend there is an emergency outside.
A kind man who immigrated many years before his wife out of necessity. He runs the laundry along with her and the children. The narrator does not mention him much because Brave Orchid is the central character in her story. However, she does make a point to mention that he is as traditional and "backward" as the rest of their community.
Old Man and Old Woman
The immortals who take Fa Mu Lan in and teach her everything she knows about fighting and surviving in the worst of conditions.
A mentally-challenged classmate of the narrator's. He likes her, so he takes to setting up crates at the laundry and watching her. It turns out that his crates are full of pornography. The narrator chases him away because she is terrified that her parents will make her marry him.
The narrator's classmate in elementary school. She is meticulous and never speaks, for which the narrator hates her. Even when the narrator spends a long time trying to bully the girl into talking, she refuses.
A famous poetess with whose story the narrator ends the novel. She is a scholar's daughter who is kidnapped by barbarians as a young woman. One day after many years, Ts'ai Yen channels her anger and sadness into song. When she is finally returned to her family, she becomes famous for her songs.
The Woman Warrior Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Woman Warrior is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.