What are the qualities that make someone a "woman warrior?"
Answer: Examine the "woman warriors" in the book and explain how they are alike and different from one another. Direct evidence from the text can support the analysis of each quality.
Why does the narrator invoke Fa Mu Lan and Ts'ai Yen?
Answer: They are both legendary women. Events and themes from each legend apply to the novel as a whole. The characters in the novel also sometimes resemble one or both of these legendary women.
The Woman Warrior centers around the lives of women, but what about the men?
Answer: Consider the purpose each man serves. Why are their actions significant? What do they tell us about the novel's central characters?
Why does the author never give her name in the narrator’s tales?
Answer: The author is making a statement about the truth of her narrative by omitting her name—it is not quite a true story. Consider the title of Chapter 1, "No Name Woman," as well as the Chinese tradition of withholding one's true name from others.
What is a woman warrior?
Answer: According to the narrator, Chinese tradition states that women are deserters, slaves, and wastes of space. The narrator counters this derogatory view of women with the idea of the woman warrior, one who shatters those cultural traditions. Is there a possibility for a powerful woman in Chinese culture, or must the woman warrior act like a man to be counted a warrior? Consider the examples in the text and determine what the answer to this question suggests about female identity within Chinese culture.
Examine the theme of silence in the novel.
Answer: Is silence benevolent or malevolent? Does keeping an issue silent take away its power or give it more power? Specific examples can support various views about silence in the novel.
What is a "ghost"?
Answer: The term has different meanings in the narrative. It can refer to an individual who haunts others, living or dead, or a whole group of people who are mysterious. Consider how various types of ghosts affect the characters. When forming your argument, make sure to include an examination of the novel's subtitle, "Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts."
How is "At the Western Palace" distinct from the rest of the novel?
Answer: Think specifically about the contrast between Moon Orchid and Brave Orchid and what it represents. What major themes does the contrast help explain?
What role does food play in the novel?
Answer: Search the novel for references to food and eating. The way a person eats and what she eats says a great deal about her—personally, psychologically, culturally. Make sure to consider Brave Orchid, Fa Mu Lan, and the narrator.
What do you make of the opening story about the drowned aunt?
Answer: That story sets the tone and themes for the rest of the book. The story involves issues of culture, gender relations, family conflict, and generational reproduction. It may help to examine the chapter as though it is a thesis statement for the entire novel.
Why is the theme of birth so important in the novel?
Answer: There are many births described or mentioned in the narrative. It involves the relationship between mother and child and the relationship between generations, and it therefore implicates the reproduction of culture from one generation to the next. In your analysis, consider the births of the following people: "No-Name Woman" aunt's baby, Fa Mu Lan's son, the narrator's, and the babies Brave Orchid delivered. Also consider how traditions differ in assessing boys' and girls' births in China and in the United States.
Explore the issue of insanity in the novel.
Answer: Consider why the author includes so many mentally unstable characters. What do their stories tell us about the Chinese immigrant community? Do different people and different cultures have different standards of sanity and insanity? Make sure to consider: Moon Orchid, Crazy Mary, and the woman who was stoned to death in China.