The Woman Warrior

The Problem With Legacies: Analysis of Chapter One, The Warrior Woman College

Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoirs do not share the focus of typical memoirs- biographical details of friends, siblings, favorite pastimes. Rather, Kingston examines the social influences that have shaped her life, view of herself, and the world. The author looks predominately at the “talk-story” of her mother, which are stories about Brave Orchid and life in China. Part of this Chinese legacy is the social and familial oppression of females that flows solidly throughout the stories in this novel. Perhaps the most striking instance of this oppression may be found in the startling scene that comprises the first chapter of The Woman Warrior, No Name Woman.

Brave Orchid tells her daughter a precautionary tale about her “no-name” sister-in-law who committed suicide in China after conceiving an illegitimate child while her husband was in America. The story itself, by recounting the deeds of a woman her family refuses to remember, becomes taboo: “You must not tell anyone what I am about to tell you,” warns the narrator’s mother (1). By preserving only the sin of the story and thereby the condemnation of the “no-name-aunt,” the mother efficiently neutralizes any of the specific characteristics which define a person, successfully doling...

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