The Woman Warrior. A story of a lost fight.

English 455

Anger and confusion were following me as I was trying to fight my way through Maxine Hong Kingston’s masterpiece. I was helplessly looking for some answers. Who is the Woman Warrior? Where is the fine line between fiction and non-fiction, if there is one? What is the connection between all of the stories that seemed non-related to each other? And as soon as I thought that I figured it out, the author failed me again. I was surprised (and not in a good way) to find out from an article written by Maxine Hong Kingston that she was not happy about the majority of the reviews and critical analyses of The Woman Warrior for one single reason: the readers did not comprehend that it “is an American book. Yet many reviewers do not see the American-ness of it, nor the fact of my own American-ness.” (p.26, Reader)

I dare to support the critics. I do not see any possibility of this book being viewed by a general American audience as an American book. My point of view finds support on every page of the book. The five chapters are filled with images of Chinese villages, people, fairy tales, ghosts, and traditions, although sometimes it is hard to distinguish which ones are “real” stories coming from authentic Chinese culture. In order to find evidence to prove my theory I searched through the text, and the first thing I have noticed was the extensive usage of the word “Chinese”. I think it is interesting to notice that if we take, for example, the first page of “Shaman” chapter, then we will see that words “Chinese” and “China” were used seven times. It might not seem like a big number, but I

would imagine that this type of constant reminder plays an important role in attracting reader’s attention to another culture.

I can not blame the critics for recognizing this piece of literature as oriental. Moreover, I do not see anything bad in this description, as I do not see anything negative in being called “exotic” and “mysterious”.

Unfortunately, there is an infinitely small chance that I will ever argue my case with Maxine Hong Kingston herself. However, I have discovered a few questions she seems to have for her critics and readers that I would like to answer. Her words seem to be so loud that I feel like I am being attacked by them. “Don’t you here the American slang? Don’t you see the American settings? Don’t you see the way the Chinese myths have been transmitted by America?” (p.26, Reader)

No, I say. What I really hear are the names of Moon Orchid and Brave Orchid. Is it really what is written in their passports? Even if there is a presence of the American slang, it does not sound as clear and loud as superstitions, ghost stories, and endless themes that emphasize the difference between the two cultures. "We had been born among ghosts, were taught by ghosts, and were ourselves ghost-like. The Americans call us a kind of ghosts" (p.183, The Woman Warrior)

I also have a very difficult time recognizing the American setting. My vision is clouded by the various descriptions of houses, offices and schools occupied by Chinese people, even though they are located on the American land. I see anything that is American is being disapproved and alienated, and anything that is Chinese is being reinforced by the narrator.

Maxine Hong Kingston writes: “Lie to Americans…Give a new name every time you get arrested; the ghosts won’t recognize you” (p.184, The Woman Warrior). I find the entire paragraph amazingly misleading. It might have been written simply to demonstrate fear of deportation, and fear to trust the authorities, but at the same time it feels like the author intentionally uses these lines to build another barrier between Chinese and American cultures. It was also surprising to see that she also categorizes people not only on the basis of their culture and nationality (Japanese, for example), but also on the basis of their race when she talks about “Negro students (Black Ghosts)” (p.166, The Woman Warrior).

I believe that I should not be blamed