The Woman Warrior Essay

Asian American women’s writing came of age in the 1970s and 1980s. Most of these women writers were middle- or upper-class, well-educated women. This fact is reflected in the development of Asian American memoir/fiction-as-theory and can be seen in the works of Maxine Hong Kingston. Maxine Hong Kingston utilizes the Chinese tradition of “talking-story” as a structuring device within her prose narratives. “Talking-story,” as its name suggests, is the female Chinese practice of telling stories, often from one generation to the next.

One of such “talking-stories” is Maxine Hong Kingston’s autobiography, The Woman Warrior, which embodies the search for identity in the narrative act. The Woman Warrior expresses the Chinese American experience through family history combined with memory, legend, and imaginative projection. Maxine Hong Kingston is writing about the writer’s Chinese American experience and the Chinese American experience, where Maxine has stressed the need for many voices to speak out and express the diversity and variety of Chinese American life.

The Woman Warrior needs to be considered fundamentally as feminist text.

As Kingston says quite simply, ‘Growing up as I did as a kid, I don’t see how I could not have been a feminist. In Chinese culture, people always talk about how girls are bad. Right away, it makes you radical like anything’ (Kubota 1998, p. 3). Clearly, The Woman Warrior partly concerns the narrator’s apprehension of, and rebellion against the misogynistic scenario. At the same time, however, she is quick to recognize its repressive complement in the sexual standards of America, where feminine submissiveness is prized in different ways.

Get quality help now
Sweet V

Proficient in: Culture

4.9 (984)

“ Ok, let me say I’m extremely satisfy with the result while it was a last minute thing. I really enjoy the effort put in. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Woman Warrior Essay

Kingston’s highly crafted reworking of mythological and biographical sources in the text as a whole is underpinned by a desire to move through and beyond these limiting constructions. In her reappropriation of the Fa Mu Lan mythology, particularly, she can be seen as attempting to construct a new narrative of femininity that is neither ‘traditionally’ Chinese nor ‘traditionally’ American, combining the assertion of female strength and resourcefulness with the celebration of passion and maternity.

By equating the battles of her reappropriated Fa Mu Lan with the author’s own struggles of writing, moreover, she explicitly seeks to identify her own use of story-telling as the weaponry of a contemporary woman warrior: The swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar. May my people understand the resemblance soon so that I can return to them. What we have in common are the words at our backs. The idioms for revenge are ‘report a crime’ and ‘report to five families’. The reporting is the vengeance – not the beheading, not the gutting, but the words. And I have so many words – ’chink’ words and ‘gook’ words too – that they do not fit on my skin.

(p. 53) In Maxine Hong Kingston’s family memoirs, The Woman Warrior is introduced as a complex legacy of family secrets, a repressed history that haunts the American-born narrator. Although The Woman Warrior seems to suggest that the narrator’s primary quarrels are with her parents and community, whose methods of socializing her seem too Chinese and out of step with the family’s life in America, the grimness of that life is gradually revealed to be rooted in the Asian American past in America, the invisibility of that past to mainstream Americans, and its consequent resistance to narration.

When Maxine Hong Kingston broke the silence that had been punishing her aunt in 1975, she shocked American readers into recognizing Chinese Americans as complex subjects, subtly changing the cultural landscape for those to follow, but many of her readers did not immediately understand that hers was an American story.

The narrator in The Woman Warrior struggles to comprehend the legacy of craziness and conventionality, of curses and blessings, bequeathed her by her mother, who is at once a vessel of traditional culture and a courageous fighter in a harsh environment. The daughter, fearful that she has “no stories of equal pain,” avoids becoming merely the transmitter of her mother’s stories: although The Woman Warrior begins with the mother’s stories, it ends with the daughter’s.

Cite this page

The Woman Warrior Essay. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from

The Woman Warrior Essay
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7