In Maxine Hong Kingston‘s memoir, The Woman Warrior, the author Kingston has a troubled relationship with her mother Brave Orchid. The memoir takes place during the Vietnam War when Chinese Americans are being discriminated against in America. Kingston, a California born Chinese American, is trying to fit in with the rest of the boys and girls her age. However, Kingston’s mother, A Chinese immigrant, believes it‘s important to incorporate traditional Chinese traditions to the American lifestyle Kingston and Brave Orchid don’t share a close relationship because of their opposing views on the American lifestyle.
The two never reconcile but Kingston finds her own way to express her emotions through writing The memoir begins with Brave Orchid telling Kingston a talk story, which is a story with a life lesson Throughout the story Brave Orchid warns Kingston about humiliating the family like her aunt did.
Nobody speaks about the late aunt, including the aunt’s own brother Kingston’s father: The aunt brought great shame on her family when she became pregnant.
After giving birth she drowned herself and the newborn child in the towns well, depriving the Villagers of water. She brought such shame onto the family that they act as if she never existed. Brave Orchid tells Kingston, “Don’t let your father know what I have told you. He denies hers Now that you have started to menstruate, what happened to her could happen to you, don’t humiliate us. You wouldn’t like to be forgotten as if you had never been born”.
Braver Orchid tells Kingston the story to keep her out of trouble, Brave Orchid wants her family to call as little attention to themselves as possible It‘s dangerous to be Chinese at this time because any mistake could have them deported. Brave Orchid doesn’t directly tell Kingston what she wants from her Kingston is a smart girl.
She is praised in America for her intelligence “I got straight A’s, Mama. However, her mother’s talk stories are riddles to Kingston. She doesn’t know what her mother is truly asking of her. When Kingston arrives with her straights A’s her mother replies “Let me tell you a true story about a girl who saved her village”. Brave Orchid does not praise her daughter but instead belittles her and says her grades are no more than just academic achievements. After being told the story of Fa Mu Lan, a great female Chinese warrior, Kingston thought her mother wanted her to be like the warrior in the story. The character Fa Mu Lan says, “The villagers would make a legend about my perfect filiality”. What Brave Orchid really wanted was for her daughter to be a conventional Chinese woman, Brave Orchid wanted Kingston to show devotion to her parents and good manners like Fa Mu Lan did. Brave Orchid resents that she has gone down in social status, and blames her children for this Kingston tells us that in China her mother was educated in midwifery, “My mother wore a silk robe and western shoes with big heels, and she rode home carried in a sedan chair”.
Brave orchid was special in China, and heroic When she returned home the villagers praised herr She made enough money that she was able to afford her own room, a luxury in China at the time. Instead of going up in status Brave Orchid has been lowered. Brave Orchid tells Kingston> “You have no idea how much I have fallen coming to America”, Brave Orchid resents her children because they speak English and they can thrive in America. Whereas Brave Orchid was doing better in China, now she is working in a laundry mat, Kingston fears what her mother would do to her if she were living in china. Kingston’s family is mocked because of how many women they have in the family Traditionally Chinese women were deemed worthless because they were not as strong as men were. Brave Orchids job as a midwife involved getting rid of the unwanted babies in China Brave Orchid would smother unwanted babies in ashes to suffocate them.
Kingston fears that if they had lived in China her mother would have done the same to her, Or her mother would leave her in the outhouse to die if she were deformed. Like the baby with no anus, because deformities were also not acceptable in China, Kingston’s family only celebrated the birth of one child that is Kingston’s only brother, Kingston brother is praised and the girls including Kingston are seen as no better than geese. Kingston resents her mother for this reason Kinston does not want a traditional arranged marriage. Brave orchid is trying to find a husband for Kingston. Kingston suspects it’s because she’s trying to get rid of her. Kingston does her best to scare away her potential husbands, angering her mother, Kingston also threatens to take her little sister with herr The two will and run away if her mother tries to marry her off. This fear becomes too much for Kingston when she suspects her mother is plotting to marry her off to the “retarded” but wealthy boy she refers to as “ape“r “So, get that ape out of here”.
Kingston begins to rant on’ “Do you hear me? I may be ugly and clumsy, but one thing I‘m not, I‘m not retarded” (201). Kingston‘s self-esteem has been lowered by her mother that she believes she is ugly, but she will not be married to a “retarded“ person because they are not compatible, Kingston knows she is smart, and wont marry him. Kingston wants to live the America dream. Brave Orchids way of living in America is keeping a low profile. Kingston is following the American dream she wants to be a writer this is how she will speak up for herself. Kingston compares herself to Fa Mu Lan, “What we have in common are the words at our backs”. With this Kingston is saying that they both have something they are fighting fort Kingston may not be physically fighting like fa mu Lan did in her story but Kingston’s words are powerful. Kingston will use her words as weapons.
Her mother belittles her, and doesn‘t praise any of her accomplishments. Kingston wishes she could speak up for herself. She takes her frustration out on the 6‘“ grade girl who reminds her of herself. The girl never speaks and Kingston bullies her, “You don’t see I’m trying to help you out, do you? Do you want to be like this, dumb” (180)? She’s trying to break the girl out of her silence something she wishes she herself could do with her mother. Kingston will be a writer to finally let go of her frustration against her mother. The last talk story Kingston tells us is of Tsai Yan, a Chinese women of the Han tribe. Tsai Yan is stolen away from her people and raped, she gives birth to children who don’t speak her type of Chinese. Kingston uses the Tsai Van story to connect the generation of mothers who emigrated from China. The mothers want to share their culture with their children but their don‘t understand them. Their children want to be American and don’t put interest into their culture.
The mothers get frustrated much like Brave Orchid has with Kingston. Kingston understands all the sacrifices her mother has made to bring her children to the United States. However, she cannot emotionally connect with her mother on the tradition. Kingston and her mother have different views on life in America. Brave Orchid acts appropriately based on her upbringing in traditional China culture. However, based on the western culture Kingston has been accustomed to her mother is not the typical loving or supportive mother. Brave Orchid is to worried about keeping her tradition, that she neglects to try and connect with her Chinese American children. Kingston doesn’t have any tradition to lose because she’s living in America and all she is doing is trying to find herself. “They had indeed entered the land of ghost, and they had become ghosts”.
Kingston finally lets out all her held in grievances on a rant, but her mother still doesn’t understand her. Brave Orchid continues to belittle her daughter and mocks her when she‘s trying to assert herself. “Who’d want to marry you anyway? Noisy, Talking like a duck. Disobedient. Messy”. She also goes on to mock Kingston’s intelligence by stating that she too is smart, “Andi know about college, What makes you think you’re the first one to think about college? I was a doctor“. Brave Orchids pride won’t let her realize that she must become flexible She must embrace her children’s American culture if she wants to acquire a good relationship with them. Kingston decides that instead of arguing with her mother she will write about its Kingston decides that she will use her words to get her revenge. Kingston is finally living the American dream despite her mother’s criticism, This is Kingston’s fight with the power of her words.