A Mother-Daughter Relationship in The Woman Warrior
“Whenever she had to warn us about life, my mother told stories that ran like this one, a story to grow up on. She tested our strengths to establish realities”(5). In the book “The Woman Warrior,” Maxine Kingston is most interested in finding out about Chinese culture and history and relating them to her emerging American sense of self. One of the main ways she does so is listening to her mother’s talk-stories about the family’s Chinese past and applying them to her life.
Kingston’s mother takes many different approaches to reach out to her daughter and explain how important it is to remain abstinent. First, she tells the story of the “No Name Woman”, who is Maxine’s forgotten aunt, “’ Now that you have started to menstruate, what happened to her can happen to you. Don’t humiliate us. You wouldn’t like to be forgotten as if you had never been born”’ (5), said Maxine’s mother. Kingston’s aunt was murdered for being involved in this situation. The shame of what Kingston’s aunt brought to the family led them to forget about her. This particular talk-story is a cautionary tale to deter Kingston from having premarital sex and to instill in her fear of death and humiliation if she violates the lesson her mother explained to her. Kingston is able to get pregnant but with the lecture her mother advises her with keeps her obedient. Brave Orchid tells her this story to open her eyes to the ways of Chinese culture. The entire family is affected by one’s actions. She says, “‘Don’t humiliate us’” (5) because the whole village knew about the pregnant aunt and ravaged the family’s land and home because of it. Maxine tries asking her mother in-depth questions about this situation, but her mother doesn’t respond to her, leaving it up to Maxine to make her own inferences on the matter. Kingston is trying to uncover Chinese culture bit by bit. Her mother’s “talk-stories” are helpful in doing so.
Kingston is still an immature girl and puts herself first but her mother states that you should always put family first. “I got straight A’s mama”(45). Maxine says, trying to impress her mother. Kingston’s mother leaves her with another comment that keeps her wondering: “Let me tell you a true story about a girl who saved her village” (45). Kingston ponders to herself, wondering what “her village” signified. “It was important that I do something big and fine now, or else my parents would sell me when we made our way back to China”(46). Kingston clearly doesn’t fully
grasp her mother’s message of the talk-story of Fa Mu Lan, which is that sacrificing oneself for the good of the family is the ultimate gift, not an individual triumph. Maxine tries to emulate what a strong woman would do when she refuses to type the invitations out that her racist boss asks her to do. But he simply fires her. Although Kingston gets fired, she followed her mother’s protocol in standing up for her.
Brave Orchid had worked her way...