The Woman Warrior, Memoir s of girlhood among ghosts has many elements including the element of the type of rite-of-passage story. When Knopf’s Vintage Books published Maxine Hong Kingston autobiographic Chinese folk tale in 1975 it was an immediate success. It went on from being a best seller to find its place in the top ten nonfiction books of that decade. The idea of America as a land of immigrants was mainly focused during the time of increased American International awareness. American women became aware of their rights and as such, they challenged the social order that incorporated all the women issues. In following the course of a woman finding her way from her Chinese heritage to the assimilation of American concepts, became a favorite literary and teaching tool that Bill Moyers describes as “blending memory, mediation, and magic” (Moyers 01). Although, many see it as seeming to “embody the views of a certain population of Chinese-American women” (Huang 5), several others oppose the idea. Judy Huang bases her point on the words of Frank chins that, Kingston work was inaccurate, unauthentic, and insensible. In order to incorporate and realize the American dream, a second-generation immigrant like Kingston and the rest, must wedge war against the social problems that face immigrants and prevail in the battle with her elders.
Huang (12) Argue that, when some writers try devalue the work of Kingston as unauthentic, there is unprofessional jealous involved. Others might also question if a Chinese male is truly able to understand the complex emotional matrix of women evolving a personal identity as they free themselves from the ‘icky-gooey evil of . . . Chinese culture.’(Huang 2).No Name Woman is a story that takes place in three parts. The first part is the story of the No Name Woman herself. In the story, Maxine describes a young woman who is married off just before her husband and his brothers leave China for America. She gets pregnant with other men as when her husband is far gone. On the day of delivery she is humiliated by the villagers who through her outside and trashes her home and force her to give birth out in the pigsty. Knowing that, she and the baby would face nothing but misery for the rest of their lives, Maxine takes the baby and jumps into the well. They both drown and the family pretended as if nothing happened and that Maxine and her baby never existed (Kingston 215).
Maxine exists in the second part of the story as a teaching object, and the ghost that story tellers use to frighten young women into a life of obedience and subservience. As hard as their lives may be, still there is a need to accept as it is and avoids the even more dire fate that awaits the disobedient woman. The third part is how Kingston, forbidden to speak of her tells and retells the story in her journals creating different histories until she is unsure if she is doing it to put an uneasy ancestor to rest, or to satisfy her own needs and explore venues for her own rebellious spirit (Kingston204).
Is the story of Fa Mu Lan a mythical female warrior, Kingston tells a story in a first-person narrative mode. Again we have the multi-faceted elements of the story, Kingston’s involvement in telling it and the ultimate meaning she finds in it. Fa Mu Lan, began to train as a warrior since when she was seven year old. In her narrative, she takes on the persona and goes on a surreal journey following a bird that flies up “around and around the tallest mountain, climbing ever upward” (Kingston) to an old couple who lives in the sky. In return for promising to stay for fifteen years, they train her to be a warrior. The element of the White Tiger comes in after being there for seven years. At the age fourteen, the couple takes her “blindfolded to the mountains of the white tigers.”(Kingston 201).
Kingston arguments on the training of the dragon ways for eight years form another part of the narrative. The part talks of the Far Mu Lan who watches a future from a gourd full of water. From the water, she can see a marriage her future partner who happens to be a childhood friend.” She uses her mind to control the sword that she uses for the battles. At home, her father asks her if she was drafted,” her response is “No, Father, I will take your place.”. Disguised as a man, she becomes a warrior and assembles an army. She defeats a snake giant, adds his army to her own forces. Her husband joins her but marriage and motherhood does not stop her until her warrior mission is accomplished. Instead of settling into a maternal role after she gives birth, she sends her husband away with the baby. Alone she goes to battle the evil baron slashes him across the face with her sword and cuts off his head. With that accomplished, she goes back to her duties as a wife and mother. Kingston's own life in America is far different from the story of Fa Mu Lan. Kingston barely even stands up to her blatantly racist bosses. It makes it hard to imagine her calling a lightning sword from the sky then use it to lead a grand army against the forces of evil in order to protect her family members. Upon reflection, Kingston realizes that she uses her writing as a sword and her words are her weapons.
A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe has the most personal elements of the stories including those that make it a type of rite-of-passage story. It includes Kingston’s childhood and teenage life, and concludes with the Chinese talk story of ‘Ts’ai Yen’. This entire section not only focuses on speech, but even more on communication. In the beginning of the story, Ts’ai Yen tells how her mother cut the membrane under her tongue as a small child to keep her from being tongue-tied. Kingston feels that she should have done a small or no cut at all because since then , she developed a problem with a speech”(Kingston 207 ). Her own reticence in speaking does not keep her despising the “silent girl” at school who she tries to torment into speech. This incident immediately precedes a mysterious eighteen-month illness with no pain or symptoms that Kingston goes through. It ends when she tells her that, “You’re ready to get up today. It’s time to get up and go to school.”(Kingston 204). This is not generally, how we think of the healing power of words, but in this case, it works. In this section, there are also a series of character sketches of local eccentrics. Also how in the process of avoiding an arranged marriage how Kingston herself was afraid at one point of joining their ranks. A large part of this story involves Kinston’s own problems, anger and frustration in trying to find ways to express herself and her seemingly futile attempts to please her unappreciative mother. Finally she explodes and it all pours out. She goes through everything she’s been holding back even to no longer listening to any more stories. She concludes her rant with “You tried to cut off my tongue, but it didn’t work.” To which her mother responds, “I cut it to make you talk more, not less, you dummy,” (Kingston 205 ).
The final part of this story is the tale of Ts’ai Yen, a Warrior Poetess who was born in A.D. 175. This story gives effective closure to a book that includes elements from so many different worlds times and cultures. The Southern Hsiung-nu barbarians capture Ts’ai Yen and in their world, she learns their songs, when she returns to Chinese civilization she brings the songs from those savage lands back with her. These songs are passed down as “Eighteen Stanzas for a Barbarian Reed Pipe.” The Chinese use their own instruments to sing them and Kingston has reached the point in her life where she has an American written “voice” that is an effective instrument to tell the story.
Ultimately, the narrative Woman Warrior is an individual revelation that depicts the life of US immigrants and especially the Chinese-American who live in California and Stockton. The author uses several imageries to depict reality in the lives of people. For instance, Fa Mu Lan is trained Woman Warrior under the Chinese culture she has dragon powers which she uses only when she is provoked to anger. It is a kind of an artistic revelation to the immigrants who come across it. The author’s imagination and the use of mythological past is very pronounced to the reader’s mind. The narrative talks of the Far Mu Lan who watches a future from a gourd full of water. From the water, she can see her future partner who happens to be a childhood friend.” She uses her mind to control the sword that she uses for the battles. This means that, several immigrants have some preserved values from their previous culture that they fear to emulate due to racism and prejudice. They use such values and techniques only when they provoked to anger.
Huang, Judy. "Asian-American Literary “Authenticity”: Frank Chin’s 1991Criticism of Maxine Hong Kingston In 1975." 2001. Dartmouth College.< http://www.dartmouth.edu/~hist32/History/S08%20-%20Maxine%20Hong%20Kingston%20-%20Frank%20Chin%20Debate.htm/>
Kingston , Maxine Hong . The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. New York, NY, USA: Knopf Vintage Books, 1975. Print.
Moyers, Bill. "Transcript." 25 05 2007. Bill Moyers Journal.<http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/05252007/transcript1.html>.