A Brief of the Story
In “No Name Woman,” Maxine Hong Kingston (b. 1940) tells the story of a Chinese – American girl in heartbreaking detail. The story is based on the orally passed story of her anonymous aunt. The aunt, who Kingston decides to call “the no name woman” committed suicide killing her newborn child along. The woman allegedly committed suicide after she was declared an outcast by her family and village, following claims that she had been held in direct defiance of the social order. According to the villagers, she had committed adultery, and the pregnancy had betrayed her “evil” deeds. Consequently, the day she is giving birth, they attack and destroyed her house forcing her to give birth in a pigsty. In a bid to spare her child the agony of having to live without a family, she drowned herself along with the baby in the family well. According to Kingston, her mother tells her this story as a warning against sexually associating with men because she is now of age and is menstruating.
The story, No Name Woman reveals the tribulations in the strict and procedural Chinese culture. The story of the anonymous aunt is a revelation of the modest place that the Chinese woman held in traditional society. Culture is a central theme in the story, and the tale of the suicide is an emphatic factor. The ethos, pathos and logos analysis of the essay brings out a broad picture of the successful use of rhetorical tools and elements in achieving a communication with the reader. This is achieved through thorough application of the three rhetorical appeals with an aim of involving the reader in the storyline. The three make the reader reason with the author, develop emotions as the story progresses and judge the author’s thinking.
Looking at the story from the ethos perspective, Kingston successfully employs ethical thinking and arguments to gain the support of the reader. The ethos aspect of the story is broadly brought out in the vivid thinking and reflection by young Maxine. For instance, she does not understand the morality behind casting out a woman that was probably a victim of rape (Kingston 467). In light of ethos, Kingston can be judged by any reasonable reader as being a logical and ethical individual. This is mainly because, she does not easily buy the arguments that her mother gives her. She tries probing the possible reasons why the no name woman may have decided to end her life. She figures out that perhaps it is because she fell victim of a rapist. Such powerful reasoning is guided by the ethical and moral standards that protect the sanctity of human life. She thinks it is inhuman of the villagers to disown a woman whose trouble they do not fully understand.
The pathos aspect, mainly concerned with emotional perspectives, is arguably the most widely used of the three elements. The story can generally be described as heartbreaking. Kingston tells it in such a way that the reader feels affected and sympathizes with the suffering woman. This emotional aspect is effectively brought out in the vivid section where Kingston creates a mental impression of her aunt brutally separated from the rest of the village. The manner in the story that she narrates is quite emotional. She creates an image of the woman, even in the world of the dead, begging for food from the other spirits that received gifts from the living relatives. Kingston also employs pathos by explaining the extent to which the lone aunt is sickened by the pregnancy (Kingston 466). This touches the emotions of the reader.
Logical thinking, logos, is adequately employed in the story. However, the extent to which Kingston mixes superstition, facts, and fiction complicates the use of logos. For instance Kingston says, “In the village structure, spirits shimmer among the live creatures balanced and held equilibrium by time and land.” (Kingston 465) This is a statement that challenges the logos by raising the question, “how does culture transcend geography and time?” (Kingston 465). Perhaps this is why Kingston expresses her unwillingness to take over the Chinese traditions is a culturally different country – the USA.
The organization of the story is done quite effectively such that it enables the reader to have a vivid picture of what Kingston is trying to put across. The structure puts the reader into context by a unique mix up of events – the past and the present. This unique mixture makes the reader see the distinction between the two periods. Additionally, Kingston mixes up facts and fiction – something that makes it possible for her to achieve remarkable creativity. Fiction is enhanced by the use of superstitions such as the spirits. The structure and organization are complete with the use of metaphors and deep imaginative detail. The metaphors are the most prominently used features. For instance, Kingston uses the metaphor “round cakes and doorways” to mean the circular relations of the Chinese society – Circular in the sense that the people were closely related and connected (Kingston 465).
Clearly, No Name Woman is a story with many themes. However, there are both dominant and minor themes. The main theme is the place of the woman in the traditional Chinese society. Clearly, the position of the females is modest, and they are the subjects of critique and abuse. Along with this theme is tagged the idea of unfair discrimination. Apparently, the practices and believes are unfair, considering that the adulterous woman gets expelled, while the male culprit proudly continues to be a member of society. Another key theme is social conflict. Maxine Kingston is torn between ignoring the old ways and embracing the American ways. Kingston also emphasizes the theme freedom of expression versus societal control. All these themes are dominant, and appear all through the story among the most notable minor themes is the theme of modernity versus ancient thought. Additionally, Kingston focuses the theme of feminism through the story of the no name woman. This story is a wakeup call to the women living in the Chinese society, since the society is oppressive to women. Another minor theme is the theme of betrayal. Kingston feels that she has betrayed her unnamed aunt through writing her story. She, according to Chinese culture should have assumed the aunt never existed. Overall, the story is rhetorically successful because it employs pathos, logos and ethos – elements that make the reader feel involved, both emotionally and logically in the storyline. The emotional nature of the story makes the reader pay keen attention to the heartbreaking detail. Additionally, the use of metaphors and other rhetoric elements makes the story enjoyable because it brings in some form of symbolism.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. "No Name Woman" The writer's presence: A pool of readings. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006. Print