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Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior presents the struggles of a Chinese-American woman growing up as she attempts to reconcile two cultures, a female
devaluing Chinese culture and influences by an American culture, while developing her own identity as a Chinese-American. Using William R. Schroeder's model of interpretation will help to define the struggles and complications experienced by Kingston as relevant to my interpretation.
Schroeder's model of interpretation presents eight interpretive elements: explicit statements, imagery, narrative point of view, plot/action, characters, notable effects, horizons, and world. The most important interpretive elements used in my interpretation were imagery, plot/action, and characters. Using these interpretive elements helps to give basis to my interpretation. Kingston's novel abounds with imagery, from the ghosts and barbarians, to the
different colors (black, white, and red). Every "talk-story" has a place and meaning and every character is presented in a way to clarify Kingston's motives for writing. His model also presents seven evaluative criteria to which my interpretation applies: consistency, proportionateness, adequacy, completeness, depth, sensitivity, and integratedness. Of these, my interpretation best
fulfills the evaluative criteria of consistency, completeness, and integratedness.
It is evident that the narrator, Kingston, has many conflicts with what is being taught at home and what is experienced in the American society. Through the myth and reality stories Kingston tells, she establishes her beliefs and values of the Chinese culture and contrasts them with the expectations of the American culture. The older generation, her mother, uses their native language to instill the traditional values and the idea of becoming an individual - a
"woman warrior." However, the American culture creates a struggle in balancing these two contradicting forces of being traditional and having a sense of identity.
The first "talk-story" creates the basis of the Chinese traditional values Kingston encounters at home. This story describes the outcast of the aunt who has an affair with, and becomes pregnant to, an unnamed man in her village. The seriousness of her betrayal was conveyed through the repeated words like "forbidden," "alone," and "separate." "The villagers punished the aunt for acting as if she could have a private life, secret and apart from them"
(p.13). The Chinese culture is initially portrayed as brutal and ever present in Kingston's home where "even now China wraps double binds around my feet" (p.48).
"When we Chinese girls listened to the adults talk-story, we learned that we failed if we grew up to be but wives or slaves. We could be heroines, swordswomen" (p.19). Kingston's mother also uses a "talk-story" to instill the idea of becoming an individual, a woman warrior. In the chapter entitled "White Tigers," Kingston explores the tale of Fa Mu Lan, a daughter who took her father's place in the war against the Han. Through this story, Kingston realizes that being a failure (wife or slave) for a female is traditional in the Chinese culture and therefore recognizes the importance of becoming an individual. "She said I would grow up a wife or slave, but she
taught me the song of the warrior woman, Fa Mu Lan. I would have to grow up a warrior woman" (p.20). She also recognizes her mother as b
Terminology mentioned in this term paper
Names referenced in this report
Maxine Hong Kingston, William R. Schroeder,
Organizations referenced in this paper
Locations talked about in this essay
Kingston, America, China,
Keywords referenced in this essay
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