The Woman Warrior

by

Maxine Hong Kingston

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Moon Orchid Character Analysis

Brave Orchid’s sister, who arrives in the United States after spending years living in Hong Kong. Moon Orchid differs from her sister, who is only one year older than she, in that she is a rather passive personality and less independent. Brave Orchid does not respect Moon Orchid’s fondness for fancy dresses or her inability to perform hard work, which becomes clear when Brave Orchid tries to employ her younger sister in the family laundry. Brave Orchid decides that Moon Orchid will resume her rightful role as First Wife by traveling to Los Angeles to reunite with her husband. Moon Orchid has been supported by her husband since he left her to immigrate to the United States. Though she obeys her sister’s instructions, she is rather uninterested in living with her husband and is resistant to seeing him again. When she does see him, he rejects her yet again. The encounter devastates Moon Orchid, who goes to live with her daughter until she develops a paranoid fear that the “Mexican Ghosts” are plotting to kill her. Brave Orchid has her sister move back in with her in Stockton, but Moon Orchid’s paranoia only increases and Brave Orchid is unable to treat her. Brave Orchid surmises that Moon Orchid’s spirit is unsettled due to wandering too much. A sign of her sister’s madness is that she only has one “talk-story,” whereas sane people have many. Moon Orchid’s daughter then commits her mother to a state asylum. Moon Orchid is happy in the asylum, where she meets other women with whom she can speak; as a result, her sister notices that she has learned another “talk-story.” Moon Orchid dies in the asylum shortly after their visit.

Moon Orchid Quotes in The Woman Warrior

The The Woman Warrior quotes below are all either spoken by Moon Orchid or refer to Moon Orchid. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Woman Warrior published in 1989.
4. At the Western Palace Quotes

“A long time ago,” began Brave Orchid, “the emperors had four wives, one at each point of the compass, and they lived in four palaces. The Empress of the West would connive for power, but the Empress of the East was good and kind and full of light. You are the Empress of the East, and the Empress of the West has imprisoned the Earth’s Emperor in the Western Palace. And you, the good Empress of the East, come out of the dawn to invade her land and free the Emperor. You must break the strong spell she has cast on him that has lost him the East.”

Related Characters: Brave Orchid (speaker), Moon Orchid, Moon Orchid’s Husband
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

“Oh, Sister, I am so happy here. No one ever leaves. Isn’t that wonderful? We are all women here. Come. I want you to meet my daughters.” She introduced Brave Orchid to each inmate in the ward—her daughters. She was especially proud of the pregnant ones. “My dear pregnant daughters.” She touched the women on the head, straightened collars, tucked blankets. “How are you today, dear daughter?” “And, you know,” she said to Brave Orchid, “we understand one another here. We speak the same language, the very same. They understand me, and I understand them.” Sure enough, the women smiled back at her and reached out to touch her as she went by. She had a new story, and yet she slipped entirely away, not waking up one morning.

Related Characters: Maxine Hong Kingston (speaker), Moon Orchid (speaker), Brave Orchid
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:
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Moon Orchid Character Timeline in The Woman Warrior

The timeline below shows where the character Moon Orchid appears in The Woman Warrior. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
4. At the Western Palace
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...sixty-eight years old, Brave Orchid took a day off to pick up her younger sister, Moon Orchid , from the airport. Moon Orchid’s daughter accompanied her and sat with her in the... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...airport. Some were soldiers and sailors. She wondered about her son in Vietnam, then asked Moon Orchid ’s daughter if he was there. The daughter replied that Brave Orchid’s children had said... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...Orchid searched for her sister and suddenly pointed out a younger woman, younger even than Moon Orchid ’s daughter. She mistook this woman for her sister, due to the woman’s western clothes—she... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Back at Brave Orchid’s home, Moon Orchid greeted Kingston’s father, the scholar whom she had once regarded as an “ideal in masculine... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...though they did not want to eat the rock candy that she had chopped up. Moon Orchid presented her sister with “a pale green silk dress lined in wool,” which Brave Orchid... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Moon Orchid walked around the house. She noticed that their grandparents’ pictures were up. Brave Orchid told... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
Silence vs. Speech Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
For thirty years, Moon Orchid had received money from her husband. She never told him that she wanted to move... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Brave Orchid instructed her sister on what to do when she confronted her husband. Moon Orchid was reluctant to “bother him,” given how well-supported she had been for so many years... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Brave Orchid told Moon Orchid that, when she arrived at the house, she should throw out the new wife’s things... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Moon Orchid wondered what to do if her husband did not remember her. Brave Orchid instructed her... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...breakfast, Brave Orchid talked about taking the direct route into Los Angeles. She insisted that Moon Orchid make life unbearable for the second wife, if necessary. Moon Orchid countered that she would... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Moon Orchid hoped that “the summer would wear away while her sister talked” and that Brave Orchid... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...6:00 AM and prepared for a day’s work at the family laundry. Brave Orchid walked Moon Orchid and her niece to the laundry via Chinatown, pointing out things along the way. Moon... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
When they got to the laundry, Brave Orchid assigned Moon Orchid a task to perform, though all of the jobs seemed too difficult and Brave Orchid... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
...lunch, Brave Orchid and her sister walked back to Chinatown for some fun. She introduced Moon Orchid to her friends and told them that her sister had come back to reclaim her... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Moon Orchid later started visiting the laundry late in the afternoons when the towels were dry, and... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...Orchid assigned the task of driving to her eldest son. The two old ladies and Moon Orchid ’s daughter sat in the backseat. During the drive, Brave Orchid began to tell the... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Moon Orchid worried over what would happen if she showed up to her husband’s house. Perhaps he... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Moon Orchid ’s daughter insisted on being dropped off at home first. Brave Orchid had tried to... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Moon Orchid was too nervous to go in. Brave Orchid decided to scout the building and come... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
When Moon Orchid claimed to be too scared to go into his office and announce herself, Brave Orchid... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
Silence vs. Speech Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...“grandmothers” what was wrong. Brave Orchid was outraged that he did not recognize his wife. Moon Orchid ’s husband then asked Moon Orchid what she was doing there. Brave Orchid made up... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
Silence vs. Speech Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Moon Orchid ’s husband insisted that she did not belong because she did not “have the hardness”... (full context)
Silence vs. Speech Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Several months went by with no letters from Moon Orchid . When she lived in Hong Kong and China, she had written “every other week.”... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...Orchid decided that her sister should return north to live with her. When she arrived, Moon Orchid talked about being “in disguise.” Brave Orchid tried chanting Moon Orchid’s name, her new address,... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...Brave Orchid told the children to come home straight away so as not to legitimize Moon Orchid ’s worry that they would be taken away. Finally, Brave Orchid realized that the situation... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
Silence vs. Speech Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
Brave Orchid gave up when Moon Orchid started badmouthing her children. She wondered if Moon Orchid had already left her body and... (full context)
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
...marry another woman. She did not believe that she could handle it any better than Moon Orchid did. Brave Orchid’s husband insisted that he was too old for a second wife, and... (full context)
5. A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Silence vs. Speech Theme Icon
Kingston’s brother reported to one of his sisters what had happened in Los Angeles when Moon Orchid saw her husband, and that sister reported it to Kingston. Kingston thinks that his story... (full context)