The Woman Warrior

by

Maxine Hong Kingston

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Old Man and Old Woman Character Analysis

When reimagining herself as the woman warrior, Fa Mu Lan, Kingston creates a “talk-story” in which she is trained by an old couple to be a warrior who will avenge her village against an evil, greedy baron. When they first meet in her hut on the mountain, the old man and woman enter “carrying bowls of rice and soup and a leafy branch of peaches.” Later, they lead Kingston / Fa Mu Lan in exercises that “began at dawn and ended at sunset.” They also lead Kingston / Fa Mu Lan in a survival test and teach her how to stalk tigers and know dragons. Kingston / Fa Mu Lan remains with them for fifteen years, until the age of twenty-two, which is when she becomes a general and fights for her village.

Old Man and Old Woman Quotes in The Woman Warrior

The The Woman Warrior quotes below are all either spoken by Old Man and Old Woman or refer to Old Man and Old Woman. 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.
1. No Name Woman Quotes

They expected her alone to keep the traditional ways, which her brothers, now among the barbarians, could fumble without detection. The heavy, deep-rooted women were to maintain the past against the flood, safe for returning. But the rare urge west had fixed upon our family, and so my aunt crossed boundaries not delineated in space.

Related Characters: Maxine Hong Kingston (speaker), Old Man and Old Woman, Father
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
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Old Man and Old Woman Character Timeline in The Woman Warrior

The timeline below shows where the character Old Man and Old Woman appears in The Woman Warrior. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
2. White Tigers
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
The door to the hut opens. An old man and an old woman come out “carrying bowls of rice and soup and a leafy branch of peaches.” At... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
The old man and old woman ask Kingston / Fa Mu Lan to stay with them for fifteen... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Silence vs. Speech Theme Icon
The first thing Kingston / Fa Mu Lan has to learn, says the old woman , is how to be quiet. They leave her by the streams to watch for... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
...little hills.” The “tiger place” is “a mountain peak three feet from the sky.” The old man and old woman wave goodbye, then slide down the mountainside. The old woman takes the... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Kingston / Fa Mu Lan collects wood. The old man and old woman had taught her that fire is stored in trees “that grow red... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Kingston / Fa Mu Lan then sees “the old brown man and the old gray woman ” walking toward [her] out of the pine forest.” They feed her vegetable soup and... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
...a dragon’s head. The closest she comes to seeing a dragon whole is when the old man and the old woman “cut away a small strip of bark on a pine that... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
...downpours. She is grateful not to be pulling sweet potatoes. On New Year’s mornings, the old man lets her watch her family in the water gourd—they are eating the biggest meal of... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
The old man shows Kingston / Fa Mu Lan the “strengths and weaknesses” of other warriors when they... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
...has injured herself jumping over her sword. Menstruation does not interrupt her training, however. The old woman explains that she is now an adult and could have children, but they ask that... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
...Mu Lan for being without her family on the day she becomes a woman, the old man and old woman let her watch her family inside the magical gourd. They are visiting... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
...plunges her hand into the gourd, wanting to grab the baron’s throat. She asks the old man and old woman if she can return to help her family. They insist that, at... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Kingston / Fa Mu Lan stays on the mountain for years, talking only to the old man and the old woman. One day, when she can “point at the sky and make... (full context)
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
...with him and his army, she is afraid, and he takes the beads that the old man and old woman had given her. She goes back to her soldiers and gathers “the... (full context)