The Woman Warrior


Maxine Hong Kingston

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Themes and Colors
Storytelling and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Roles in Chinese Culture Theme Icon
Silence vs. Speech Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Woman Warrior, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Storytelling and Identity

As a memoir, The Woman Warrior is Maxine Hong Kingston’s effort to tell her own story. By telling her own story, though, Kingston mostly finds herself telling the stories of others—those in her family, those around her, and the myths of the Chinese and American cultures between which she is caught. She interweaves these personal stories, family stories, and myths so that they build on one another, both chronologically and thematically. Crucially, she also…

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Gender Roles in Chinese Culture

Kingston characterizes traditional Chinese culture as having rigid gender rules that particularly limited women’s self-expression and did not value girls. Brave Orchid’s stories of buying girl slaves and midwifing reveal the brutality of life in China for girls and women who considered themselves fortunate if they were allowed to live beyond infancy (again, at least in Kingston’s portrayal). Through storytelling, Kingston imagines what it would be like if people in her ancestral country had…

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Silence vs. Speech

Kingston has an almost visceral fear of silence. Silence could make it seem as though someone had never existed, as in the case of No Name Woman. In some instances, the unwillingness to talk can lead to madness, as in the case of Kingston’s aunt, Moon Orchid. In Kingston’s characterization, Chinese people associate silence with weakness and insanity, and all of the evidence that Kingston sees in childhood strongly affirms this. The act…

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The Immigrant Experience

Kingston maintains a connection to “the old world” (China) primarily through her mother, Brave Orchid. Thus, Kingston develops a sense of China as both a real place and a mythical land. This tension is further highlighted by the fact that her family continue to obey the traditions and customs of the old world after immigrating to the United States, despite their lack of relevance in 1950s America. Her mother’s insistence that China is “home”…

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