In Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston tells the story of her aunt’s suicide and how it influenced Kingston’s life. In Woman Warrior Kingston’s mother told her the story of her fathers sister who had a child out of wedlock, when Kingston became sexually “of age” in her mother’s eyes. The story took place in China, presumably in the first half of the Twentieth Century, where women were heavily subjugated due to their sex. From the aunt’s story, Kingston got the idea that women in Chinese society were always watched and when needed, controlled, to keep them in line. How did Kingston’s reaction to this story shape her approach to life growing up in America?
Her mother told the story to Kingston, when Kingston started to menstruate in an effort to keep her under control, sexually. In the story, the shame of having the illegitimate child fell upon the woman, which controls women’s actions. The father of the child was never disowned or humiliated, therefore men were not controlled. Furthermore, when the aunt told the father of her child that she thought that she was pregnant, the father organized the raid against her and her family in which the entire village participated. This indicates that the control was societal, not just within the family. The aunt killed herself because the societal control, based on sexism, would never allow her out of her shame.
Sexism raged against Kingston’s aunt because she was a woman. During the raid of the house, the villagers singled out the aunt’s belongings and destroyed them. Other family members lost things in the raid but the aunt lost everything. The villagers did this to destroy the aunt’s quality of life. The symbolism of the aunt having her baby in the pigsty really indicated her knowledge of how severe the consequences of her actions would be. The aunt probably felt more hopeless when her child turned out to be a girl. Perhaps if it had been a boy the child’s life could have been spared. As a result of the sexism in her aunt’s life, Kingston has an awareness of sexism in her own life. This led to Kingston’s feeling that people were always watching her.
Storytelling has helped humankind evolve into a wiser species by allowing those with enough attentiveness and intelligence to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. The Chinese culture, like many others worldwide, base their beliefs largely on stories passed down from generation to generation. Because stories are told and retold, alterations and even new versions appear. Such is the case ...
Kingston had a feeling that “women were being watched”. As a result of this feeling she felt like no one in her family trusted her. This made her family relationships difficult. Kingston wanted freedom and love. She wanted the freedom to go to college and get an education, but the family said no. She especially wanted a loving relationship with her mother, but her mother’s old world ways made it seem impossible. As a result she had the feeling of not being trusted or loved.
Kingston’s mother’s story of her aunt’s suicide affected Kingston’s life’s actions. As a result she spent her life fighting the control her family tried to put on her. Her aunt’s story made her very aware of sexism. This awareness of sexism led her to the point that she felt she was being “watched”. Just like a white ghost lost in a dark night, Maxine Hong Kingston in her book Woman Warrior displayed the darkness of adultery and the light of being a warrior: a woman warrior.
Kingston, Maxine. Woman Warrior. New York, New York: Random House Inc., 1975.