Free Study Guide: The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston|
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THE WOMAN WARRIOR: FREE ONLINE STUDY NOTES
THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS
Kingston devises a unique method of combining a family story with a
cultural story. The family story of the struggle girls often go through
of differentiating themselves from their mothers makes the book accessible
to people who do not have the experience of living as a minority in a
majority culture. The cultural story runs parallel to this family story.
As a member of a minority cultural group, Kingston had to negotiate
between her mother's cultural values and her adoptive country's cultural
values. As a child she found that both sides denigrated the other. That
is, her mother regarded all Americans, including her children, as barbarians
or ghosts, barely human and unmannerly, all because they were ignorant
of the Chinese tradition. The Americans Kingston encountered at school
regarded the Chinese children in a roughly similar way. Their Chinese
culture was not taken into account as an explanation for their knowledge
or lack of knowledge, and their difficulty speaking was regarded with
indifference or cruelty. As a child, Kingston found her mother's Chinese
customs embarrassing. She sided, as a measure of self-defense, with the
dominant group, in her scorn of her mother's Chinese way of seeing. Only
later, after she found a way to gain power in her successes academically,
could Kingston come back to her mother and her culture with respect and
love. Only then could she regain that part of herself that her mother
The benefit Kingston gained from this return or reconciliation was a
freeing up of her imagination. She regains wholeness when she accepts
her mother's gifts of storytelling and imagination. As the saying goes,
"You are your mother." In repudiating her mother (and her mother's
culture), Kingston had repudiated a vital part of herself. When she reconciled
with her mother (and her cultural heritage), she gained a powerful voice.
The result is The Woman Warrior, a book of exquisitely lyrical
beauty. All the while the reader reads of Kingston's shame in her "ching-chong
ugly" voice, he or she is reading carefully crafted and eloquent
prose. The beauty of the writing proves the value of the reconciliation
with her mother and her cultural heritage.
STUDY QUESTIONS - BOOK REPORT TOPICS
1. Describe what Maxine’s childhood was like in America. How is it different
than her childhood in China?
2. Describe Brave Orchid as a person. What affect does she have on her
3. What is the main problem that Maxine must overcome in the book? How
is she successful?
4. What is the meaning of “talk-story” in the book? Why is it important?
5. Briefly summarize the story of the No-Name Woman. Why does Brave Orchid
tell Maxine this story?
6. As a child, Maxine was sick and in bed for eighteen months. What does
she think has caused the illness? Why was the event so significant to
7. Explain the structure of the book, how it is put together into a whole.
Why is the structure effective?
8. Compare and contrast Maxine as a contemporary Woman Warrior to the
mythical Woman Warrior described in the book.
9. Who is Moon Orchid? Why does she go insane?
10. What is the main theme of the book? How is it developed?
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The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston: Free BookNotes Summary