No Name Woman Rhetorical Analysis
In ancient China, the culture was based on a patriarchal model and men were allowed to have three or four wives. This was not the case for women. Supported by a deep historical bias, women, especially the unfaithful ones, were treated poorly and viewed worthless compared to men. Those that committed adultery were tortured and persecuted publicly, just like Maxine Hong Kingston’s aunt in her story “No Name Woman. ” The aunt was pregnant, had her house raided by angry villagers, birthed her baby in a muddy pigsty, and then committed suicide by jumping into the family well with her newborn.
In the essay, Kingston incorporated three different genres that worked together to describe the way she felt about her aunt. The first is nonfiction, written at the beginning of the essay, to provide information about Kingston’s family history and show her opinion toward it. Kingston’s mother started the true story of her sister-in-law by saying, “You must not tell anyone what I’m about to tell you” (221). She used this as the first sentence of her piece to show that this secret was big, surprising and something that the family never wanted her to know about.
She also wanted the audience to feel the curiosity that she felt when her mother started to tell the story. Another example was about Kingston’s father’s family. She said, “they expected her alone to keep the traditional ways, which her brothers, now among the barbarians, could fumble without detection” (225). Kingston was addressing the issue of the high standards that the Chinese culture put upon their women versus their men. She felt that her aunt may have been under too much pressure which caused her to rebel and bring dishonor to the family.
The final example was about her crazy grandfather. She told the many stories she had heard, including the day he brought home a baby girl and “traded one of his sons, probably (her) father, the youngest, for (the aunt)” (228). Kingston included this because she came to a conclusion about why her dad never spoke of his sister. She thought that he was, and still is, jealous of the attention that the grandfather gave her. The second is autobiography, shown throughout the essay. Kingston added personal details about her family and thoughts to explain her attitude toward the big family secret.
For example, “whenever (mother) had to warn us about life, (she) told stories that ran like this one, a story to grow up on” (223). She explained that the stories “tested (their) strength to establish realities” but, the one about her aunt affected her more than the others (223). The other stories were told often because of their good life lessons but this one, the one she was most confused and interested in, was never to be discussed again. Another example was when she said “the villagers punished her for acting as if she could have a private life, secret and apart from them” (229).
Kingston described another problem she identified with the Chinese culture and started to develop an opinion that made the members of the village seem more at fault. She made it very clear that she did not respect that the family and villagers intruded into her aunt’s private life and then punished her. On the same page, Kingston wrote about the frightened villagers that felt the need to physically punish her aunt for “the break she made in the ‘roundness’” (229). She wrote “the round moon cakes and round doorways, the round tables of graduated size that fit one roundness inside the other… these talismans lost their power to warn this family of the law…” (230). She used repetition with the adjective “round” to describe the standards of the Chinese people and the pressure put on her to shun her aunt like everyone else in the family. Later, Kingston talked about how Chairman Mao encouraged the Chinese people to share their paper replicas with the spirits of fallen soldiers and workers. She added after “my aunt will remain forever hungry. Goods are not distributed evenly among the dead” (232). Kingston was describing a third problem she found with the Chinese culture.
She did not think it was fair how her aunt was treated, even in the afterlife. The third is fiction, found in the middle of the piece, to show the way she pictures her relative given her family history and cultural background. Kingston started to imagine events that could have caused her aunt to commit the crime. For example, “perhaps she encountered him in the fields or on the mountain where the daughters-in-law collected fuel”, “she had to have dealings with him other than sex”, etc (224). This showcased Kingston’s lack of knowledge, thirst for more, and conclusions based on what she knew.
She was so desperate for answers that she started to make up elaborate stories, making her aunt’s actions seem more understandable. Also, Kingston attempted making small connections between her and her aunt’s routines and preparation for grooming and going out by using imagery. For example, “opening her fingers, she cleaned the thread, then rolled it along her hairline and the tops of her eyebrows. My mother did the same to me” (226-227). She tried to relate to her aunt by guessing that they used the same beauty routine.
On the same page, she said “to sustain being in love, she often worked at herself in the mirror, guessing at the colors and shapes that would interest him, changing them frequently in order to hit the right combination” (226). Kingston used this in her essay because she felt a small emotional connection to her. She came to the conclusion that they were both typical girls: vain, looking for the right boy, and always attempting to dress to impress. In conclusion, Kingston used three genres to develop her essay and give the audience a deeper understanding of her thoughts and feelings toward her aunt.
First, she used non fiction to give true, factual information to the audience about her family’s history and then related it back to the way she felt about her, almost, nonexistent relative. She also used the autobiography genre to directly explain her thoughts about her aunt and her cultural background. Finally, Kingston used fiction to show how unsure she was about the information she was given. Because of her confusion, she wrote about the way she imagined her aunt to be when she was alive and about different events she think could have happened that led up to the committing of adultery.