The Woman Warrior- Silence (Theme)
Silence (finding one’s own personal voice) Kingston gives a voice to many of the voiceless women in the book, resulting in them discovering their identities as individuals. The theme of finding one’s own personal voice is a major theme in Kingston’s memoir. She makes various references to the physical and emotional struggle throughout the text by seeing the silence of the women in her family and Chinese culture. By adding her experience as a Chinese-American woman she tries to discover her voice. For Kingston, silence basically equals to a lack of voice, which she associates with the loss of identity as a woman.
In No Name Woman, you can see that Kingston fears that if she stays silent and doesn’t find her own voice, she would risks becoming a substitute for her nameless aunt, who remained silent her entire life. When writing No Name Woman, Kingston reacts against the family imposed silence and tells everyone of her aunt.
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Her aunt’s silence, by refusing to name the father of her child, protects the man and simultaneously oppresses her, “She may have gone to pigsty as a last act of responsibility: she would protect the child as she had protected its father,” (Kingston, 15).
Kingston gives a voice to the silent woman by writing the aunt s story and theorizing how her aunt became pregnant. In doing this, she removes her aunt’s guilt and solidifies her identity as a Chinese-American woman. Kingston says, “My aunt could not have been the lone romantic who gave up everything for sex…Some man had commanded her to lie with him and be his secret evil,” (Kingston, 6). I think Kingston feels that to remain silent about her aunt would be the same as rejecting her own sense of self.
The theme of silence in the book is also linked to the cultural problems that Kingston comes across throughout her own life. Kingston notes that “The Chinese I know hide their names; sojourners take new names when their lives change and guard their real names with silence,” (Kingston, 5). The mention of silence not only refers to the hiding of names but also to the confusion of Chinese culture to first-generation Chinese-Americans. For example, in the chapter White Tigers, the legend of the Chinese woman warrior Fa Mu Lan is a constant reminder to Kingston that women can exceed socially enforced limitations.
Kingston discusses how as a child, she imagined herself to be like Fa Mu Lan, who saves not only her family but also her community, “the villagers would make a legend about my perfect filiality,” (Kingston, 45). In this chapter we see how, even as a child, Kingston dreamt of going past a life of insignificance. Brave Orchid’s story of the woman warrior proves how stories and legends of tradition Chinese culture can create alternative, and almost a destructive voice for women who otherwise would spend their life in silence due to the dominance of a patriarchal society.
The voicelessness of Chinese woman living in a patriarchal society is shown when Moon Orchid unwillingly confronts her Americanized husband and is unable to voice her years of rage and grief in At the Western Palace. Moon Orchid relays the tale of a woman, deserted by her husband, who has completely submitted to the patriarchal view that woman should always remain silent and never question male authority. When Moon Orchid goes to confront her husband, “…all she did was open and shut her mouth without any words coming out,” (Kingston, 152).
Her loss of speech is the deciding factor in her husband’s decision that she has no place in his American life, “I have important American guests who come inside my house to eat. You can’t talk to them. You can barely talk to me,” (Kinston 153). However, by Kingston writing Moon Orchid s story in her memoir, she is also providing Moon Orchid with an individual voice. Kingston does this by almost making us look at her in a negative way. Moon Orchid comes across timid and almost incapable to do simple tasks. She couldn’t fit into America- and she doesn’t even try.
In conclusion, Kingston’s different voices in the book culminated to show the dominance of her voice against all the others and to show her identity, which she finally gets. When Kingston gives a final look to her past, she tells the story of the poet Ts ai Yen to represent the possibilities of the two cultures that have surrounded her, her entire life coming together. Kingston sees them both as women warriors symbolically fighting to link the cultural gap between America and China. This last story helps Kingston find her true voice and identity.