The theme of identity as developed within the novel "The Woman Warrior" by Maxime Hong Kingston

Essay by prishUniversity, Bachelor's November 2006

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I am going to explore the theme of identity as developed within the novel "The Woman Warrior". In "The Woman Warrior", the first-person narrator illustrates the progression of the search for her identity as a female torn between two cultures: Chinese and American. Maxine Hong Kingston, in my opinion, subverts the traditional definitions of what is justified by many as independent identity, and more specifically she attempts to question the definitions of 'woman' from a social position of ethnic diversity.

She questions throughout the text the definition of identity, both from a viewpoint of gender, and from a cultural viewpoint. This is used in an attempt to question cultural institutions within both Chinese and Chinese-American societies. She challenges the tradition of those who attempt to define a singular concept of womanhood, by exploring the idea of what it means not only to be a woman, but a woman in an ethnic minority.

This allows her to explore and attempt to re-evaluate the idea of a singular stable self upon which many of these viewpoints have been established.

The way I believe she illustrates this most successfully is through the medium of language and voice. As an American-born Chinese who has never visited China, the first narrator's only experience of Chinese culture lies in her mother's contradicting tales. To find her identity, the narrator has to start by sorting out the truths from the lies in the Chinese culture presented through these stories. She questions the stories that her mother tells, whether they are "true stories,.. or just a story,.. [she] can't tell the difference" (202). For example, when the narrator first starts menstruating, her mother uses her father's unspoken sister, the "No Name" aunt as an example to warn her of the dangers of sexuality. By having...