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MonkeyNotes-The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

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The plot of these memoirs is very difficult to simplify because
each section acts as a separate story, and the links between them
are oblique and subtle. Each section has its own plot. The first
section, "No Name Woman," tells the story of Kingston's aunt
on her father's side, who becomes pregnant by a man who is not
her husband. The villagers in China are horrified at her behavior
and raid her family's home and farm. She gives birth to her child
alone and then commits suicide and infanticide. Kingston retells
this story as a means to vindicate her aunt from the censure of
the villagers and to provide cultural and historical context for
her actions so that she can be understood and sympathized with.

The second section, "White Tigers," tells the story of the
woman warrior, a folk hero about whom Kingston has heard
since childhood. The woman warrior was provided as an
alternative role for Kingston from the other two roles allotted to
women -- that of wife or slave. The woman warrior is trained by
two caring old people from the time she is a girl of seven
through the age of twenty-two. She learns fighting and running
skills from all the animals. When she finishes her training, she
returns to her village and takes her father's place in battle. She
becomes a famous and beloved leader of an army, meets her
husband to whom her parents married her by proxy while she
was away, and has a son. She participates in a peasant rebellion,
which overthrows the emperor, returns home and decapitates the
greedy baron of her village, and settles into a life of honor with
her family. Kingston tells the story of the woman warrior as a
contrast to her own American life, where she has no political
voice in fighting racism and oppression.

The third section, "Shaman," describes Kingston's mother's life
as a doctor in China. Brave Orchid is married to a man who
migrates to the United States and cannot send for her for years.
She lives with her tyrannical mother-in-law until she goes to
medical school and studies to be a doctor. While at school, she
fights a Sitting Ghost and impresses all her fellow students with
her bravery. Then she travels back to her home village and
practices medicine. Her own villagers and the people of
surrounding villages treat her with great respect. She only treats
ill people who are not dying, for she does not want to get the
reputation of being a failure. Kingston ends the section by
describing a recent visit to her mother in which her mother
complains about how hard she works in the tomato fields and
about her daughter's long absences from home. Kingston cannot
go home often, because she becomes sick with anxiety every
time she visits. Her mother finally grants her the space to stay

Section four, "At the Western Palace," has Brave Orchid
sending to Hong Kong for her younger sister, Moon Orchid, in
order to reunite her with her husband, who has been away from
her in the United States for thirty-six years. During the
separation, Moon Orchid has lived a sheltered life in Hong
Kong, raising her daughter and receiving monthly checks from
her husband, who refuses to send for her. Brave Orchid tries to
toughen her sister up by teaching her to work and persuading
her to confront her husband, but Moon Orchid is hopelessly
inept as a worker and fears standing up to her husband. Brave
Orchid takes Moon Orchid to her husband's office building in
Los Angeles, where he is a brain surgeon, and arranges a
confrontation. The husband has totally assimilated into the
American culture and cannot connect with Moon Orchid. Moon
Orchid becomes very distraught. She stays with her daughter,
now living in Los Angeles, but soon manifests paranoid
delusions about being spied upon by Mexican Ghosts. Brave
Orchid tries to heal her, but realizes her sister is beyond help.
Moon Orchid spends her last months in a mental asylum where
she dies happily.

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MonkeyNotes-The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

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