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MonkeyNotes-The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Table of Contents

Chapter Summaries With Notes

Chapter 1: "No Name Woman"

The narrator is a girl who has just reached puberty. Her mother
tells her the story of her "No Name Aunt" as a means of
warning her away from premarital sex. The story is completely
secret in the family. The chapter begins, "'You must not tell
anyone what I am about to tell you." The voice is Kingston's
mother, Brave Orchid. She first tells Kingston very briefly and
crudely that the no name aunt was her father's sister who
committed suicide by jumping into the family well. Brave
Orchid adds that the family acts as though she had never been

In 1924, their native village in China had just celebrated
"seventeen hurry-up weddings" between men who embarked for
the United States, called "The Gold Mountain," and women of
the village. The marriages took place to ensure the men's
eventual return to the village. Brave Orchid, living with her
husband's family as was customary for Chinese wives to do,
noticed that her new sister-in-law was pregnant even though it
had been years since her husband had departed the village. The
family remained silent about this fact, but the people of the
village had noticed it, too. One night just before the due date of
the baby's birth, the villagers wearing masks, raided the house
of the no name woman as punishment. They destroyed the
family's crop, slaughtered their livestock, broke their household
goods, and ruined their supplies. During the raid, the family
could only stand and stare in disbelief. The woman gave birth in
the pigsty that same night and Brave Orchid found her sister-in-
law and the baby the next day drowned in the family well.

Brave Orchid gives a warning to Kingston: "What happened to
her could happen to you. Don't humiliate us. You wouldn't like
to be forgotten as if you had never been born." Kingston follows
her mother's story with a meditation. As a second-generation
Chinese American, she is confused about fitting the stories of
past Chinese generations to "solid America." She adds that the
elder Chinese confuse the gods by using false names. Kingston
thinks they also confuse their children who are always trying to
get things straight and to name the unnamable. She says that the
younger Chinese Americans that she knows hide their real
names and struggle with trying to separate out what in them is
Chinese and what in them is American. She admits that she also
struggles with her identity.

Kingston returns to the story of her no name aunt and says that
if she wants to know something more about her than what her
mother has told her, she cannot ask her mother directly. Her
mother is guided only by necessity and has already told
Kingston all the necessary parts. She remembers that as
children, whenever she and her siblings did anything fun or
frivolous, they were accused of needlessly using up energy. In
thinking about the no name aunt, Kingston says, "adultery is
extravagance." She tries to figure out how her aunt could have
been so extravagant as to have committed adultery. She adds
that in the China of her aunt's time, the people wasted nothing,
not even the gizzard lining of the chickens. Also at that time,
women in China were considered to be a definite waste.
Kingston then reasons that her aunt "could not have been the
lone romantic who gave up everything for sex." She decides that
her aunt must have been forced to have sex with some man,
likely one of the villagers who raided her home. She imagines
that the aunt had probably encountered this man while working
in the fields. He had ordered her to have sex with him, and she
had obeyed because she had been taught to always do as she
was told.

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MonkeyNotes-The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

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