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Professor child. These stories are a combination

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Professor Amy Hungerford
presents that the literature written after World War II could be
classified into the “Identity Plot” category, which is a type of
structure used in novels and a way of understanding novels in the
twentieth century. This “Identity Plot” structure was used in
American novels written after 1945. We could agree that Maxine H.
Kingston`s The Woman Warrior fits into this literacy category, due to
the fact that this novel explores the tension between individual and
collective identities and tries to find the main character`s
identity. Many aspects of this book make this novel to be included in
the “Identity Plot” genre:

First of all, the narrative of
the Maxine H. Kingston`s novel makes the reader question how can
Kingston`s identity be defined and understood. Throughout the whole
novel Kingston, the narrator herself, explains fiction and
non-fiction talk stories that her mother told her when she was a
child. These stories are a combination of her relatives histories and
mythical heroines that her mother narrates as cautionary tales to her
daughter. All of this combined into the narrator of the story having
a conflicted childhood as a Chinese girl living in America. This
conflicted childhood as an immigrant in America made her have
difficulties with her identity and communication, as her mother`s
influence and cultural clash between them cause her problems too.
Some examples of this talk stories could be “Shaman”, “No name
woman”…

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Another aspect worth mentioning
could be that she is part of a minority of Chinese immigrants and she
is a female. Being a woman in such a patriarchal culture makes a huge
impact in the narrator and makes her be in a point that she feels
like she is opposed to her own culture, due to the fact that she has
feelings of not belonging to that culture and frustration about her
own culture. She feels like her culture restricts people from many
things in their life, but she feels like women are especially
oppressed. Kington in this novel wants to reach out to other
Chinese-American who share her feelings of displacement and
frustration. In this novel, America is described as a land of freedom
and chances comparing with the strict traditions of the immigrants,
but being part of a culture so oppressing makes the reader understand
the character and the circumstances she goes through. In this novel,
there are various examples of chapters where it is explained the
strict Chinese culture, the role of women in the Chinese culture and
how Kingston copes with the struggle of being a Chinese immigrant in
America.

The last chapter “Song for a
barbarian reed pipe” is a great example of the struggle a Chinese
immigrant has to cope with in an American school. Kingston in her
initial experiences in the United States has difficulties
communicating with the others, because she didn`t know the language
at all and due to that school became a misery when she had to talk
and express herself. She didn`t talk and she painted her paintings in
black ink. In this final chapter, she goes through a process of
finding her own voice. Kingston is naturally quiet, but Chinese
emigrants are so guarded of their community that they keep silence
about everything and especially the children, so the American culture
being more open makes is a huge problem for Kingston. Language is
seen as identity in this chapter.

Each
chapter of this book is focused on a woman that affects Kingston`s
life and in most cases, it illustrates how that woman relates to the
male-dominated society around her. In most cases, the power of
culture and traditions are more oppressing than the men around them.
A clear example of this could be the first chapter of the book, “No
name woman”, where Kingston`s paternal aunt committed suicide, due
to the fact that she was hardly criticised by the
villagers that raided and destroyed her house,
after
she became pregnant, but not from her husband. This chapter expresses
the conflict
of how the Chinese can have a private life, the role of women in the
Chinese culture, society’s need for control and how all of this is
controlled by their tradition.

A further important aspect could
be that Kingston is disturbed with her difference from the native
American and from the Chinese immigrants. For Kingston, it is
especially difficult to adjust to the strict and restrictive
traditions of the Chinese people living in America with the freedom
and chances of America. Being a Chinese-American girl means that she
is between both worlds without really knowing how to be a part of
either. Furthermore, Kingston feels different from her school
classmates and her own Chinese relatives.

Kingston has many difficulties
to identify herself with any of both cultures, for instance, the
typical characteristic of Chinese women, like speaking loudly, are
considered as non-feminine for the American natives. Another
difficulty for Kingston is that her own culture is filtered through
talk stories of her mother, as she tells Kingston what she wants and
Kingston herself never experienced fully her own culture. In the last
chapter of the book, Maxine Kingston rebels against her mother, as
realizes how sexist the Chinese are even in America and how her
mother told her what she wanted. She wants to tell her mother
everything that she did not dare to tell her and she makes an act of
resistance using her voice.

Maxine Hong Kingston feels
alienated from Chinese culture, due to the fact that the lack of
trust she notices in that culture, but she also leans on the Chinese
culture to identify herself and to give her a positive image of
herself. For example, in the story of “No name woman”, Maxine
uses her Aunt`s history to grow up on, learns to read her as a
forerunner of herself and Kingston sees her paternal aunt as a
heroine. This talk story is originally narrated as a cautionary tale
for Kingston from her mother, but she feels like it is an
emancipatory story, her aunt is a model for her and she uses it as a
positive thing. On the other hand, “White Tigers” is a mythic and
fantastic tale of filial piety, determination and strength of the
character Fa Mu Lan. This talk story narrates the story of Fa Mu Lan
a woman warrior who saved her family that disguised as a man to
recruit an army to destroy tyrants, so in this case, we could
determine that she uses this story to give her a positive self- image
and not feel so alienated from her culture.

There
are comic versions and tragic versions of the “Identity plot”,
but especially this novel is a comic version of this plot. In this
comic version of the plot, Kingston comes to peace with her identity.
Through the whole novel, Kingston is trying to find her identity as a
Chinese girl in America.
We
see Kingston at some of the most important moments and phases of her
life: as a quiet, insecure, and alienated young girl; as a rebellious
teenager who blames her mother for her problems; as a young adult,
separated from her past and finally she becomes a more mature person,
embracing her past and using it to find strength as a writer. She
comes to peace with her identity, because at the end, as mentioned
before, she embraces her culture and uses it as a positive thing, to
write. The book closes with the mythological character Tsai- Yen,
that is about intercultural translation and dialogue, and due to that
she moves away from the negativity she had for her mother and
language.

In conclusion, the novel “The
Woman Warrior” fits in this literary category, as there are many
aspects that make this novel to be included in the “Identity plot”.
These aspects include Maxine being a part of a minority, in this
case, the Chinese immigrants in America, Kingston being disturbed by
her difference from the Americans and Chinese immigrants… Finally,
this book could be included in the comic version of this kind of
convention, because at the end Maxine comes to peace with her
identity as a Chinese-American.

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