Def(eye)ance

Maxine Hong Kingston throughout the Memoir, The Woman Warrior, makes it known how different American and Chinese cultures are. In chapter four “At the Western Palace” Kingston uses the relationship between Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid, the characteristics of the children, and marriage views to show differences between the cultures. Kingston creates a clear divide that distinguishes the way Brave Orchid’s family has been accustomed to American culture, and how Moon Orchid is not yet accustomed due to the fact that she has been living in Hong Kong.

Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid’s relationship is complicated due to the fact that they have been immersed in two different cultures most of their lives. Brave Orchid is bold is and dominant, where as Moon Orchid is timid and scared. For example on page 145, Moon Orchid is scared that if she shows up to her husband’s house, he may hit her. Moon Orchid says, “What if he hits me?” Her sister responds by saying, “I’ll hit him, I’ll protect you. I’ll hit him back. The two of us will knock him down and make him listen.” Later on, farther down the same page, Moon Orchid shows her timidness when she says, “That is a terrible thing to do. I’d be so scared. I am so scared” (Hong Kingston 145). Brave Orchid gets her courageousness from the way American society functions, and the actions that are widely accepted. Moon Orchid has fearfulness because she has lived without her husband in China for 30 years.

The children are another example of the cultural differences having to do with American society and the cultural norms of the Chinese society. On page 133, Moon Orchid says good morning to her nieces. They respond by saying “Good morning, Aunt” while looking her in the eye. Moon Orchard exclaims that “Even the girls stared at her like cat headed birds” (Hong Kingston 133). The storys says that “Moon Orchid jumped and squirmed when they did that. They looked directly into her eyes. Rude. Acuising. They never lowered their gaze; they hardly blinked” (Hong Kingston 133). In American culture, when children are talking to adults, they are to look them in the eyes as a sign of respect and acknowledgement. In the Chinese culture, looking someone in the eyes is an indication of defiance.

Lastly, marriage ideals show a difference in culture between Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid. Brave Orchid insists that Moon Orchid returns to her husband and steals him back from the woman he married in her absence. Yet, Moon Orchid is very hesitant of this idea. Brave Orchard says, “Your husband is going to have to see you. We’ll make his recognize you. Ha. Won’t it be fun?… She’ll scold him when he comes home from work, and it’ll serve him right. You yell at him too” (Hong Kingston 125). Moon Orchid comes back saying, “I’m scared. I want to go back to Hong Kong” (Hong Kingston 125). This shows the reader that Moon Orchid does not agree fully with the ways of the American culture, but she is being pushed into it anyway.

Overall, both American culture and Chinese culture have many differences. Throughout the story, Moon Orchid is thrown into the American social culture and is expected to pick it up immediately. Although as the reader knows, it is hard to fit into a culture that you have never been apart of. Moon Orchid tries her best to adapt, whereas Brave Orchid and her children have a hard time understanding why she doesn’t not fit in right away.

Discussion Questions:

What other quotes from the book show differences in cultural views? Either through the relationship between Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid, the childrens characteristics, marital views, or any other encounter in the text.

In what ways do the names ‘Brave Orchid’ and ‘Moon Orchid’ add to or contradict the character traits of each of woman?

Hong Kingston, Maxine. The Woman Warrior: Memoir Of A Girl Among Ghosts. New York, NY: Random House, Inc., 1989. Pp. 113-160.

28 thoughts on “Def(eye)ance”

  1. Hey Malley, great post. You stayed really focused on the sisters and analyzing how different they are. There is an obvious cultural difference here. Moon Orchid is not used to American lifestyle at all, it seems like she had no prior information on America and their customs. On page 150, Moon Orchid even insults Americans saying, “You Americans don’t take life seriously.” I think their names fit them perfectly. Brave Orchid is exactly how you say it, brave. On pages 149-151, the sisters go back and forth on getting Moon Orchids estranged husband back. Brave Orchid tells her sister how it is and wants her to get him back saying, “To go up there, of course. We’re at his office, and I think we ought to be very direct. There aren’t any tress to hide you, no grass to soften your steps. So, you walk right into his office. You make an announcement to the patients and the fancy nurses. You say, ‘I am the doctor’s wife. I’m going to see my husband.”…” (150) Brave Orchid doesn’t think her sister has anything to lose, her sister IS his wife and should not fear him. Moon Orchid’s name fits her because the moon is distant like her. She is from Hong Kong, that’s a very far place from America. She also just holds back and doesn’t express herself fully other than she’s scared.

  2. Hi, I really liked your post and I think you pointed out some really good cultural differences shown in this chapter. There was one part in this chapter that really confused me as to what culture it was meant to be coming from. On page 125, Brave Orchid is talking about Moon Orchid’s husband and how he has a second wife and Moon Orchid should confront him and tell him she is in the US. The one thing that Brave Orchid said that made no sense to me was “He’s living in Los Angeles with his second wife, and they have three children. Claim your rights. Those are your children. He’s got two sons. You have two sons. You take them away from her. You become their mother.” I’m not exactly sure what this is supposed to mean but that absolutely isn’t an American cultural thing. Brave Orchid is supposed to be the Americanized sister, but that is most definitely not an American thing. I don’t know if that is a Chinese cultural thing or if she just made it up and is a little crazy, but it most definitely is not an American thing to think you can take someone else’s kids because your husband is their father.

  3. Malley this chapter showed a great example of how American and Chinese culture are different, nevertheless, it was great how you analyzed it to show the difficulties the main character and her family went through. One of the biggest examples that were shown in this chapter that I think showed a great leap in the cultural identities of America and China, is the children staring at Moon Orchid. In the book, “The Woman Warrior”, on page 133, shew says “Why didn’t you teach your girls to be demure?”; this statement showed that staring in someone eyes in Chinese are shown as rude while, in American staring someone in the eyes is shown as a sign of respect and well-mannered. The character traits that are betrayed by Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid are very aggressive towards the children as well. They were very hands on with the children and seemed to judge every move they made. In Chinese culture the parents are very strict compared to the American culture, as well as, very hands on.

  4. Hey Malley, your post is very well done and focuses precisely on the contrast between the two characters. As you explained, there is a very distinct cultural difference between the two, as Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid could go as far as to be called opposites. While Brave Orchid is very upfront, direct, and harsh, Moon Orchid is very timid, shy, and unable to adapt to American life. The two are constantly opposing each other. The scene that was notable to me was the scene on page 125, where Moon Orchid is scared to return to her husband. This scene truly illustrates the differences in their cultures, especially their marriage ideals. The fear that Moon Orchid holds is almost ridiculous to Brave Orchid, and she tells Moon Orchid she will protect her if her husband tries to hit her. This scene stood out to me because for me, personally, it epitomizes the differences in culture and character between the two.

  5. Hey Malley, I really liked how you brought up that Brave Orchids daughters were perceived to be rude and accusatory by Moon Orchid because of their maintained eye contact with her. Growing up, it was a staple to maintain eye contact and be assertive in what I was saying and making sure the other person was aware of the fact that I was attentive to what they were saying- I’ve never considered that a form of American culture. I thought that when Moon Orchid asked her sister why she didn’t raise her daughters to be more demure and Brave Orchid responded with saying they are, it was even more prevalent how accustomed to that particular American custom Brave Orchid had become. “Why didn’t you teach your girls to be demure?” she ventured. “Demure!” Brave Orchid yelled. “They are demure. They’re so demure, they barely talk.” (p. 133)

  6. Hi Malley, you made really great points about the different cultures and the effects they had on the two sisters. When you started talking about how different the cultures are I thought of the scene on page 134, where Moon Orchid complimented one of her nephews. The response she gets from her nephew surprises her, “‘Thank you,’ the child said. When she complimented them, they agreed with her! Not once did she hear a child deny a compliment (Kingston 134)”. The cultural difference made this hard to believe for Moon Orchid. In Chinese culture, receiving a compliment should be taken with modesty; at first denying it. But in America, people are encouraged to take and accept compliments, and to be confident in who they are. These subtle differences start to add up through this chapter to emphasize the differences in Chinese and American culture; and differences between Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid.

  7. Hey Malley, I think your Blog posts made some really nice points. I think your thesis is spot that Kingston uses the relationship between Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid to show just how different they view marriage between their american cultural and Chinese culture. I think Moon orchard knew how different these two culture were but when she got their she wasn’t mentally ready to see all the changes that her husband had gone through. “He’ll be here any moment. but this only made Moon Orchid groan louder, and tears seeped out between her closed eye lids”(Kingston, 151). I think the scene on page 132 and 133 showed the most culture differences. Moon orchid had just meant braves Orchards children and her first reaction was not pleasant. “None of Braves children was happy like two real Chinese babies had died”( Kingston 134). She also tried to give them all sorts of compliments because in Chinese culture compliments are taken with modesty, but with these children they took every compliment they were given as if they already knew. “She tried all kinds of compliments, and they never said oh no, you’re too kind. They can’t play it at all”(Kingston 134) This just shows the lack of knowledge that these children have about the Chinese Culture and Moon Orchid was not shy of her opinion of them.

    1. Hi Dan. Your example of the differing attitudes towards compliments is great, just make sure you are proofreading your comments. There are a few distracting errors scattered throughout and you want to make sure they don’t get in the way of a reader understanding your important ideas! Also, all quotes need to be introduced, not freestanding (the MLA citation handout can help with this).

  8. Hey Malley, great analysis and focus on the sisters. I wish to add to your arguement with a quote that I feel showcases the sisters early on in this chapter, “What are we going to do about your husband?” Brave Orchid asked quickly.” (124) to which Moon Orchid answers her sister- seemingly confused by her question- with, “I don’t know. Do we have to do something?” (124) I found this to be almost sad on Moon Orchid’s part. She comes from a culture that gives her no reason or way really to take back her husband and her timid nature does not help. To me this part really speaks to Moon Orchid having grown more into a “lover” while Brave Orchid grew into a “fighter” due to the differences and limitations of the cultures they have spent most of their lives in.

  9. Hey Malley, I thought you explained the differences in culture between Americans and Chinese and how that affected the sisters really well. The names Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid I think were perfect fits for the characters. Brave Orchid is seen as tough, brave, and courageous; while Moon Orchid is shy, timid, and passive. An example that many people have used but is a really good one is when Moon Orchid is nervous about seeing her husband who has a second wife. In the scene on page 124-125 she is so nervous about telling him she is there and seeing and confronting him. Moon says, “Do you think he will get angry at me because I came without telling him?”(pg 125) Also at one point she even suggests that she shouldn’t even be there (in the US). On the other hand Brave Orchid is more aggressive and pushing for Moon to call out her husband, on page 125 Brave says, “How can you let him get away with this? Bother him. He deserves to be bothered. How dare he marry somebody else when he has you?” The way Brave stands up and tells Moon that she needs to confront him, and let her husband know he is in the wrong just shows that her name fits perfect with her personality. The same goes for Moon and how passive and indecisive she is, not knowing what to do or if it will blow up in her face.

  10. Hey Malley! I think you did such a great job with your blog post. I really love that you pointed out how the author shows the clear differences between Chinese culture and American Culture. I also though that bringing up Moon Orchid and Brave Orchid was really important in showing the culture difference. You also used great examples to show the characteristics of Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid. The examples showed that Moon Orchid is very scared and timid, there are plenty of times where she tells us that she is scared. The example you used from page 145 when Moon Orchid was scared to go see her husband in fear that she may be hit was a really good portrayal of her character as well as Brave Orchids character. Brave orchid responds that she will hit him back, which is a perfect portrayal of her character as well. The way you compare Chinese and American marriage also worked perfectly with this blog post. Overall, I thought you made some really good points and comparisons. Great Job!

    1. Hi Katherine. It’s clear from this comment that you enjoyed Malley’s post, but for future comments try to include additional examples from the text that either support or complicate the author’s argument. For example, you could include one of “plenty of times where she tells us that she is scared.”

  11. Hey Malley, I really enjoyed reading and analyzing your post! It was very well thought out and put together to formulate ideas that are supported by evidence. I agree that there are many differences in American and Chinese culture. The Brave Orchids are upfront and direct while the Moon Orchid is very indirect and shy to the American culture. The two lifestyles are extremely different and there are many instances that we see this. In Chinese culture, eye contact is a form of disrespect but in American culture this is a form of respect and this is just one example of the vast differences in cultures: “They looked directly into her eyes as if they were looking for lies. Rude. Accusing.” (Kingston 133). The way you compared the two cultures was a great job and a well done blog! I really enjoyed the read!

  12. Hi Malley, Awesome job comparing the two sisters. I love how you showed how each character represented a different culture. Such as Moon Orchard being American culture and Brave Orchard being Chinese culture. The characteristics of these two characters explained above, seem to be spot on. On page 124-125 Moon Orchard tends to be portrayed as shy and even timid. This is all because she is going to meet her husband who happens to have a second wife. Moon says, “Do you think he will get angry at me because I came without telling him?”(Kingston 125). This quote shows how she is nervous and doesn’t know what will happen to her because she showed up unannounced. Whereas Brave Orchard is bold and doesn’t mind what people tend to think. “To go up there, of course. We’re at his office, and I think we ought to be very direct. There aren’t any trees to hide you, no grass to soften your steps. So, you walk right into his office. You make an announcement to the patients and the fancy nurses. You say, ‘I am the doctor’s wife. I’m going to see my husband.”…” (Kingston 150). To me, this quote shows a great representation of Brave Orchard. I think you did an awesome job and I really loved reading your blog post!

  13. Malley, your blog post was clearly well thought out and worded nicely, showing clear examples of the contrast between the two sisters. I think that the customs of the American “way of living” if you will, come as a shock to Moon Orchid, with the direct way of approaching a situation, that Brave Orchid has adapted to, but Moon Orchid still is hesitant and timid. An example of this is on page 144, where Kingston writes “Yes, coming with you would be exciting. I can charge through the door and say, ‘Where is your wife?’ And he’ll answer, ‘Why she’s right here.’ And I’ll say, ‘This isn’t you wife. Where is Moon Orchid?” Brave Orchid’s idea of how to approach her brother-in-law is the complete opposite of Moon Orchid’s idea, which is to not only avoid her husband, but to return to China. I think their names work well with their character attributes as well. Brave Orchid is just that, brave, straight forward, and driven, while, like Bella said, Moon Orchid is distant like the moon, and also like the moon, is forced to go through change, regardless of if she/it wants to or not.
    Again, great post, and great questions!

    1. Hi Brooke. This is an excellent example of how Brave Orchid is imagining the confrontation between Moon Orchid and her husband, which says a lot about Brave Orchid as a dramatic storyteller (who maybe has seen too many soap operas). Just don’t forget to use MLA in-text citations!

  14. Hi Malley!
    I think you made some really goo points in your block post. There are clear cultural differences between Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid. Kingston touches upon cultural differences a lot in this novel. I love how you showed the reprsentations of each of the two. The name of each of the sisters works well with their character attributes, as Moon is more timid, and Brave is more outgoing. Moon Orchid has an American culture whereas Brave Orchid has a Chinese culture. Both of these characters are defined by their relationships with their husbands, and I think that’s super ironic. The example you used on page 145 about Moon Orchid perfectly portrays her shy and timid nature, specifically in regards to her husband. I think Kingston wanted Moon Orchid and Brave Orchid to be completely different in order to illustrate the differences between American and Chinese cultures.

    1. Hi Paige. Keep in mind that you need to introduce an additional quote from the reading that either supports or complicates the author’s argument in order to receive credit for your comments. I would love to see some examples and hear more about your idea that “Both of these characters are defined by their relationships with their husbands, and I think that’s super ironic.”

  15. Hi Malley I enjoyed your blog post very much. Moon Orchid’s interaction with Brave Orchid’s young Americanized children shows the different cultural views and values between American and Chinese culture. For example, “Thank You,” the child said. When she complimented them, they agreed with her! Not once did she hear a child deny a compliment. “You’re pretty,” she said. “Thank you, Aunt,” they answered. How vain. She marveled at their vanity.” This quote shows the clash between the values of Chinese culture vs American culture. Brave Orchid’s children simply accepted the compliments without any objection, and lacking any humble attitude in response to receiving the compliments. In this scene, Moon Orchid is testing the children to see how vain they truly are, and they ultimately show how pompous they are by saying thank you in an agreeable manner rather than an appreciative one. This really makes the children come across as self centered.

  16. Hi Malley, great post I enjoyed reading it! I really like how you focused on the two sisters and talking about how different each of them are in their own ways and their cultural views. I feel as if this chapter and really the whole book really focus on the American and Chinese cultural differences. I like how in your post you focused on both sides rather than just one or the other. While reading your blog post one of the moments from this chapter that came to mind was the scene on page 134 that was also mentioned in another comment, where Moon Orchid gives a compliment to one of her nephews and the reaction she gets from her nephew isn’t what she would expect from him. He says “Thank you” which doesn’t seem like something so surprising but if you come from a different culture it may be. When she complimented them she wasn’t expecting the response she got she was expecting them to deny a compliment which never happened. I think this scene especially emphasizes the cultural differences and how the difference doesn’t have to be something huge it can be as small as the way we talk to each other.

    1. Hi Brooke. I like this idea about compliments, but several commenters have already said something similar! For future comments, see if you can add something to the conversation that hasn’t been said already.

  17. I think the first page shows an example in the differences amongst cultures. When Brave Orchid when to pick Moon Orchid up from the airport, this was reflected. Hong says, “Her American children could not sit for very long. They did not understand sitting; they had wandering feet. She hoped they would get back from the pay TV’s or the pay toilets or wherever they were spending their money before the plane arrived” (p.113). It is common in American culture that people wander and spend money. Shopping is a common activity in American culture, where in Chinese culture, very few time is spent aimlessly shopping or “window shopping,” which is looking at stuff but not actually buying it. Shopping is not a common activity in Chinese culture.

    1. Hi N’kele. Are you sure that shopping is not a common activity in Chinese culture? Do you have a source or evidence to support that claim? Keep in mind that, in this class, we are working to provide evidence to support every claim that we make.

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