The Lonely Woman

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston starts out with a powerful chapter called “No Name Woman.” Kingston covers many topics in this short, 13 page chapter. Everything from cultural differences between China and America, to stories from her childhood and finally, to what this blog post will focus on, the treatment and views of women in Chinese culture. The most shining example of this is the story of the author’s aunt, who inspired the name of the chapter.

The chapter begins with the author’s mother telling her that her “father had a sister who killed herself. She jumped into the family well. We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born” (3). As the chapter goes on we find out that the aunt had gotten pregnant while her husband was away in America. The day the aunt was meant to give birth the villagers raided her family home, destroying their belongings and killing their animals. The aunt gave birth alone that night in the pig’s pen after her family kicked her out yelling “ghost! Dead ghost! Ghost! You’ve never been born” (14). They next morning they found her and the baby dead in the bottom of the family well.

The most striking part of all of this to me was when the author explains that the aunt was most likely raped by someone in the village. She says, “the other man was not, after all, much different from her husband. They both gave orders: she followed. ‘If you tell your family, I’ll beat you. I’ll kill you. Be here again next week'” (7). The aunt never said the name of the father, not that it would have mattered anyways. There was no sympathy for her being raped, no respect for her from the man, her family, or her village. There was no support for her, no understanding. She was discarded from the family to the point that no one will speak her name. She took her and her child’s life knowing that there was no one there to support them for something she had no control over.

Rape culture in America is a big problem, but not to this extent, or so I’d like to think. The lack of respect for women is clearly shown in this story. No woman should ever have to experience that kind of pain and loneliness. To be blamed and punished for something that is by no means her fault is heartbreaking. To not even have your own family stand behind you and support you creates a loneliness beyond compare. This story was one of the most blatant examples of how women are treated and viewed in this culture, but it is by no means the only example in this chapter.

What other examples did you notice that highlights the views of women in Chinese culture?

Can you find any connections between this book and any of the other readings we’ve done so far this semester, in regards to the treatment of women in different cultures?

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior. Random House, 1975.

7 thoughts on “The Lonely Woman”

  1. Hey Mackenzie, I liked your post, especially when you stated, “The most striking part of all of this to me was when the author explains that the aunt was most likely raped by someone in the village. ” I agreed with how striking this was because a particular line on page 6 in which Kingston wrote, “He was not a stranger because the village housed no strangers… His demand must have surprised, then terrified her. She obeyed him; she always did as she was told.” I feel like this trauma is infinitely scarier when its someone you know, deal with in the regular and have to continue to see. I can only imagine the paralyzing fear that the woman felt.

  2. Mackenzie,
    You used great examples from the text to explain your point. When I began reading, I wasn’t expecting a story like this one. The blatant brutal honesty that came with the text was shocking. Women historically have been treated with a lack of respect. I think that the “No Name Women” put that into new perspective. For example on page 5 it is written, “Now that you have started to menstruate, what happened to her could happen to you. Don’t humiliate us.” The mother is not telling her daughter to be safe, but instead warning her that if she gets pregnant that she will be a disgrace to the family. Nevertheless, its seems as though it is always the women’s fault. Never did the mother warn the daughter about men who may try to hurt her or rape her.

    Women for the most part have always been treated as lesser than men. They are more often to be harassed in the work place, their wages are significantly lower then men, and generally when they try to speak up about an issue such as rape they are shut down and not believed. I don’t think this directly relates to ‘A Raisin in the Sun’, but I think that it could be shown through the fact that Mama and Ruth had jobs working in other peoples homes doing domestic work. Due to the fact that they were African American and during the time period thats the only job they could find.

    Malley

  3. Mackenzie, I really liked how you introduced the story while introducing the idea of rape culture. When reading the book, it broke my heart that there was a possibility that she had been raped, yet her family shunned her for it to the point where she killed herself. Even after, they had no sympathy for her, which made me sick. On page 16 Maxine Hong Kingston said, ” People who can comfort the dead can also chase after them to hurt them further-a reverse ancestor worship. The real punishment was not the raid swiftly inflicted by the villagers, but the family’s deliberately forgetting her.” To them, their feelings on rape and rape culture were so severe and so important, that they failed to realize, comfort or even try to save someone who was hurting in more than one way.

    1. Hi Mackenzie! This was a great post and you touched upon the issue of the treatment and views of women very well. I agree with you when you said this is a powerful story in only 13 pages. It is loaded with examples of how the culture views women and how they are mistreated. The main focus of the story was on the aunt, but the mother also tells some of her stories that show the abuse toward women. On the bottom of page 9, her mother told her about having their feet bound; “Sisters used to sit on their beds and cry together, she said, as their mothers or their slaves removed the bandages for a few minutes each night and let the blood gush back into their veins” (9). This shows that women and girls were constantly mistreated and abused. In the case of her aunt, she shows the total extreme of the culture and how brutal and wrong it was. In this Chinese culture, women were always being mistreated and abused. And when Kingston acknowledges her aunt’s story, she is bringing to light the horrors she went through, and acknowledging that she lived; something that her family never did.

  4. Hi Mackenzie!
    I think you examples from the novel really reflect the point that you’re trying to get across. I think this first chapter of “The Woman Warrior,” by Maxine Hong Kingston, strongly illustrates different aspects of women in Chinese culture. One part that stood out to me, was when the narrator was describing beauty, and different means of attaining beauty in Chinese culture. On page 9, the narrator tells of how her mother used rip out her hair in order to maintain her beauty. “She pulled the thread away from her skin, ripping the hairs our neatly, her eyes watering from the needles of pain”(9). The mother then continued on to say that the daughter were “lucky we didn’t have to have our feet bound when we were seven”(9). Historically, feet binding was done to women in Chinese culture, in order to make them more beautiful. Kingston did a good job illustrating views of women in Chinese culture, and the standards they are expected to uphold. They must be beautiful, but not too beautiful, which is an impossible standard to achieve. Chinese women were, and still are often times mistreated and abused, and Kingston highlights this in the first chapter of her novel, “The Woman Warrior.”

  5. Hey Mackenzie! Your blog post could not have been more well done- I agree with every aspect of it. When I read the scene where it is implied the father’s sister is raped, I was in complete shock as well. Reading the horrific backstory of this deceased aunt, it took me a while to come to terms with the truth of it all- women, especially in different cultures such as Chinese, women are treated poorly, as though they’re not there. The part where she gave birth and got screamed “ghost! you were never born” (etc) confirmed my feeling that they were treated as mom existent. The part about menstruation really struck me as well, because it made me realize how inferior women were viewed as. The first chapter in and of itself is truly a compact, emotional start.

  6. I love this post.

    I find so much that I relate to what Kingston says despite our vast differences.

    Her aunt she describes so describes many women in the world, past and present and sadly future too. It’s known- yet not spoken of- that women always get the short end of the stick no matter how hard we fight. Women in other countries are not so fortunate to even get the chance to fight. Instead they are beaten, raped, disowned, and have countless other horrors thrust upon them.

    This hit me hard on a personal level. To have “no name” and be forgotten and to seek the only way out she knew. For her it was death, for me it is a masked facade that makes me seem hardened and cold.

    To force someone to such a point as death is almost to kill them yourself. No punishment will ever allow you to atone for that.

    The fact that they shunned her instead of helping her is proof enough of that. “People who can comfort the dead can also chase after them to hurt them further- a reverse ancestor worship. The real punishment was not the raid swiftly inflicted by the villagers, but the family’s deliberately forgetting her.” (16)

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