Woman Warrior Essay, Research Paper
Maxine Hong Kingston reflects upon her childhood by starting off the second half of the book in titling it At the Western Palace. The irony of the title is that Kingston s family thought that they were bringing her aunt into a better lifestyle from a Communist country. However this proved not to be true. Living in the United States cannot be compared to living in a palace because Moon Orchid lived an easier life in China.
Not only was work hard in America but it was also extremely difficult for a Chinese family to assimilate. The transition into American culture is hard because of differences in beliefs, language and custom.
The first reason why their transition into was difficult is because of the differences between Chinese and American beliefs. Brave Orchid s traditional beliefs did not diminish although she was living in America. This was displayed when Brave Orchid confronted Moon Orchid s husband. Brave Orchid in her Chinese upbringing assumed Moon Orchid could just take her place as the first wife of her husband once she arrived in America. Although in China polygamy was overlooked, she did not realize that it is not accepted in western culture. Another belief that Brave Orchid has is that Americans are barbarians. Even though she believes this, she knows that she cannot return to China for her children were born amongst ghosts and are themselves ghost – like. Brave Orchid also believes that the ghost use new plastic in airports to lure immigrants into feeling safe and spilling secrets. This is further explained when she states that the Alien Office could send them right back (p. 115). Another statement made by Brave Orchid that shows the importance of keeping secret is, There were secrets never to be said in front of ghosts, immigration secrets whose telling could also get us sent back to China (p. 183). Kingston explains that since they cannot trust Americans it is impossible for Chinese parents to trust their children with their secrets. Kingston continues by saying, How can Chinese keep any traditions at all? They don t even make [us] pay attention, slipping in a ceremony and clearing the table before [we] notice specialness (p. 185). Many times the American born children would ask about their customs but they were never answered. Consequently they became apathetic towards the place their parents called home.
The second difficulty addressed in the latter of this book is the differences in language. Kingston describes the difficulty of speaking a new language when she states, When I went to kindergarten and had to speak English for the first time, I became silent (p. 165). On account of the fact that she did not speak in kindergarten the teacher assumed she was dumb and therefore failed her. This failure represents her failure to be American at a young age. Because of her silence as a child she continued to fear speaking to anyone outside of her family. Further more her parents spoke only in Chinese, for that reason she did not have the opportunity to speak English until she attended kindergarten. This brought on a fear she of not being able to speak the language of her birth home properly. Although she spoke Chinese, her tongue was of an American tone thus showing signs that she was not at all Chinese and sounded funny to those within the Chinese culture.
The last difficulty mentioned is the differences between Chinese and American customs. Kingston states, Her bad boy and bad girl were probably sneaking hamburgers, waiting their money (p. 115). These actions carried out by the children demonstrated them straying from their Chinese culture while still they never quite felt American. The Chinese also believed that luck could be affected by almost anything including mistakes made by Americans. An example of such is shown when a delivery person mistakenly delivered medicine to Kingston s house. To rectify the mistake, Maxine was forced to go to the drug store for candy to sweeten the bad luck that the medicine brought. My mother thought she taught the Druggist Ghosts a lesson in good manners (which is the same word as traditions ) (p. 171). The pharmacist did not understand such customs and just like the American born Chinese, he did not know why she needed candy. From that point on he assumed she wanted the candy because her family was poor and at every visit he would give the family candy.
In conclusion, the difference between Chinese and American beliefs, language and culture makes it hard for the Americanized children of immigrants to know where they belong. Chinese-American identity as illustrated by the novel cannot be easily defined. This created an entire race of people who will always feel lost in between the American and Chinese culture.