The Woman Warrior, written by Chinese-American author Maxine Hong Kingston, is a collection of five interconnected short stories that depict her personal and family experiences in the United States. The novel incorporates Chinese elements to make it culturally authentic, and Kingston particularly highlights moments of sexism and controversial Chinese politics. However, the misinterpretation and misuse of the Chinese folktale book undermines its cultural authenticity. Furthermore, I suspect that the book reinforces traditional stereotypes of Chinese people and is widely distorted due to the ideological conflict between capitalism and communism.
Instead of introducing genuine Chinese folk tales and historical stories, Kingston intentionally alters their styles and spiritual overtones to satisfy Westerners’ misguided assumptions about Chinese folk literature. For example, her story “White Tigers” depicts the legend of a woman warrior who rallies insurgent peasants to overthrow the old regime, and together they ultimately execute the evil landed aristocrats. This coin incorporates traditional Chinese legendary figures, including Yue Fei and Hua Mu Lan. Unsurprisingly, the use of these well-known Chinese elements manipulates foreigners and manages to persuade them that this fabricated piece is an authentic Chinese story. However, when comparing the message delivered in this synthesized story with the actual connotations of this Chinese folk tale and others, it is evident that Kingston irresponsibly altered the Chinese characters to suit his tale. The two central themes of “White Tigers” are feminism and revenge. Kingston uses female warrior leadership to illustrate the strong abilities of female characters, and she uses her protagonist’s execution of the Baron as a symbol of revenge against social inequality. Unlike authentic Chinese cultural history, neither the legend of Hua Mu Lan nor the story of Yue Fei illustrates either of these connotations. Instead, authentic tales reflect bravery, courage, and patriotism. In China, a legend is not considered a legend simply because its underlying meaning outweighs the description of the fantasy. Kingston’s misinterpretation and misuse of Chinese fables to appeal to foreign readers deviates from the essence of Chinese folk tales. Thus, such works harm China’s cultural identity and cannot represent authentic Chinese culture.
To reinforce the book’s feminist and sexist motifs, the author describes the rampant human trafficking in ancient China. While such descriptions help Kingston develop her character as a Western feminist, they provide no historical background and falsify the reality of Chinese history. For example, in the story “Shaman”, she depicts her mother buying a female slave at the market. Some of his accounts reveal his morbid, perverse and unsympathetic nature:
“I look at them with envy. My mother’s enthusiasm for me is duller than for the slave; nor did I replace the older brother and sister who died while still cuddling. up, I want to be a slave,” and my parents laughed, encouraging him. »
It is incredible that such words come from a published autobiography of a feminist. Kingston does not sympathize with the enslaved young women traded like commodities in the markets in this excerpt. Instead, she is selfishly jealous of the favor granted to the slave by her mother; even more irresponsibly, she doesn’t reflect on these misguided and apathetic thoughts in the rest of the book. Moreover, she does not tell readers that ordinary peasants in ancient China were so poor and bankrupt that they had to sell their children for temporary survival. Kingston doesn’t realize the brutal reality that when people can’t provide for themselves, there’s no room for kindness and morality. Unlike the characters in Kingston’s tales, the unfortunate parents of ancient China who had to sell their children never encouraged their offspring to become slaves. The decision to sell one’s children is an act born of misery, frustration and pain. I wonder if such a selfish, unsympathetic and ignorant person can be a feminist.
In addition to misrepresenting the author as a true feminist, The Woman Warrior reinforces Western stereotypes about the Chinese. Kingston intentionally calls Chinese people ignorant, ignorant and xenophobic. In their story “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe,” the family sees a medicine delivery man as an ominous omen and calls for “avenging this wrong on our future, our health, and our lives.” Chinese culture carries a long tradition of families hoping for health, peace and well-being. Many have made a strong connection between drugs and disease and are often unhappy discussing medical issues. In the story, Kingston converts the Chinese people’s genuine desire to live a healthy life into hostility against the drug delivery boy, suggesting that this ethnic group is unenlightened and unsophisticated.
Additionally, Kingston openly claims that the Chinese refer to foreigners as “ghosts”, further reiterating the stereotype that they are xenophobic. She claims, “But America has been full of machines and ghosts – Taxi Ghosts, Bus Ghosts, Police Ghosts, Fire Ghosts, Meter Reader Ghosts, Tree Trimming Ghosts, Five-and-Dime Ghosts.” Again, Kingston uses the general Western public’s ignorance of China’s suffering and humiliation between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. During this period, China suffered constant foreign invasion: the two Opium Wars, aggression by the Allied forces of the Eight Powers, and the Sino-Japanese Wars. Foreign invading forces burned, massacred, violated, and plundered the people and their lands. The most brutal atrocities took place in Nanjing in December 1937, where Japanese troops massacred 300,000 Chinese. Therefore, the beleaguered Chinese cursed them as “ghosts” to show their resentment against these violent invaders. However, without providing this essential historical context, Kingston portrays Chinese society as xenophobic and hostile.
As mainstream Western media are also known to do, Kingston maliciously employs propaganda tactics including sophistry, authoritarian logic, generalization, and even the brazen pretense of unjustifiably criticizing communism. For example, in the story “White Tigers”, the author claims that several uncles, as landlords, were tried and then “executed like the barons of the stories, when they were no barons”. Kingston uses the concept shift technique to confuse Western readers. She intentionally changes the term “owner” to “baron” and uses her concocted story as presumptive evidence to prove that the uncles were innocent villagers. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a baron is “a low-ranking male member of nobility”, while a proprietor is “a person or organization who owns a building or area of land and is paid for by other people to use it”. “A baron is an aristocrat – a nobleman – but a proprietor is not an individual of high birth. Kingston manipulates the slight difference between the terms baron and proprietor, attempting to justify that his uncles should not have undergone treatment Now a disturbing pattern, she again fails to provide historical context by omitting the fact that Chinese peasants were once treated atrociously by landlords, thereby misleading Western readers and attacking communism. immigrants these days were bandits, beating shop owners and robbing them rather than work. It must be the communists who taught them these habits.” Such ridiculous lies are so baseless that they cannot survive any logical deduction. Most of the immigrants who left China for the United States were opponents of communism Therefore, it is highly unlikely that they emulate the traits of the communist society they deliberately shunned.
As a 21st century reader who understands Chinese culture and history, I am deeply shocked and disheartened by Kingston’s overt distortion of Chinese culture to suit Western tastes; her selfish, shameless, and deceitful nature is hidden behind the guise of a Western feminist, and her arrogant statements are devoid of conscience. The content I digested in The Woman Warrior was never a true representation of Chinese cultural identity. Instead, I discovered a distorted view of Chinese culture, reinforcements of the Western world’s false stereotypes of Chinese people, and the hidden conflict between two rival ideologies.