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No Name Woman

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No Name Woman Analysis Essay

As part of the first generation of Chinese-Americans, Maxine Hong Kingston writes about her struggle to distinguish her cultural identity through an impartial analysis of her aunt's denied existence. In her memoir, No Name Woman, Kingston analyzes the possible reasons behind her disavowed aunt's dishonorable pregnancy and her village's subsequent raid upon her household. With a bold statement that shatters the family restriction to acknowledge the exiled aunt, Kingston dedicates her essay imagining the different scenarios her aunt could have gone through. With this premeditated declaration, Kingston rebelliously breaks the family's cultural taboo to mention the exiled aunt. Because a strict Chinese culture fails to be practical in American society, Kingston defiantly acknowledges the existence of her aunt's life because she understands that her lost Chinese values as imposed by her family parallels her aunt's capital crime to her village. By using vivid imagery, complex sentences, and use of rhetorical questions in her writing, Kingston is able to express her anger and frustration due to a cultural clash between her orthodox Chinese traditions and modern views and what is considered right and wrong in the society she is growing up in.

By effectively describing the villager's hostile and brutal actions taken towards her aunt during pregnancy, and showing their cruelty, Kingston is able to invoke specific images in the reader's mind that help her display animosity towards her Chinese culture and bring out specific emotions from the reader. While trying to understand her culture's view on adultery she eventually states that "adultery is extravagance...[then the village] people, who hatch their own chicks and eat embryos and the heads for delicacies and boil the feet in vinegar for party food...eating even the gizzard lining... [would not] engender a prodigal aunt" (224). By using sensory words and phrases to help the reader visualize a scene, Kingston displays the Chinese villagers to be savage-like, invested in their own culture and traditions, and mostly unable to respect the aunt's personal decision and choice, something that every woman deserves. Kingston uses words that are sharp and extremely direct in their nature and form, which brings out a sense of anger and violence towards the villagers. She continuously describes throughout this memoir, the passiveness of the aunt, and how "to be a woman, to have a daughter in starvation time was a waste enough.." and any action that was taken, "some man had commanded," because "women in the old China did not choose," (224) what they could stand for. The aunt is used in a symbolic way, representing the inferiority and powerless status women hold in China. Kingston defines the aunt in an apathetic and destitute manner by expressing the helplessness of the aunt and creating false scenarios of the aunt's past. Therefore when the villagers mistreat the aunt, Kingston is disheartened, and uses the aunt to symbolize the idea that women must stick to their culture and if a mistake is made they would be forgotten. This infuriating tone created by Kingston's intense imagination, creates a doubt in her mind whether this traditional culture she is being brought up in is relevant to the generation she is growing up with, where women have a voice and power.

When retelling the story of her aunt from her mom's perspective, Kingston uses short and simple sentences, as not to give too much important to what her mother says. When speaking in her aunt's defense and telling the many different scenarios she envisioned her aunt in, Kingston adds more complexity to her words often using commas, compound and complex sentence structures, which adds an emotional aspect to her argument. By creating this contrast she is able to express her affection and sympathy for her aunt while, despising her Chinese culture, that eventually forced her own family to disown her aunt. As Kingston recalls her mother's words how "in China [Kingston's] father had a sister who killed herself," (221) she uses bluntness and short sentences, which represents the harshness of her Chinese culture by creating an emotional impact on the reader. When reading these broken, chopped up sentences, the reader is shown the tone of the passage and how Kingston doesn't give much importance to her mother's perspective of the disgrace her aunt brought upon her family. In contrast, when Kingston creates her own imaginary scenarios of her aunt, she describes her as a delicate lovebird who, "to sustain her being in love, she often worked at herself in the mirror, guessing at the colors and shapes that would interest him..." (226). Kingston's variety in sentences helps create a tone that presents the cultural difference between the western world and her mother's traditional Chinese values by eloquently elaborating on the nature of the sentences which gives importance and detail to her imaginative ideas. The brief remarks Kingston makes when quoting her mother and the villagers shows how cold the society really is and how it will demand conformity without reason or resistance. On the other hand, Kingston refers to her aunt with a professional and profound nature while her mother speaks powerful, hurtful, and blatantly rude words demoralizing this deceased aunt.

By the use of rhetorical questions in her writing, Kingston is able to defend her aunt, while questioning



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