2010
12.09

Silenced

In this last section of The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston grants us with an account of her experiences growing up.  Of the many strange aspects of her life, her inability to communicate seems to be the most troubling.  Burdened by the over-bearing presence of her mother, who’s voice was “strong and bossy”, Maxine was unable to explore and develop her own voice out of fear.  She feared that the Chinese “would capture [her] voice for their own use”.  This fear eventually led to her inability to speak at all.  Upon entering school, Maxine reports feeling powerless, unable to communicate with her peers and only daring to speak when she was reading out loud, simply because she “did not have to make up what to say”.  I feel that this line is critical to the understanding of Maxine’s silence, as it reveals that it wasn’t simply that she was unable to speak, it was that she had serious difficulty in expressing her thoughts, finding the words that could adequately represent her feelings.  Perhaps the reason for this that where no words for her to use, nothing in the English or Chinese language that could express the state of being in-between two opposing cultures.  Her ability to communicate would not flourish until she was able to break free from the expectations of her culture, separate herself from her oppressive heritage and embrace an education and a life of her own in the country of her birth.  This seems to strike at the heart of The Woman Warrior, as I see it as an attempt to convey the struggle of reconciling two distinct backgrounds, and to find the words that speak for the individual who is in-between them.

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