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No Name Women

In: English and Literature

Submitted By alex52504la
Words 713
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English 101: The Craft of Language
11 October 2013
Traditional Values: Analysis of Maxine Kingston’s “No Name Woman” As a member of the Chinese community, each person is to observe and uphold the traditional values set by the generations of people before them. In Kingston’s, “No Name Woman” she writes about her aunt in China who ultimately goes against her communities values and traditions and is forced to commit suicide after bringing shame upon her village. Through imagination, the narrator tries to visualize the harsh life that her aunt probably had while living in China with an illegitimate child. To illustrate this struggle, Kingston uses the reoccurring theme of silence, conflicts between the individual and the community and the unfair discrimination of women to show what it was like to be the “No Name Women” during this time. The theme of silence is shown in both the beginning and ending of “No Name Women”. The opening lines, “You must not tell anyone” (77) is said by the narrator’s mother when she tells the story of her father’s forgotten sister. By not having a name this allows Kingston to make up an identity for what the aunt’s life was like, because no one could tell her what actually happened. Not only is this silenced used to forget about the narrator’s immoral aunt but the continuous silence has now completely removed her from the family, causing her to become a ghost. This ghost now haunts the narrator after many years: “My aunt haunts me-her ghost drawn to be because now, after fifty years or neglect, I alone devote pages of paper to her” (90). The Chinese have a strict moral code and tradition, to not follow these ways would upset the whole balance of the village. In this case, the narrator’s aunt was the one who challenged these traditions. Her most prevalent act of defiance was when she brought shame to her village by having an illegitimate child while he husband was in America. This caused an outrage in the village, causing them to raid her house and destroy everything inside, “The villagers punished her for acting as if she could have a private life, secret and apart from them” (87). The narrator also describes how the village has a certain balance and because of her defying aunt, the raid had to have taken place; “In the village structure, spirits shimmered among the live creatures, balanced and held in equilibrium by time and land. But one human being flared up into violence could open up a black hole, a maelstrom that pulled in the sky” (86). In this cruel society women one play one role and that is to uphold the tradition while the men worked. In these villages women had almost no rights. The narrator says, “Women in the old China did not choose. Some man had commanded her to lie with him and be his secret evil” (81). This tells the reader that it might not have even been that aun’ts fault for the pregnancy, that it could have been forced by someone in the village. She goes on to say how women were treated almost like a commodity. When married Chinese women move into their husbands’ parents’ house. After learning about the child Kingston says, “Her husband’s parents could have sold her, mortgaged her, stoned her” (82), this shows how she was treated more like and object that a human being. Lastly, when the narrator talks about the birth of the child she also says how “It was probably a girl; there is some hope of forgiveness for boy” (89). Stating how even as newborns, girls are set aside to a different class of person from men. In Chines culture women and men are not treated as equals. The “No Name Women’s” life was already unpleasant as it was, but the unwanted pregnancy completely changed her and her village’s way of living, which in the end caused her to take her and he newborn’s life. Kingston proves that the life of the narrator’s aunt was indeed difficult because of her personal conflicts with the village, the mistreatment of women in Chinese society and the fact that her own family would rather choose to completely forget about her and her existence.

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