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Date QW Written: August 17, 2015
During the unexpected attack of the quiet girl in A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe, readers get the ultimate sense of the oppression Kingston experiences in her life. The attack represents Kingston’s struggle to find the harmony and translation in her culturally dichotomous life. The struggle represented as a day-to-day struggle. With an imposing mother incessantly reminding Kingston to stay true to her Chinese roots and “home” in China, Kingston can’t help but feel pressured when she seeks to be the ideal of “American-feminine” as a Chinese girl.
Therefore, when she sees the quiet girl who reminds her of herself, Kingston’s anger is dormant no longer. In the attack, Kingston represents her mother in her own life. Kingston states how she hates the fragility of the girl (pg. 176) an idea instilled in her by her mother, who is strong and a doctor who exorcises ghosts. The attack is the climax of Kingston’s struggle against discovering and accepting her identity. During a part of the attack, Kingston calls the girl dumb and asks her what her life will result in if she remained quiet forever. In a sense, Kingston’s diatribe is reflecting her own fears as a Chinese-American girl, who, too, struggles with this loss of voice in translation.
The attack becomes so emotional that she ends up crying because she finally lets out her true feelings. In expressing her anger and attacking the quiet girl, Kingston is symbolically attacking herself. Kingston feels words are not enough. She has to physically harm the girl, pinching her papery cheeks and pulling her hair, to finally let her burden fall — the burden of being a Chinese-American girl. By the end of the attack, Kingston is ineffably calm when she explains to the quiet girl’s older sister that their family should really force the quiet girl to speak. Kingston’s struggle was temporarily over at this point. She had released her anger of the inner struggle, but this climatic attack somewhat leads her to a resigned peace. This resigned peace ultimately allows Kingston to write this novel and tell the story of Tsai Yen (a story of acculturation) to find the blend of her own culture, still moving in struggle but nevertheless, a blend.