The Woman Warrior QW 3: Strength

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Date QW Written: August 19, 2015

Prompt: (TBA)


With a title of The Woman Warrior, readers can easily see that the novel will address femininity and strength, not as a dichotomy but as one. Kingston creatively and effectively does so in White Tigers when she retells the story of Fa Mulan. While her physical strength is apparent in her ability to fight off starvation and to lead an army of her village men. Fa Mulan’s greatest strength is her mental strength. After she returns to her parents after her training in the mountains, her parents perform a ceremony that consists of carving names into her back but she refused to cry out. This refusal reflects her strength and her ability to carry the heaviest burden — revenge. Through this symbolic event, Fa Mulan represents the ideal strong woman — one who did not sacrifice her femininity to gain strength. 

A second instance of strength in the novel is Brave Orchid’s experience with the sitting ghost during her time at To Keung School. While many of her peers displayed the cowardly aspect of suspicion, Brave Orchid was essentially fearless of the ghost. After deciding to sleep in the haunted room, Brave Orchid meets the ghost and is slightly terrified but overcomes the fear. Using the power of words, Brave Orchid insults the ghosts with names and threats. The next day, Brave Orchid displays even more strength when she enlists the help of her classmates to exorcise the ghost. At this point, Brave Orchid may seem an epitome of strength but with her move to America, she loses her status and becomes the reality of a strong woman. 

The third instance of strength is Kingston’s greatest outburst against her mother in the final chapter. After years of trying to tell her mother her lists of feelings and thoughts only met with the reproach of telling her to remain silent, Kingston can no longer remain submissive. In her outburst at the dinner table, Kingston addresses nearly every fear, insult, and lie her mother — the seemingly strongest of women — had instilled in her. Kingston bravely uses the words and voice she once lacked to fight her mother. Kingston reveals that this strength is the strength that allows her to fight her oppressive mother. In this case, Kingston is the anomaly in the ideal of of a strong woman — a weak woman who uses her words to be strong. 

Score: 18


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