The Woman Warrior QW 4: No-Name Woman

Note: Click here for more information on Quick Writes, the works I respond to, and disclaimers. Mistakes were kept unchanged. Also, spoilers ahead.

Date QW Written: August 20, 2015

Prompt: (TBA)


In The Woman Warrior, Kingston’s mother is the narrator of both stories of “cut tongue” and the talk-story about No-Name Woman. The irony in her mother’s role is that she is both a voice — enabler, in cutting Kingston’s tongue, and a voice-oppressor, in telling the story of the No-Name Woman. In the last chapter, when Kingston confronts her mother about the purpose in cutting the frenum of Kingston’s tongue. Kingston’s mother claims to do so to keep Kingston from ever getting tongue-tied. As a woman who finds any reason to talk-story, Kingston’s mother would be the one to try and help her daughter find her voice. Yet, Kingston’s mother and her actions are contradictory. Immediately after Kingston and her mother’s conversation about the cutting of the tongue, Kingston’s mother tells Kingston to “quit blabbering and get to work.” While Kingston’s mother hopes to give a voice to Kingston, Kingston’s mother wants to control what the voice speaks. 

This contradiction shows again in Kingston’s mother telling of the No-Name Woman. Kingston’s mother, the women who wanted to enable Kingston’s voice by cutting her tongue, also stifles the voice of another woman, No-Name Woman, by taking away not only her story but her name. All Brave Orchid says about Kingston’s aunt is that she has no name because she is a shame and that No-Name Woman’s story cannot be told to anyone else. Every other possible scenario of No-Name Woman’s life is simply a fantasy made by Kingston, ironically practicing the use of her cut tongue by telling the story of a voiceless woman. 

The entire novel is Kingston’s talk-story and is a representation of Kingston’s exercise of her cut tongue. With her voice symbolically given to her by having her tongue cut, Kingston uses her voice to talk-story in a way different from her mother — through a novel. Talk-stories are ambiguous, often with unreliable narrators such as Brave Orchid, who often changes stories, and even Kingston herself, when she is reproached by her mother in the second chapter for thinking her mother had two children prior to herself. However, this ambiguity allows for suitable translation. In a supposed memoir, more than half of the book explains the lives of other characters rather than the author herself. In this stylistic choice, Kingston shows how talk-stories were the one’s story but rather believe in the amalgamation of different stories from different people that make up one person’s life. Kingston translated the stories of Brave Orchid, Moon Orchid, Fa Mulan, and No-Name Woman into her own life — it translated well. 

Score: 20 


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