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Woman Warrior Essay, Research Paper

Woman Warrior

Food strengthens us, without it we are weak. Eating has always been an important factor with families living in poor conditions. Often, those who could not help to produce more food are considered inferior or unworthy to eat. Maxine Hong Kingston?s The Woman Warrior is no exception, due to the relation it creates between eating and the strength of people. This is shown through the tale of Fa-Mu-Lan, the story of the eaters, and the references to the fellow relatives left in China.

In the tale of Fa-Mu-Lan, the narrator is given a survival test, where she has to survive a mountain trek without provisions. During that trek, the narrator finds herself weary from hunger. Hunger brings out her animal instincts, because she needs to stay strong to live. ?On the fourth and fifth days, my eyesight sharp with hunger, I saw deer and used their trails when our ways coincided. Where deer nibbled, I gathered the fungus, the fungus of immortality? (25). The narrator is forced to search for her food to eat. The hungrier she becomes, the more feral she is. Meat also played a role in the connection between food and strength. During the beginning of her story she claimed she no longer needed meat. After she became starving, she breaks down and eats meat. ??I saw the rabbit had sacrificed itself for me. It had made me a gift of meat? (26). Her will was eroded by the hunger because as her hunger increased, she became weaker and her resolve was easier to destroy. When the narrator was not starving she was in control of her faculties. Hunger however, strips her even of vision, as she imagines things that do not exist. The narrator says, ?Hunger also changes the world when eating can?t be habit, then neither can seeing. I saw two people made of gold dancing the earth?s axis? (27). Viewing two gold dancers would be wonderful to witness, however the chances are very slim. The hunger had weakened her to the point of confusion, and possibly dilution. Just as hunger weakens a person so they cannot command themselves, eating will make a person powerful and the masters of others.

The stories of the heroes who ate heaping amounts of food illustrate that those who can eat have extraordinary powers. The narrator says before, that her mother is powerful??because she can eat anything ? quick, pluck out the carp?s eyes, one for Mother and one for Father. All heroes are bold towards food? (88). Her mother is master of the ghost because she can consume it. The story of Kao Chung also illustrates this point. This hero eats five chickens and drinks ten bottles of wine prior to slaying a sea-monster. The scholar-hunter Wei Pang was also a great eater; in fact, he was the most fantastic according to the narrator. He shoots a glowing sphere composed of flesh with eyes in it, and then eats it with his servant. Bye eating, these two heroes are able to conquer their foes. The story of Chen Luan-feng is another is another example of how eating makes a person powerful. By eating forbidden foods, Chen calls down an angry thunder god whose leg is chopped off by Chen, and the thunder god is then at the mercy of Chen. ?Big eaters win? (90) is the comment regarding an anonymous scholar from Hanchow. This scholar discovers some valuables on the side of the road; however, an evil frog guards them. He chases that frog off only to have two smaller frogs com that night. He proceeds to eat every frog that visits him, ?And at the end of the month the frogs stopped coming, leaving the scholar with the white silk and silver ingots? (90). These heroes are rewarded for their eating habits, but those who cannot eat are weak.

The relatives of the narrator are always asking for money. They are weak characters because they are forced to rely on others to live. Unlike the heroes who command themselves and others, these relatives are not even in command of their own life, rather they have given up their life to the Communists. Because the Communists are cheating them out of food, they are starving and weak. The narrator says, ?What I will inherit someday is a green address book full of names. I?ll send the relatives money, and they?ll write me stories of their hunger? (206). The narrator describes the relatives very unflattering. They are considered lazy and unable to help themselves. The relatives seek money, even if it means harming the narrator?s family. ?He says a bicycle will change his life. He could feed his wife and children if he had a bicycle. ?We?d go hungry ourselves,? my mother says. ?They don?t understand that we have ourselves to feed too?? (206). The narrator realizes it is her turn to help out these ungrateful relatives next.

Brave Orchid was very bitter about the differences between Chinese culture and American culture. One of those differences included the connection between wealth and food. In America the popular belief was changing and many skinny people were regarded as healthier than overweight citizens. Brave Orchid kept old traditions with her. Brave Orchid talks to her daughter: ?That?s the year you turned old. Look at you, hair gone gray, and you haven?t even fattened up yet. I know how the Chinese talk about us. ?They?re so poor,? they say, ?they can?t afford to fatten up any of their daughters.? ?Years in America,? they say, ? and they don?t eat.? Oh the shame of it ? a whole family of skinny children. And your father ? he?s so skinny he?s disappearing? (101). Brave Orchid?s opinions may not have had an impact on the narrator as she replies, ?Don?t worry about him, Mama. Doctors are saying that skinny people live longer? (102). Brave Orchid?s comments and the narrator?s reply shows that she wasn?t strongly influenced by Brave Orchid, yet Kingston continues to reference the topic throughout the book. In the chapter At the Western Place, Brave Orchid meets her sister Moon Orchid at the airport.

???you?re so skinny.?

?You?re so fat.?

?Fat women are more beautiful than skinny women?? (118).

Brave Orchid?s bitterness toward American culture influenced the narrator. Fat carried not only excess lipids, it carried wealth and power in Brave Orchid?s opinion. Women were more beautiful with fat because wealth enabled them to achieve their ?beauty?. The incessant use of references between strength and eating throughout the book show the narrator was influenced is some manner. The product of the influence may not have been a fat woman, but a woman educated in two cultures.

Eating is vitally important in the memoir The Woman Warrior. It is regarded as a sign of strength in the book. That point is shown through Fa-Mu-Lan, the story of heroes, and through relatives in China. With those, Kingston became educated in two differing cultures, possibly influenced by both. The connection between hunger and strength is well known throughout the ages, as the old military adage states, ?An Army marches on its stomach.?


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