The Woman Warrior
by Maxine Hong Kingston
We know that Kingston's female relatives are of particular interest in this book. Kingston's dedication of the fourth chapter to the story of her aunt Moon Orchid's arrival in the United States is significant.
But what do we make of Moon Orchid? We might immediately think that she's kind of wimpy. Her husband has left her in China and has now taken a new wife in the United States. When Moon Orchid arrives in America, she doesn't even want to confront her husband, not wanting to interfere with his life even though he pretty much wrote her out of his. We might relate to Brave Orchid's insistence that Moon Orchid stand up for herself and say something to her husband. What is going on? Why doesn't she say or do something? We might get annoyed because Kingston has trained us to question the expected role of wife for Chinese women (the No Name aunt, Fa Mu Lan, for example).
But what does it mean that Moon Orchid does not want to reclaim her husband? Her non-confrontational and reticent (hesitant to speak) manner might tick us off because Kingston has that whole thing going on about Chinese women and the struggle with silence. Is there another way to look at Moon Orchid, though? Perhaps, it's a sign of strength that she does not wish for a husband. We see how much Brave Orchid pressures her sister into seeing her husband again, but shouldn't we consider why Moon Orchid might not want to see him? Sure, maybe she is too shy and can't stand facing rejection. But maybe she knows her husband's a jerk and she just doesn't want to have him in her life anymore. Maybe the family she came for was that of her daughter and her sister.
Moon Orchid is complicated because, as Kingston writes, she is a dislocated character. She seems always to be dependent on someone else in order to belong. She's in limbo between her husband, her sister, and her daughter and also between China and the United States. It's no wonder that Moon Orchid comes across as out of sorts. Wouldn't you be if you had no place to call home? The fact that she has no privacy and no space to call her own, perhaps what leads to Moon Orchid's paranoid delusion that she is being watched by spies. It's interesting that it's not until Moon Orchid is taken into the insane asylum and out of the reach of her biological family, that she seems to find peace