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The Woman Warrior

The Woman Warrior


by Maxine Hong Kingston

No Name Woman

Character Analysis

Kingston's no-name aunt is the first person we hear a story about in The Woman Warrior. Through this story, Kingston immediately lays out the influence of her mother as a storyteller, as well as the themes that this memoir will continue to dance around – women, family, and the power of storytelling.

The forgotten sister of Kingston's father was what we might call a woman in the wrong place and wrong time. The way Brave Orchid tells her story, it becomes more and more clear that a larger power play over sex was happening that shamed the aunt to suicide. Is it the aunt's fault that she was born, raised, and lived in a society that didn't let her choose her sexual partners? Is it the aunt's fault that she became pregnant? No, Kingston answers.

However, Kingston is not seeking to paint the aunt as a victim. Instead of taking all agency and will power away from her aunt, Kingston imagines another kind of existence for her, one that is probably less widely circulated as social truth but is nonetheless possible. Kingston imagines that the aunt came to enjoy little things about her baby's father. She writes the character of her aunt as a complex individual whose saddest story was her family's refusal to dignify her life with memory.

Importantly, Kingston shows that it is not anything that the aunt did or didn't do that decides her life story; it's the way that her survivors have told her story. The power to decide is largely in the storyteller, in the interpretation of an event and not the event itself. In giving the No Name Woman another story to be told, Kingston uses her authorial power to offer another interpretation. Since we are never given a name for the aunt – indeed, Kingston does not know her aunt's name – we might wonder who else might be considered a "No Name Woman" both in the book's world and in our own. Who else has been forgotten? Who else is left out of stories? And how do we recuperate their existence and influence?