Study Guide

The Woman Warrior Tough-o-Meter

By Maxine Hong Kingston


(5) Tree Line

Kingston's language is not so difficult, but the way she composes sentences can be kind of tricky, especially when it's hard to get a foothold on any concrete facts in her story. For example, Kingston writes:

I asked my sister, just checking to see if hearing voices in motors and seeing cowboy movies on blank walls was normal, I asked, "Uh,' trying to be casual, 'do you talk to people that aren't real inside your mind?" (5.117)

There's nothing tricky about the words themselves; we know what cowboy movies are, we know what blank walls are. What is trickier is realizing that your narrator and author is trying to mess with your sense of reality. Kingston jumps from myth to family secret to song without any explanatory transition. She's writing an idea of her life that can be all over the map. This multifaceted look at one's life story is also difficult because if you are listening to her, you can't help but start to question your own idea of self. And just how tough is that?