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“No Name Woman”. Maxine Hong Kingston’s Short Story Essay

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Updated: Jul 21st, 2020

“No Name Woman” is a short story written by Maxine Hong Kingston and was included in her book The Woman Warrior,with the first publication date in 1975. Kingston commences the novel by arguing that all myths and tales are contingent on specific cultural necessities. This story provides an ambiguous and complex talk-story; the role of the female in Chinese traditions and the difficulty of been raised as a Chinese American girl. The “No name Woman” essay shall provide an analysis of the gender aspects in the short story.

The Plot of the Story

The story tells of Kingston’s aunt, who was abandoned by the other members of the family. The aunt was pregnant and was raided on the night she was supposed to give birth; the raiders stole and destroyed family property, and the aunt gave birth in a pigsty while in exile. The aunt took away her life and her newborn baby by plunging into a well in China.

This story sounds like a cautionary tale. Kingston’s mother cautions her to keep silence and not tell anyone about the aunt’s story, and this story came at the time she had begun menstruating and was warning her or else she would end up like the aunt. As is clear from “No Name Woman” summary, Kingston as the narrator reflects this with the kind of life she was brought up in – an invisible world of spirits migrating from Chinese rural life to the exile home in America.

Since Kingston cannot inquire about the aunt’s name, she refers to her as “no name woman” and comes up with reasons as to why her aunt was tempted into her outlawed urges. In one instance, she describes the aunt as a shy lady who is lured into giving in by a rapist. While in another, the aunt harbors a gradually growing intimate, attempting to seduce men by making up herself neatly.

Kingston’s fantasies may have been sympathetic about her own life. For instance, she denies the view that the aunt was a vicious woman with weak principles and had committed a crime, which Kingston argues she was acting in her passions, although she had broken the Chinese values and traditions.

To reveal the difficulties in society, Maxine Hong Kingston in “No Name Woman” uses numerous dichotomies and conflicts: between the private and public, merriment and essentials, the person’s wants for expression and society’s desire for organizing. She pictures how old Chinese culture was like; repressiveness, strictly controlled community in which one did not have a private life. Society’s sake or well-being dictated one’s actions.

In this case, Kingston’s aunt’s character represents the worst extent of aggression, her private passions (publicized by her unwanted child) interfered with the social order and threatened the continuity of the society. Kingston argues that in situations of plenty, adultery could have been only a mistake when members of the village expected everyone to cooperate in providing food, although it was criminalized.

The author introduces many views on her aunt’s motives and reasons, together with the experiences she had encountered in her life. She quotes that “Any man within visiting distance would have been neutralized as a lover—‘brother,’ ‘younger brother,’ ‘older brother’-one hundred and fifteen relationship titles.”

Feminism and Its Dependance on Cultures in the Story

Kingston highlights the differences between Chinese and American cultures. The narration of Kingston’s shows that the cultural values that one adopts depend on oneself. Kingston relates her ideas and beliefs around this story she heard of her aunt. Kingston tries to delve deeper into the intentions of her aunt and intends to tie the whole narrative about her aunt to her personal experience.

Kingston tries to study and analyze more her Chinese culture and to discover her identity. Kingston quotes, “I have pursued to convert myself to Chinese-feminine. If I make myself American-pretty, so that the five or six Chinese boys in the class fell in love with me, everyone else (the Caucasian, Negro, and Japanese boys) would too.”

Kingston tries to be conspicuous. She does not want to be associated with the Chinese American girl. This shows her relationship with the aunt, who was not conventional with social values and expectations. She is to be engaged, raise her own family, although she never reveals the issue of any sexual intimacy. This highlights her enduring struggle between her traditional Chinese social values and Americanisation.

“No Name Woman” short story is a mixture of creative detail and personal musing. The story describes how important it was for the villagers to do away with sexual attraction among tribesmen and how Kingston disobeys this and makes herself attracted to men. Kingston uses metaphors such as round cakes and doorways to describe the roundness of the patriarchal Chinese culture, that is, the perception that all members of the society are interdependent and responsible for each other’s deeds.

The story ends in a mimic of its format; her mother warns her again not to tell anyone about her aunt. Kingston is amazed by the reason why her aunt was left out the way she was.

In American society, the idea of adultery is not reason enough to leave and outfit individuals in their family, even when they are pregnant. Kingston highlights how there is logical dubiousness of her mother witnessing the raid when her mother and the aunt were living in the same house, although such improbability gives her the freedom to progress in reconstructing the tale. Thus, it is clear that, along with the feminist subject, one can identify some postmodernism elements in her story.


The story told by Kingston’s mother centered on the agony of the raid and the accusation without providing any details about the kind of a woman her aunt was like or what her motivation was.

The “No Name Woman” essay shows that the story is two two-fold, Kingston was afraid of being attracted to boys and discovered that being more sisterly was more critical as she realizes the only punishment for the aunt was being abandoned, as the backing of the village was vital not only in life but also in death. Although the story did not define whether the no-name aunt was her aunt, it impacted greatly on her development as a woman.

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