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The Moths and the Woman Warrior Essay


Introduction

In every society, poverty has an effect on racial and ethnic minorities. In developed countries such as the UK and the US, racism is the leading cause of poverty among the minority groups. As such, racism bars the minority groups from accessing equal opportunities as the majority group does (Kinney, 1985). During the slavery era, the minority groups were not allowed to have access to all opportunities as the whites did.

For instance, only the Caucasians were allowed to own properties and accumulate wealth. The minorities served as the Caucasians servants. The possessions accrued by the current Caucasians have been passed down from generation to generation. These possessions have enabled the white’s children to have access to quality education and healthcare. With better education, these children have had better jobs.

On the other hand, the minority groups such as the native Indians, Chinese Americans, and the African Americans have had little or no wealth to pass down from generation to generation (Lilly, 2004). This explains why the poverty levels among these populations are higher compared to that of the majority group. The above illustration indicates that there is a relationship between racism and poverty in every society.

Racism destroys morals and ethics in a community. It prevents individuals from offering their best contributions to the society (Quadagno, 1994). Similarly, it blocks individuals from enjoying certain rights or opportunities because of their skin colour rather than on skills.

This paper analyses two books in an attempt to identify how the authors understand the manner in which racism has affected the levels of poverty of the characters. The books are The Moths by Helena Viramontes and The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston. In the two books, the authors use women as the main characters.

Through this, they illustrate how women in the society have been suppressed by cultures, racism, and consequently poverty. In the books, both authors illustrate that it is probable to condemn and refuse aspects of Chinese American or Mexican American cultures in the USA and retain your individuality.

Through the two books, the authors criticize racisms and any other form of discrimination waged against their communities, and emphasizes on how their communities have played a role in shaping the American dream.

Background

In The Woman Warrior, Kingston illustrates how racism has affected the levels of poverty of her major characters (Kingston, 1976). These characters were Maxine’s aunt, Maxine, and Maxine’s mother. Maxine is represented as a young Chinese girl in her teenage hood. The other character mentioned in the book is Maxine’s mother. Maxine’s mother tells a story about an aunt to her daughter.

In the story, she claims that her parents hated and never acknowledged her aunt as their relative. Through the story, Maxine’s mother frightens her daughter with the aim of discouraging her from going against her cultural norms. In some parts of the book, it is apparent that Maxine never believed in what her mother told her.

In the end, the daughter questions herself on whether her mother was telling the truth, whether her mother was exaggerating the truth, and whether she experienced the information first hand or was talking about what she had been told by her elders.

Another character mentioned in the book is Maxine’s aunt. This woman suffered a lot from the effects of poverty. She is introduced by the author has a young woman. The woman is left alone in China when her husband and relatives relocate to the United States.

She later became pregnant in her husband’s absentia. Soon afterwards, her neighbours ransacked her home and disclaimed her for her pregnancy. She later gave birth and committed suicide killing her daughter in the process. In the book, Maxine’s family members refuse to acknowledge that she ever existed because of the shame she brought to the family.

In The Moths, Viramontes illustrates how racial prejudice, social oppression of the Chicanos has affected the affected the levels of poverty of her two major characters. The two characters are a young girl named Naomi and her aging grandmother.

In the same book, Viramontes focuses on other short stories about young women. Through this, she illustrates how women struggle to overcome cultural and family norms in the American society (Cott, 1994).

How the authors understand the ways in which racism has influence the levels of poverty of the books’ characters

Based on the two books content, it is apparent that the authors understand the manner in which racism affected the lives of their books’ characters. In The Woman Warrior, Kingston constantly addresses the link between poverty levels and racism in Chinese Americans mentioned in the book. Through this, she tries to illustrate that Chinese Americans or other minority groups in the US were not destined to be poor.

She illustrates that they are poor because of racial prejudice. Kingston takes the role of Maxine in the story to illustrate to the readers her own experiences as a first generation Chinese American. By doing so, she illustrates the poverty levels her ancestors suffered through when they arrived in America.

Even though Maxine is born and raised in the USA, being from a minority group excludes her from behaving and acting like the majority group. At the start of the novel, we learn that Maxine came from a humble family background. The young girl is emotionally disturbed by the transformations in her body brought on by puberty stage and the demands of her society.

Maxine is disturbed by the differences that exist between Americans and Chinese facts on adulthood. She is surprised by the stories her mother keeps telling her. More often, she questions if the stories told to her by her mother about her aunt are true. With these questions in mind, she wonders how her aunt felt. Throughout the novel, the girl speculates about her aunt. As such, her father was a laundry man.

Back in China, before migrating to the USA, her father used to work as a teacher. In this instance, the author illustrates how racism denies citizens equal opportunities. Because Maxine’s father comes from a minority group, he could not find a job as a teacher and yet he was a qualified trainer. Without a job, his family struggled through poverty.

Another character illustrated in the book is Maxine’s mother. Maxine’s mother attended a medical school in China. After graduating from this school, she got a job as a doctor in her village. Her career was very successful, as many people were healed from her treatment. When her husband relocates to the US, she abandons her career and follows her him.

Despite her qualification as a medic, she fails to get a job in the US. I believe that Maxine’s mother failed to secure a job because she comes from a minority group. Being a successful medical doctor, she could have secured employment if she came from the mainstream group.

This illustrates the effects of racism in the society. Based on the above illustration, it is obvious that Maxine’s mother never got a chance to offer her medical skills towards the realization of the American dream. With regards to their living conditions, we can estimate that she was never rich as other women from the mainstream group.

In school, Maxine excluded herself from other students from the majority groups. She did so because she came from an impoverished family. Being from an impoverished family undermined her self-esteem. After listening to a number of stories about a legendary Chinese woman called Fa Mu Lan, Maxine gets inspired and hopes that one day she would emancipate her people from the chains of poverty.

She hopes to achieve this by fighting racism and injustices waged against her community by the mainstream. In her bid to be like Fa Mu Lan, she goes to school and struggles to pass all her exams. She later goes to college where she becomes a writer and an activist. In college, she campaigns against the injustices such as racisms and ethnicity perpetuated by the mainstream against the minority groups.

Through these campaigns, she hopes to transform the American society and enable each group to have equal opportunities in every sector. In her campaigns, she states that her major enemies were the American bosses whom she refers to as stupid racists.

She blames the bosses for denying jobs, wages, and food to the minority groups. She believes that through the unjust treatment, the prevalence of poverty in the minority groups was higher.

Through the above characters, it is clear that the author understood the ways in which racism contributed to the levels of poverty among her characters. When the Chinese arrived in the US during the 1800s, the mainstream group did not welcome them.

The whites saw them as a threat because they worked under low wages. To discourage them, the government passed laws that regulated and controlled their businesses. They were heavily taxed and most scholars were prevented from participating in the jobs and business meant for the whites.

Through these racism initiatives, their business suffered huge losses. In general, racism against the early Chinese inhabitants in America increased poverty levels among the community during the 19th century.

Just like Kingston, Viramontes acknowledges the manner in which racism affected the levels of poverty in the books’ characters (Viramontes, 1985). Viramontes illustrate the link between racism and poverty levels among the Mexican Americans portrayed in her book. Her book dramatizes the experiences of undocumented Mexican who were the first to arrive in the USA in search of seasonal employment.

In the first chapter, the author introduces a young girl and her family. Through this, the author indicates that the young girl comes from a large family. As such, the family was made up nine children, a mother, and a father. The young girl’s father is described as a very strict man who wants his children and their mother to live in accordance with their cultural values.

The young girl’s father has oppressed her to the extent that she has sought refuge in her grandmother’s house. The young girl takes care of her grandmother as if she was her own child. As such, she bathes and clothes her regularly. The author presents the young girl as a teenager struggling through her puberty stage.

Naomi’s hope of dating a man from outside their community is cut shot by her father who insists that she must adhere to her communal norms. The woman insists that in her generation dating was different and that she should be allowed to make her choices.

The author points out that the family lived in a neighbourhood, which was full of violence. In the neighbourhood, police harassed the Latino youths. She asserts that the disproportionate number of patrol cars, the flashing red lights, and the batons speak of the brutality and prejudice permeated the characters’ lives. This illustration indicates that the characters mentioned in the book were victims of racism.

They live in poverty as indicated by their neighbourhood, which is full of violence. Historians assert that the minority groups such as the Latinos were victims of environmental racism when they first migrated to the USA. They lived in polluted and densely populated areas.

A number of these individuals used to work in the informal sector and were poorly paid because they came from a minority group. In their working place such as in the agricultural fields, the Mexican Americans exposed themselves to dangerous pesticides, lead, and other agricultural chemicals.

In general, the ancestors of Mexicans Americans struggled through the chains of racisms and subsequently poverty during the 19th century (Richardson, 2001).

In the first chapter, the worse character living in abject poverty is the narrator’s grandmother. She lives alone in her house and needs medication. Her living conditions indicate that she is a victim of abject poverty. She has no running water in her house; she cooks using the stove, and has a single basis in for fetching water.

By using this character, the author wanted to denounce the government for neglecting the aging members of the minority group. The aging woman described in this book should have been taken care by the government through the welfare funds. However, because she comes from a minority background, she struggles through her old age without any support from the responsible authorities.

Since, she was in her sunset ages she could not manage to work as casual labourer like her community members. In the novel, it is not mentioned whether the aging woman sought medication for her illness. Probably, she did not have the funds to meet the cost of her treatment. Unlike other characters in the book, these characters’ miseries are worsened by her age.

Another character employed by the author to understand the manner in which racism is related the levels of poverty in a community is Aura Rodriguez. This character plays a huge role in a short story called Neighbours. The author asserts that Rodriguez lived in abject poverty.

The woman has no hope of a better future. Viramontes illustrate that the woman’s neighbourhood has turned into a graveyard where the elderly die off leaving their children with little knowledge of the struggle. Viramontes describe the woman as huge. She walks around her neighbourhood barefooted. The author asserts that it is hard to imagine that the woman feet were once soft.

In America, an individual would not expect anyone to find anybody living in Rodriguez’s conditions. In a prosperous nation, opportunities are available for everyone. However, Viramontez portrays the opposite in her book. Through this, she wanted to illustrate the extent to which racism can damage a society. It can be argued that Rodriguez’s neighbourhood is struggling through poverty because of the effects of racism.

It is saddening to note that the society has neglected Rodriguez. A woman of her age and conditions should be taken to a nursing home. This neighbourhood has been neglected because it is made up of members from minority groups. In the absence of racism, this neighbourhood would be in better conditions.

In another short story titled The Cariboo cafe, the author introduces a girl by the name Sonya. The author uses Sonya and her friends to illustrate to the readers her understanding of the relationship between racism and poverty in the society. Based on the author’s illustrations, the girl comes from a humble family background. Her mother always warns her not to talk to strangers, her neighbours, and the police.

This implies that the family stayed in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood. The poverty levels of the characters described in this story are so high that some of them are homeless and spend their nights on the streets. More often, the police harass the residents of this neighbourhood. Just as other characters described by Viramontez in her novel, the characters of this short stories are victims of neglect.

With regard to the behaviours and lifestyles of characters illustrated in the two books, it is apparent that race was a significant social factor in the USA during the 19th century. As such, racism was common in every social life. It is important to note that the characters employed by the two authors in the book were significantly affected by this vice.

The two authors produced these novels to illustrate how their ancestors struggle through poverty because of racism. Similarly, the two authors understand the effect racism has had on their communities. Through their books, they aim at substantiating the cause of poverty in their society.

More often, individuals tend to believe that poverty levels among the minority groups are higher because of their social and financial behaviors (Sachsman & Rushing, 2009). Kingston and Viramontes disapproved this notion by blaming the mainstream for the social injustice.

According to the above illustrations, it is apparent that the two authors share similar views with respect to how racism has affected the levels of poverty in their community.

The two authors use women as their main characters. Similarly, in both novels a reader will realize that the characters are victims of racisms and cultural values. Despite the fact that the characters of the two books come from different racial backgrounds, their experiences in the USA are similar. The similarity arises from the fact that the characters came from minority groups.

There are some slight differences with respect to how the two authors present the link between poverty and racism in their society. In the book The Woman Warrior, Kingston illustrates the poverty levels in the earliest Chinese Americans’ societies. The author asserts that their ancestors could not find a decent job in America because of their colour.

Despite these challenges, the earlier Chinese Americans were able to venture into the laundry businesses. This implies that they were self-employed. Although their businesses enabled them to take care of their families, poverty was still prevalent in these communities.

On the other hand, Viramontes acknowledges that poverty was very rampant in the early Mexican American communities. Unlike the Kingston’s ancestors Viramontes ancestors’ poverty level was very high. Viramontes illustrates characters who were living in abject poverty to the extent that they did have shelter.

Similarly, most of the characters in Viramontes’ book were jobless and did not take any initiative to be self-employed. This implies that although the earlier Chinese Americans inhabitants were poor, their livelihoods were better than those of the Mexican Americans were.

Another difference between the characters employed by the authors is their roles in championing racisms and poverty in the society. In the book The Woman Warrior, the characters campaign against racism in their society. Maxine wants to be like a legendary Chinese warrior in her society. She goes to school like the other children from the mainstream group. In school, she struggles and passes all her subjects.

In college, she became a writer and an activist. She took part in several demonstrations, which were meant to denounce the social injustice in the American society. Through this, she manages to fight against racism and bigotry, which were the main cause of poverty in her society.

Just like her daughter, Maxine’s mother is also presented as a warrior in her community. Despite the fact that she had two children, she manages to go to a medical college at a later age, becoming one of the best doctors in a native village. In general, the women in The Woman Warrior are represented as champions of racism and other social injustice in their community (Lim, 1991).

On the other hand, most of the female characters employed by Viramontes in her book do little to champion against racism. For instance, in the short story titled Neighbours Rodriguez has no hope of a better future. The woman is so poor that she believes that her neighbourhood is a graveyard. She does nothing to champion against racism from the mainstream.

A reader would expect these women to champion against social injustices just like the characters employed by Kingston. Equally, the other women characters represented by Viramontes fail to fight against racism and poverty. Their cultural and religious values played a huge role in their failure to denounce these injustices.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it should be noted that in every society, poverty has an effect on racial and ethnic minorities. The chief cause of poverty among the minority groups in the US is racism. During the slavery era in the US, the minority groups were never allowed equal access to opportunities as the whites did (Williams, 2012). For instance, only the Caucasians were allowed to own properties and accumulate wealth.

The minorities served as the Caucasians servants. In the above illustrations, two books have been analysed in an attempt to identify how the authors understand the manner in which racism has affected upon the levels of poverty of the characters. In The Moths, Viramontes illustrates how racial prejudice, social oppression of the Chicanos has affected the affected the levels of poverty of her book’s characters.

On the other hand, The Woman Warrior illustrates how racism has affected the levels of poverty of her book’s characters. The two authors share similar views with respect to how social injustices have affected their community. Despite the fact that the characters of the two books come from different racial backgrounds, their experiences in the USA are similar.

The similarity arises from the fact that the characters came from minority groups. Concerning the behaviours and lifestyles of characters illustrated in the two books, it is apparent that race was a significant social factor in the USA during the 19th century. As such, racism was common in every social life.

It is important to note that the characters employed by the two authors were significantly affected by this vice. The two authors produced these novels to illustrate how their ancestors struggle through poverty because of racism. The two authors produced these novels to illustrate how their ancestors struggle through poverty because of racism.

In spite of their similarities, some slight differences exist with respect to how the two authors present the link between poverty and racism in their society. As such, the poverty levels among the Chinese American characters in Kingston’s book are lower compared to the Mexican American characters in Viramontes’ book.

In addition, the women in characters employed Kingston are represented as champions of racism and other social injustice in their community, whereas most of the female characters employed by Viramontes did little to champion against social injustice.

References

Cott, N. F. (1994). History of women in the United States: historical articles on women’s lives and activities. Munich: K.G.Saur.

Kingston, M. H. (1976). The woman warrior: memoirs of a girlhood among ghosts. New York: Knopf.

Kinney, J. (1985). Amalgamation!: race, sex, and rhetoric in the nineteenth-century American novel. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Lilly, C. (2004). Confronting racism, poverty, and power: classroom strategies to change the world. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Lim, S. (1991). Approaches to teaching Kingston’s The woman warrior. New York: Modern Language Association of America.

Quadagno, J. S. (1994). The color of welfare: how racism undermined the war on poverty. New York: Oxford University Press.

Richardson, H. C. (2001). The death of Reconstruction: race, labor, and politics in the post-Civil War North, 1865-1901. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Sachsman, D. B., & Rushing, S. K. (2009). Seeking a voice: images of race and gender in the 19th century press. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press.

Viramontes, H. M. (1985). The moths and other stories. Houston: Arte Publico Press.

Williams, K. E. (2012). They left great marks on me African American testimonies of racial violence from emancipation to World War I. New York: New York University Press.

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F., Amber. "The Moths and the Woman Warrior." IvyPanda (blog), April 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-moths-and-the-woman-warrior-essay/.

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F., Amber. 2019. "The Moths and the Woman Warrior." IvyPanda (blog), April 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-moths-and-the-woman-warrior-essay/.

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F., A. (2019) 'The Moths and the Woman Warrior'. IvyPanda, 19 April.

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