How do the mother’s talk-stories and Chinese folklores help Maxine Hong Kingston embark on a journey towards self-understanding? A journey is the process of struggle and exploration. One has to experience this process in order to reach the destination. The mother’s talk-story (no name aunt) originally serves the purpose of warning Kingston in repressing her sexual desires. ‘Don’t humiliate us’. Another folklore- Fa Mu Lan mainly serves the purpose of teaching Kingston filial piety. However, though not intentional, the mother’s stories do help Kingston in embarking her journey towards self-understanding in two ways.
First, by stop keeping silence. Second, voice out or fight injustice by using a pen. The no-name aunt story makes Kingston see that keeping silence for everything means helping to cover up harsh treatment towards women in the repressive patriarchal society. By keeping silence, she also helps in denying her aunt. ‘But there is more to this silence, they want me to participate in her punishment. And I have. ‘ Therefore she has to devote pages for her. Kingston cannot just keep silence anymore,’ My aunt haunts me’.
Not knowing the reason for her aunt pregnancy with other man, Kingston gives several interpretations herself. First, the aunt was a victim who was rapped and threatened. Second, as a willful woman who invited a lover. These interpretations make the reader see that Kingston has thought the story deeply. However, ironically, the aunt’s family and villagers did not ask for explanation to punish her. The villagers raided her house and inflicted so much pain that her aunt committed suicide and infanticide. The family deliberately forgot her.
Kingston sees that it is time for her to protest against this treatment towards defenseless women. The aunt makes Kingston sees that to be obedient and keeping silence all the time cannot help to improve the situation. Kingston regards her aunt as her forerunner. The transgression of traditional boundary results in destruction of the roundness of the whole village and the upsurge of villagers’ violence. this should terrify Kingston and silenced her. However, after a time, Kingston understands that she doesn’t like to be a woman like her aunt who is vulnerable and defenseless towards other’s disapproval.
Kingston doesn’t like the passive way of revenge of her aunt who committed spite suicide by jumping into the family well. Kingston will like to devote a few pages to arouse people awareness towards the treatment of women. She would also like to see herself as a pioneer in breaking the silence of traditional Chinese women and liberating women from the restrain of the patriarchal society. She frees herself from the haunting of her aunt’s ghost and also free herself from the repressive silence. The folklore, Fa Mu Lan makes Kingston understand that she is worthy, not ‘a maggot in the rice’.
Though physically different from the swordswoman, their target is just the same- to fight against racist and sexist or voice out injustice. ‘The swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar. May my people understand the resemblance soon so that I can return to them. She understands that the eventual aim of the swordswoman and herself is similar, both are reporting ‘a crime’. ‘The reporting is the vengeance- not the beheading, not the gutting, but the words’. Once she recognizes that, she knows that she is not useless or just one more girl waiting to be sold.