"Woman Warrior" by Maxine Hong Kingston - Analysis of Brave Orchid in Chapter 1

Essay by omniromHigh School, 12th gradeA, September 2006

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The most puzzling aspect of this chapter proves to be the contradicting images that Maxine Kingston paints of her mother, Brave Orchid. During chapters one and two, Brave orchid is depicted as a sexist tyrant who is ashamed of her daughter. "'Stop that crying!' my mother would yell. 'I'm going to hit you if you don't stop. Bad girl (46)." Brave Orchid is depicted somewhat as the antithesis of a woman warrior, for she gives in to the stigmas that society forces upon her and doesn't stand up for what is morally correct. However, now in chapter three, Brave Orchid takes on a whole new persona and is depicted as a forefront woman warrior. "Not many women go to live out that daydream of women - to have a room, even a section of a room, that only gets messed up when she messes it up herself (61)." She becomes one of the first women doctors to her village and doesn't allow men to crush her.

She is further shown to be a brave woman warrior by sleeping in the haunted room while the other women cowardly went about their own ways. Intriguingly the sitting ghost symbolizes the domineering patriarchs of society that crush women with their weight and prevent them from their God-given rights. The sitting ghost, symbolizing men, was attempting to crush Brave Orchid's strength both physically and mentally. However, Brave Orchid stood up to the tyrannical ghost, shouting "I do not give in (70)," symbolizing her defeat of patriarchal society. Brave Orchid is yet another true woman warrior, standing up to the constraints that society inflicts upon her and overcoming them. Ironically, however, Brave Orchid buys a slave, which completely contradicts every value she tries to uphold earlier in the chapter. Why would Maxine Kingston create...