Literature Study GuidesThe Woman WarriorAt The Western Palace Brave Orchid Summary

The Woman Warrior | Study Guide

Maxine Hong Kingston

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The Woman Warrior | At the Western Palace (Brave Orchid) | Summary



"At the Western Palace" focuses on Moon Orchid, Maxine Hong Kingston's aunt. Having arranged her sister's emigration to the United States, Brave Orchid takes a day off to meet her sister Moon Orchid at the airport in San Francisco. Brave Orchid has brought Moon Orchid's daughter with her, and they both search for Moon Orchid in the crowds. Brave Orchid has some big ideas about how Moon Orchid's life should change.

Brave Orchid keeps thinking she sees her sister, but Moon Orchid's daughter is the only one who ends up recognizing her mother. Moon Orchid has become a little old woman, and she thinks Brave Orchid looks just as old. When they are at Brave Orchid's house, she brings out gifts from China, including shoes for everyone from Lovely Orchid, who owns a shoe factory. Inside one of the shoes is sewn jewelry for everyone. There are also paper dolls of legendary figures like Fa Mu Lan, but Brave Orchid is very critical of this gift, thinking the children are far too old for paper dolls. The children do not want to eat the candy they are given, which makes Brave Orchid angry, and she goes to say a few words at the front and back doors, presumably to counteract the bad behavior of her children. Meanwhile, Moon Orchid has questions about everything in the house and leaves a mess wherever she goes. Brave Orchid sweeps away the presents and asks Moon Orchid to help her cook dinner.


In this section, Brave Orchid's sister, Moon Orchid, appears, and she is everything Brave Orchid is not: goofy, clumsy, socially clueless, and completely unable to support herself financially. Maxine Hong Kingston also shows a sense of the family dynamic back in China, where Brave Orchid spent a good deal of her time cleaning up after her sister. Interestingly, some of the qualities Moon Orchid possesses as an adult are qualities Kingston says she has had since childhood, especially the social cluelessness.

When Kingston first describes the gift-giving scene with Moon Orchid, all of the children seem very young. Throughout the scene, she shows that some of the children are actually older. However, Brave Orchid treats her children as if they are quite small and can't handle getting presents of any value. It is hard to tell whether Brave Orchid is putting on a front to be polite in front of her sister or if she really plans to squirrel away the gifts and not give them to the children.

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