Literature Study GuidesThe Woman WarriorAt The Western Palace Moon Orchid Summary

The Woman Warrior | Study Guide

Maxine Hong Kingston

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



After dinner, Brave Orchid is ready to attack the business at hand, which is to convince Moon Orchid to find her husband and demand he take her in. Brave Orchid's husband immediately leaves the room, unwilling to hear what he knows will be disastrous. Moon Orchid has no desire to speak with her estranged husband, who was supposed to send for her years ago but never did. Instead, he has remained in the United States, sending her money, but has remarried. He even has two children with his new wife. Still, Brave Orchid tells her to barge in and tell him she is First Wife, that she will take Second Wife's children to raise, and tell Second Wife she is her slave. Moon Orchid's daughter simply wants to see what her father looks like. Moon Orchid finally agrees, but doesn't want to see him just yet.

Weeks pass and Brave Orchid tells Moon Orchid she should get a job so she can prove to her husband she doesn't need his money, making it easier for him to accept her. Brave Orchid takes her to the laundry where Moon Orchid is absolutely useless, bordering on destructive, especially with the iron, laughing at each mistake she makes. When they are home, Moon Orchid follows the children around and narrates what each one of them is doing constantly, as if she is a news reporter. It drives them crazy, and they complain to each other in English so she won't understand. Moon Orchid's daughter eventually says she has to go home to her husband and children in Los Angeles, and Brave Orchid responds by saying they will all go, so that Moon Orchid can confront her husband in Los Angeles about living with him.


In this section, Moon Orchid's reactions to everything around her are probably humorous to an outsider, but the family is slowly being driven crazy. Maxine Hong Kingston reveals more of her socially unacceptable childhood behavior, describing how she yells at Moon Orchid for touching her or for following her around and narrating what she does. Kingston is supposed to treat her aunt with respect, but she finds it difficult to do when Moon Orchid is acting like a child. Also, Kingston is at a rebellious stage in her life, and she admits she and her siblings are an embarrassment to her mother for being loud and disrespectful. Part of this disrespect, Kingston notes, is the fact that they are Chinese American, so they have taken on different attitudes that contradict what their parents learned as children in China.

Brave Orchid's brash personality seems to become even worse with her sister. Kingston's description of how her father leaves the room as soon as Brave Orchid is about to discuss Moon Orchid's husband with her shows how the situation is about to become very uncomfortable. The clash between Chinese immigrant culture and Chinese-American culture clearly appears as Brave Orchid forces Moon Orchid to agree to find her errant husband, even though he now has a new wife and children. Moon Orchid, who is supposedly socially clueless in this new land, is ironically the person who thinks it's a terrible idea to inflict Chinese values on an Americanized estranged husband. Brave Orchid, still tied to Chinese values, however, insists these values be followed no matter what.

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