Literature Study GuidesThe Woman WarriorAt The Western Palace The Husband Summary

The Woman Warrior | Study Guide

Maxine Hong Kingston

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The Woman Warrior | At the Western Palace (The Husband) | Summary



One of Brave Orchid's son's unwillingly drives the sisters and two cousins to Los Angeles to take Moon Orchid's daughter home and to see Moon Orchid's husband. Along the way, Moon Orchid loses her nerve, and Brave Orchid tries to come up with scenarios to assert her status as the First Wife. Moon Orchid is afraid her husband will hit her, and Brave Orchid says she'll hit him first. They drop off Moon Orchid's daughter, and Brave Orchid won't let Moon Orchid get out to meet her grandchildren.

They drive to the address they have for Moon Orchid's husband, which ends up being a skyscraper downtown. Brave Orchid goes in to assess the situation. The nurse, who is the new wife, says the husband is busy, but eventually, he has to come out and talk to Moon Orchid because Brave Orchid sends her son in to lie to the nurse that there is someone with a broken leg outside. The husband is not at all glad to see Moon Orchid and tells her he has a new life without her, that she could never have handled American life. However, he doesn't want her to be sent back to China and encourages her to live with her daughter, saying he will continue to send her money as he always has done. Brave Orchid is furious but tells him the least he can do is take them out to lunch. He does so, which is the last they ever see of him.


The interactions between Brave Orchid and her son in this section are similar to Maxine Hong Kingston's in that her son is flabbergasted his mother is actually going through with the plan to force Moon Orchid to see her husband. He is also horrified she is making him lie in order to get the husband out to the car. His arguments with his mother sound like an amplified version of typical arguments between teenagers and their parents: the teenager thinks the mother's idea is the most embarrassing, ridiculous idea ever, but the mother is determined to have her way.

The husband's reaction to Moon Orchid is a mix of compassion and anger. He has become completely American; he doesn't even see his Chinese family as real anymore. His description of them as "people in a book" shows how detached he has become from his homeland and his former life. He may, however, seem less awful than Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid have portrayed him to be in the last section. Kingston's description of his sympathy toward Moon Orchid as a person, shown in his insistence that he continue to financially support her in the United States rather than send her back to China, is evidence of how their culture does bind them together in some way, even though he doesn't want to be her husband. Moreover, his description of how Moon Orchid acted with him in China as well as how he feared she would act in the United States is a clue that maybe Moon Orchid's mental health has never been very good.

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