Literature Study GuidesThe Woman WarriorWhite Tigers American Village Summary

The Woman Warrior | Study Guide

Maxine Hong Kingston

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Woman Warrior Study Guide." Course Hero. 7 Feb. 2017. Web. 13 Dec. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, February 7). The Woman Warrior Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "The Woman Warrior Study Guide." February 7, 2017. Accessed December 13, 2018.


Course Hero, "The Woman Warrior Study Guide," February 7, 2017, accessed December 13, 2018,

The Woman Warrior | White Tigers (American Village) | Summary



Maxine Hong Kingston goes back to her childhood, relating the way she feels she has to accomplish something amazing to be noticed and valued in her family as well as in her immigrant village, just as Fa Mu Lan had done. However, Kingston's status as a girl ruins everything for her: when she hears her parents say negative comments about girls, such as "feeding girls is feeding cowbirds"—birds who lay their eggs in someone else's nest—she screams and throws fits on the floor. Her mother is embarrassed by her behavior and threatens to hit her, resulting in Kingston's resolve to never hit a crying child. It certainly does not quiet her down at all. When her sister is born, her parents are too humiliated to walk down the street with both of them because they are both girls, and the villagers remark how awful having a family of only daughters is.

Once the family has sons, they can show their faces in public again. Kingston is furious at how well the boys are treated, as if they are princes to be bragged about to everyone, while the girls are shuttled aside and ignored. When Kingston goes to college and becomes an activist, still getting straight A grades, her family assumes everything good she does is for her future husband. Kingston, however, does not intend to get married and starts sabotaging the idea of being married off, like burning food, refusing to do dishes, or breaking dishes when she finally does them. Her mother continues to call her a "bad girl."

Kingston feels as if she has been "double-bound": she does not want anyone she marries to put aside his dreams for her, and she does not want to put aside her dreams for him, but by the same token, she creates a situation in which no one loves her enough to stay and support her. She cannot avenge her family in the way she wants to. She feels helpless as their laundry is torn down for a parking lot, and the Communists take the family land in China, kill family members, and leave the rest to starve. The only action she can take is to do well at her job writing, fighting racism as much as she can, and hoping the words she carries will eventually be recognized by her family as enough.


This section shows how reality in Maxine Hong Kingston's life is extremely different from that of the legendary women warriors because of the way Chinese society devalues girls and the way Chinese-American girls in the United States have to restrain themselves to appear feminine. Kingston's complaints about her mother never celebrating Kingston's birth and her one-month day, and not sending Kingston's photos to the grandparents reveal Kingston's anger about the inferior role girls are expected to accept in Chinese-American culture.

Kingston wonders why there is no celebration of girls in the way Fa Mu Lan was celebrated, and thinks the only way she is going to get her mother's approval is to do something extremely heroic. However, in her neighborhood in Stockton, a large Chinese-American community in the San Francisco area, it is hard for a Chinese-American girl to find anything remotely heroic to do that won't be perceived as being a bad girl. The theme of Chinese-American culture encompasses the frustration independent-thinking girls like Kingston experienced, having to conform to traditional Chinese roles that did not fit modern life in the United States.

For a while, Kingston fights these traditional roles at home. She does everything in her power to avoid being seen as a marriageable daughter. It works quite well: her mother, when confronted, says no one would want to marry Kingston because she is messy and rude. All the dish-breaking, badly done housework, and questionable personal hygiene successfully make her mother and all the other women in the neighborhood completely give up on seeing her married to anyone.

The female roles expected of Kingston make her decide to give up her straight-A reputation as a student, so intelligence won't be the one benefit she has going for her that makes her a desirable wife. Kingston also realizes she has to leave her parents and strike out on her own to be the warrior she wants to be. She becomes an activist on a college campus and a successful adult who is not limited by what the people around her say she can and cannot do. Kingston feels as if she has done nothing at all to avenge her village or save her parents from the obvious racism that has affected their lives. She concludes that her successes in America are the only aspects of herself that make her a warrior. Her refusal to accept racism from employers, albeit quite timidly, is the way she avenges her village. Like the Fa Mu Lan character she relates to and becomes in this section, Kingston carries the villagers' words on her back as well as the words that have been used against her, and never forgets them.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Woman Warrior? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!