1. This chapter largely describes Kingston’s mother’s life in China before Kingston was born. She describes her mother as very intellectual and practical, “A natural scholar who could glance at a book and know it.” But then we also see her mother practicing superstitions in private and she clearly believes in ghosts to some extent even if she is not fearful. What effect does this have on the reader and why do you think Kingston choose to set up a contrast of these two sides of her mother? What do these two sides ultimately say about Brave Orchid’s character and personality?

2. Ghosts are also large part of this chapter in particular. Even though the same word “ghost” is used over and over it is clearly used to describe many different things. Kingston tells us about the city ghosts she grew up with, ghosts that her mother would encounter in China, and we learn that not all foreigners are considered ghosts. What are the ghosts exactly? Does Kingston intend for us to believe they are real ghosts or are they representative of something greater? If so then what do they signify?

3. In this chapter, we are presented with many different stories about Kingston’s mother, stories that show the many sides of who she was as a person. What do you ultimately think about the portrayal of Brave Orchid after reading “Shaman?” Do you think these stories portray her in a positive or negative light, or somewhere in between? What do Kingston’s personal reactions, commentary, and literary choices in how the stories are told show us about their relationship? Does the last interaction between Kingston and her mother change how you initially felt about the chapter?

Amber’s Reading Questions for September 16th The Woman Warrior

2 thoughts on “Amber’s Reading Questions for September 16th The Woman Warrior

  • September 16, 2019 at 7:15 am

    At first Kingston describes ghosts that we traditionally would imagine as spirits come to haunt us, and I think the story about her mother’s interactions with these types of ghosts lends us to that idea that Kingston is telling us about her mother’s life during a time that she’s only heard stories about. The ghosts could be included in that sense to show how foreign and strange her mother’s life in China may have appeared to her, especially as a child, because she had not seen it for herself or experienced it. In America, the word “ghost” takes on a whole new meaning. As a child, Maxine calls any stranger a ghost. This is perhaps to emphasize her sense of otherness because she has been raised by her parents in a sort of bubble full Chinese culture. I find it interesting that as an adult, Maxine says the she has “‘found some places in this country that are ghost-free” but her mother still calls Americans “White Ghosts” (108, 104). Perhaps leaving the family home separates Maxine from her Chinese roots and she becomes more “American,” while her mother stays behind and continues to feel like a foreigner. Ghosts are often considered to be brief visions – you might see them, but only for a little while, and afterwards you may not be sure that it was ever really there. We find out that Maxine’s parents always intended to return to China, and so they likely never took steps to set down roots in America (outside of the laundry). Because of this, the people they see there are only like passersby, or “ghosts.” Perhaps when Maxine leaves the family home, she is finally able to set down her own roots and get to know the people around her, and this is why she is able to find somewhere where there are no ghosts. Not seeing ghosts is a sign that Maxine has chosen to call America her home, instead of a temporary living space.

  • September 16, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    In both China and America, I think ‘ghosts’ refer to some type of unknown. When Brave Orchid attended the women’s medical school, she slept in the haunted room feared by other students, conquering the unknown with her strong personality; however, in America, Brave Orchid feels powerless against the foreigner ‘ghosts.’ She no longer holds the same amount of power, respect, and cultural knowledge that she did in China, causing her to lose the strength she had before.

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