The Woman Warrior: Top Ten Quotations

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  1. "The Chinese are always very frightened of the drowned one, whose weeping ghost, wet hair hanging and skin bloated, waits silently by the water to pull down a substitute." p. 22 Although this reference offers a generalization about a nation’s view of ‘the drowned one’, it is of interest that the narrator understands that her aunt’s suicide may at least partially be seen as a form of vengeance. As a ‘spite suicide’, her death brings fear to those in the family who may have rejected her.
  2. “We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born.” p. 1 In this quotation, the narrator’s mother refers to her sister-in-law who committed suicide by throwing herself and her baby in the family well. The villagers had punished her adultery by storming the family home and the narrator believes the family have continued to punish this dead woman by not speaking of her. This work breaks that silence.
  3. "Whenever she had to warn us about life, my mother told us stories that ran like this one, a story to grow up on. She tested our strength to establish realities. Those in the emigrant generations who could not reassert brute survival died young and far from home." p. 13 The particular story referred to here is the one about the aunt who committed suicide (as referenced in the first quotation of this list). The narrator thinks at this point, but does not do so consistently throughout this book, that her mother uses stories to teach her children and to ensure they are armed against a dangerous world.
  4. "The heavy, deep-rooted women were to maintain the past against the flood, safe for returning. But the rare urge west had fixed upon our family, and so my aunt crossed boundaries not delineated in space." p. 15 According to this reference, the women left behind were a symbol of an unchanging, traditional and patriarchal world. The narrator’s aunt transgressed the customs and laws of her community by committing adultery, and was punished for this.
  5. "Walking erect (knees straight, toes pointed forward, not pigeon-toed, which is Chinese-feminine) and speaking in an inaudible voice, I have tried to turn myself American-feminine."p. 18 The narrator’s attempts to assimilate into the dominant American culture demonstrate that she believes she has to discard the type of femininity that has been a part of her heritage. In so doing, she becomes muted and therefore silenced. It is of note too that at this point the narrator does not question the code which prescribes she should be a feminine woman.
  6. "She said I would grow up a wife and slave, but she taught me the song of the warrior woman, Fa Mu Lan. I would have to grow up a warrior woman." p. 26 The eponymous heroine, the warrior woman, is named here as Fa Mu Lan and the narrator points out how she was raised to identify with her while simultaneously made aware of her lowly status as a woman in a patriarchal society.
  7. "And I have so many words – “Chink” words and “gook” words too – that they do not fit on my skin." p. 53 As a contemporary warrior woman, the narrator realizes that she has to combat racism and avenge her family both in the United States and communist China.
  8. “It’s as if I had turned into a different person. The new life around me was so complete; it pulled me away. You became people in a book I had read a long time ago.” p. 139 Moon Orchid’s husband tries to explain here how he turned away from his first family to start a new life in the United States. As he describes it, his past became another story and a work of fiction.
  9. "She had a new story, and yet she slipped entirely away, not waking up one morning." p. 144 This quotation refers to Moon Orchid’s death and expresses once more the significance of narrative in this work.
  10. "Sometimes I felt very proud that my mother committed such a powerful act upon me. At other times I was terrified – the first thing my mother did when she saw me was to cut my tongue." p. 148 The conflicted relationship between mother and daughter is made clear in this reference as the narrator explains both the pride and fear her mother evokes in her.

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