Epic Hero Quest In Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior

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Throughout her memoir, The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston laments on the gender roles prevalent in both her own culture and the United States, as well as the disdain she feels for the ideology driving these beliefs and the difficulties she’s faced resulting from it. In “White Tigers,” Kingston displays this theme through the use of the epic hero quest and paralleling common staples of the genre in her own story, effectively demonstrating the importance of her own personal message, feminism and female empowerment, through this process. Specifically, Kingston utilizes elements such as the quest itself, the constant struggle and setbacks faced by the protagonist as they attempt to achieve their goal, and the characteristics possessed by the main hero of the tale, Fa Mu Lan, in order…show more content…
Similar to Odysseus and Achilles of the Homeric Epics, Fa Mu Lan symbolizes the highest valued traits of her respective culture, namely bravery, leadership, courageousness, and even, mercy, despite ruthlessness towards one’s enemies. Whether Fa Mu Lan truly embodies her culture though, unlike the Greek warriors, is ambiguous. Though Mu Lan clearly represents the prized traits of Chinese culture, as a woman it is uncertain whether she truly represents them within the context of said culture. As Kingston describes it “There is a Chinese word for the female I-which is slave” (Kingston, 36). In Chinese culture, as Kingston demonstrates with this quote, women are expected to be subservient and meek, quite the opposite of Fa Mu Lan. By emphasizing the qualities of heroine Fa Mu Lan lauded by many in Chinese culture, yet are discouraged for women, Kingston calls attention to the dichotomy between story, or fantasy, and the real
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