Maxine Hong Kingston’s “No Name Woman” blends several genres or styles of writing: short story, memoir, and essay. Since so little is actually known about Maxine Hong Kingston’s aunt and Kingston herself wonders if she was simply invented by her mother as a cautionary tale, “No Name Woman” must be considered a short story – a fictional tale about what might have been. “No Name Woman” is a tale about Kingston’s aunt who as told by her mother was found dead in the town well with her newborn baby which was conceive out of wedlock.
“No Name Woman” begins with the narrator’s mother saying, “You must not tell anyone…” telling her daughter the dark family secret. Kingston leans from her mother that she had an aunt who had killed herself along with her newborn baby by jumping into the family well. Kingston’s mother uses this cautionary tale around the time Kingston begins to menstruate. Her mother warns her to be careful unless she wanted the same fate of that of her aunt. Due to the lack of actual knowledge of the existence of her aunt Kingston herself wonders if her mother simply invented the story “Whenever she had to warn us about life, my mother told stories that ran like this one, a story to grow up on” (Kingston 1).
The family kept secret not only the aunt’s suicide but her very existence. After most of the men left for California including Kingston’s father and her aunt husband, Kingston mother stayed behind with her aunt to tend to the house. After an unknown amount of days Kingston’s mother notices that her aunt has become pregnant due to her protruding belly. Though it wasn’t discussed with the aunt how she became pregnant “no one said anything. We did not discuss it” (Kingston 1).
Kingston’s aunt could have been a victim of a rape or just been unfaithful, but the family only noticed her out of wedlock pregnancy. The village had been just waiting out the days until this baby was to be born to raid Kingston’s aunt...
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