Chapter 1: Conception: The Origin of a Story
The origin of a story may come from a plethora of triggers in life such as a notebook, memory, or even pure intuition. In Kingston’s novel, The Woman Warrior, she primarily uses her memory to recall the legend of Fa Mu Lan, a Chinese girl who took her father’s place in battle illegally (21). Kingston uses this familiar Chinese story that leaves a “direct personal impression” on her and links it to her own imagination (Lanning and Macauley 3). This fabricates the origin of a story that gives the reader insight on how Kingston feels about Chinese society. In the second chapter of The Woman Warrior Kingston positions her hair into a bun fashion, wears the male armor and consequently portrays herself as a male to all the soldiers while still possessing feminine qualities just as Fa Mu Lan had. The Fa Mu Lan myth opens many windows of opportunity for Kingston’s personal imagination to engage in the story. According to Lanning and Macauley, when Kingston began thinking of including the story of Fa Mu Lan into her novel, “perhaps the first question” she should have asked herself is whether or not the story is able to “touch some sensitive spot” in her memory, feelings or beliefs (17). Kingston would most likely agree that the story of Fa Mu Lan does touch her memory, feelings and beliefs because the story revolves around one of the themes of the book: the role of women in Chinese society. Lanning and Macauley also suggest that a writer ask themselves if the story begins to suggest a series of events to come (18). The story of Fa Mu Lan suggests a series of events to come because when the old couple brings out a traditionally Chinese meal and asks if Kingston wants anything to eat, Fa Mu Lan (Kingston) responds by declining, and reveals she would prefer to have chocolate chip cookies (Kingston 21). This divulges that not only is Kingston dealing with having to balance the Chinese and American cultures, but that she would have a more American life to come. Lanning and Macauley also insist that the story a writer includes should almost instantaneously begin to manufacture either real or imaginary characters (18). Kingston achieves this by creating the old couple who eventually train her to become a woman warrior. However there is a more immediate character in the story who is real rather than imaginary: Kingston herself. In this section of the book Kingston alters the point of view from Fa Mu Lan to herself. This alteration is most obvious when Kingston declares that she “would have to grow up a woman warrior” (20). From that point onward in the story, Kingston speaks in first person, creating herself as a real character in a Chinese myth. A good work of fiction that seeks to include an idea or story into the novel should have an idea that becomes more complex as the writer ponders it (Lanning and Macauley 18). Kingston’s story definitely becomes more complex because she uses the customary tale of Fa Mu Lan as the roots of her story and branches out via her imagination. However, her mind's eye always has a purpose and is not merely a mixture of childish thoughts. For example the “sky-sword” epitomizes her strong will because it would “make quick cuts anywhere [her] attention drove it” (Kingston 41). The more Kingston thinks about it, the origin of this story blossoms into being more complex through the symbolic meanings she includes. One of the main themes of the novel is the role of women in a Chinese society and Kingston incorporates her beliefs into not only the origin of the story but the whole body. Kingston creates a mirrored view of the roles of each gender in the Fa Mu Lan story. For instance after Kingston gives birth, her husband returns home to care for the baby while she fights in war. Also, women who experienced foot binding eventually formed an army of their own. These all challenge the customs that Kingston was raised to believe. Overall,...
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