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An Analysis of Orientalism in The Woman Warrior

Author DongZuoZuo
Tutor MaYuFeng
School Liaoning University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Orientalism female images ethnic identity cultural identity
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
Downloads 171
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Orientalism originally refers to the Occidental research on the Oriental social culture,customs and people. In the past few decades, this kind of research was almost negative.Under the Orientalism, the Occident always treats the Oriental culture, customs andpeople in prejudicial ways. Edward Said, an important American criticism theorist andthe representative figure of Orientalism at the present age, published his masterpieceOrientalism in1978and advocated Orientalism in his book. Said believes thatOrientalism is the product of Occidental construction, aiming at building a binaryopposition between the Orient and the Occident that the Orient is extremely inferior tothe Occident. According to Said, Orientalism is a mode of thinking established on thebasis of ontology and epistemology about the relationship between the Orient and theOccident. It is a prejudicial stereotype that not only deeply rooted in the minds ofwesterners but also seriously impacts the identity acknowledgement of the easterners.In the past few decades, Chinese American writers had created a large amount ofliterary works which have gained many readers from American mainstream discourse andmade Chinese American writers an important position in American even in westernliterary world. The Woman Warrior made Maxine Hong Kingston one of the mostmeritorious feminist writers. Her fictions also become one of the most popular worksamong colleges and students as well as publishing companies.In The Woman Warrior, Kingston represents the life experiences of ChineseAmericans in American society and their confusion during their seeking identityacknowledgement in the perspective of a little Chinese American girl by telling stories inthe form of autobiography. The obvious Oriental bias of the Occidentals against theOrientals prevents Chinese Americans from integrating with American society. ChineseAmericans were born and raised in America and they receive American education in thesociety so they could not identify with the life philosophy and life style of their eldergeneration in Chinese community. Not only is the heroine in The Woman Warrior or theauthor Kingston, all Chinese Americans are confused with their identity. In The WomanWarrior, Kingston challenges the stiff stereotypes of Chinese under Orientalism, expresses her willing to eliminate cultural shocks and finally seeks her identityacknowledgement.In The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston presents the prejudicial stereotypes,which given by the American mainstream ideology on the Orient and the Oriental culturefrom three aspects, gender, race and culture. A large number of Oriental portrayals onChina, Chinese and Chinese culture have brought numerous criticisms and queries toKinston. Critics believe that Kingston is trying to cater to mainstream readers. Actually,Kingston wants to make the readers realize how the Occident discriminate the Orient byOrientalism and how Orientalism prevents Chinese Americans from correctly knowabout their ethnic and cultural identities. Kingston tries to make the readers understandthe stereotypes the Occident gives to the Orient through presenting Orientalism in TheWoman Warrior, and then criticize it, and finally overturns the prejudicial stereotypes ofOrientalism.The thesis discusses the embodiment and subversion of the Orientalism in TheWoman Warrior through the analysis of Orientalism. Due to the dual identity as Chineseand American, the works of Maxine Hong Kingston are closely related to the cultures,politics as well as local conditions and customs, etc. Analyzing in the viewing angle ofSaid’s Orientalism, we could acknowledge both the affinity and dependence of the authoron the Orientalism and the unceasingly fight and subversion against the Orientalism.For the Orientalism and the chaotic arabesque of Chinese culture in the fiction, thedissenters believe that Kingston defiles Chinese culture, while supporters consider it asthe profound thinking of the real Chinese Americans. This thesis objectively discussesthe Chinese culture in the works of Chinese American writers and their writing features,aiming at inspiriting the readers to think about the cultural shocks and integrationbetween Chinese and American cultures of Chinese American writes from a new angle.This thesis consists of three parts, which are the introduction, the main body and theconclusion.The introduction part is mainly concerned with the author Maxine Hong Kingston,the reason of selecting this topic, the main methods and the present studies onOrientalism related to Kingston both home and abroad.The main body is comprised of three chapters. Chapter One introduces and analyzes Said’s Orientalism, American culturalhegemony and American Orientalist Burden on Chinese American Writers. Edward Saidpublished his masterpiece Orientalism in1978and advocated his thought aboutOrientalism in his book. Since then, Orientalism has become an important theoreticalbasis of the Occident doing research on the Orient, the Oriental culture and people.However, Orientalism has the obvious discriminatory and sexual prejudice. According toOrientalism, the Orientals are barbarians who are inferior to the Occidentals. And theOriental women are all obedient foot-bounded sexual slaveries. Cultural hegemony refersto the control of ruling cultural group to its subsidiary cultural groups on ideology, valuesand literary works. With the development of globalization and American politicalhegemony, American cultural hegemony begins to take its shape. So Chinese Americanwriters are struggling toward self-realization under the great pressure of AmericanOrientalism and American cultural hegemony.Chapter Two elaborates the reflection of Orientalism in The Woman Warrior,embodied as Chinese American women under double oppressions,“Other” identity underOrientalism and Chinese cultural format under Orientalism. Chinese American womenare not only suffering from the abandon of American society where they live, but alsotreated unfairly in Chinese community. Although the second generation Chineseimmigrants were born and raised in America, they could not truly integrate withAmerican society and are regarded as “Other” of the society. Orientalism makesprejudicial stereotypes of Chinese culture and ghost is the most preventative element ofsuperstitious Chinese.In Chapter Three, Kingston overturns Orientalism in The Woman Warrior in theperspectives as subversion of the Oriental stereotypes, Chinese Americans struggling forethnic identity and cultural identity. The female characters such as Cai Yen and HuaMulan greatly overturn the stiff stereotypes of Chinese women. Mother’s memories aboutChina and the consciousness of seeking roots also express that Chinese Americans aretrying to seek for unique ethnic and cultural identity, and survive in the multiculturalAmerica.The conclusion retells the negative effect of Orientalism on Chinese abroad to seekfor identity acknowledgement and the great efforts Kingston has made to seek ethnic and cultural identity. Although Kingston grew up in America where Orientalism is prevailing,she gets rid of the negative effect of the traditional stiff stereotypes of the Orientals underOrientalism and objectively builds up strong images of Chinese American immigrants. Atthe same time, the author emphasizes that both the westerners and the easterners shouldavoid stereotyping the Orient, eliminate cultural shocks and finally build a harmoniousworld.

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