“No Name Woman” Maxine Hong Kingston
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In the essay No Name Woman Maxine Hong Kingston tells a story from her Chinese culture, of a forgotten aunt whose husband went to America. During his absence the aunt mysteriously became with child. No one in her village questioned her on how the child was miraculously conceived. Instead they attacked her and her family, showing their shame for the situation they were unwillingly placed in. Because the aunt is obviously pregnant by someone other than her husband the villagers consider her a threat to the roundness that is created by accepted moral behavior and social stability of the village. When No Name Woman gets pregnant by someone other then her husband, she threatens what Kingston terms the roundness, that is the harmony and the wholeness of her family and the larger community. This roundness was enmeshed in everyday life symbolically, in the round moon cakes and round doorways, the round tables of graduated sizes that fit one roundness inside another, round windows and rice bowls (35). An illegitimate child is someone who disturbs and harmony and wholeness of the village.
No Name Woman is attacked because her immoral action adultery, confirmed by her pregnancy, threatens moral behavior enforced through centuries of tradition. In the village structure, Kingston notes, spirits shimmered among the live creatures, balanced and held in equilibrium by time and land (34). When No Name Womans family banishes her from the family, she runs out into the fields surrounding the house and falls to the ground, her own land no more (35). Her family no longer considers her among the live creatures. When Kingston says the shimmering spirits she implies that if the nonliving behave and nothing is out of balance, they will be protected, but their presence implies that both the living and the nonliving actively and forcefully protect the morals that stabilize the village.
In violating socially accepted behavior, the aunts illegitimate child violates the economic stability. The value placed on food and resources is very important to the success of the village. If the aunt had a child with no father it would be another mouth for the family to feed. Ironically, the aunts and her childs fates are determined by the time in which this story takes place; Kingston says, If my aunt had betrayed the family at a time of large grain yields and peace, when many boys were born, and wings were being built on many houses, perhaps she might have escaped such severe punishment (34-35). Adultery might not be such a problem if resources were plenty, but No Name Woman becomes pregnant, times are hard.
In the village culture the male is the source of financial income. If I child is born with out a father the heavy burden falls on the family to provide food for the bastard child. This could cause a serious risk to the family.
In conclusion, the family and village feel justified in obliterating the identity of the No Name Women. Risking the roundness of the society is not an option. No Name Woman endangers the high moral standards and the social stability the Chinese have worked so hard to keep and without it, they risk poverty, starvation, and the consequence of incest. That is why no name woman’s final punishment is to be forgotten and never forgiven, denying her existence.