Forever Hungry Ghost: Patriarchy

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In “No Name Woman” Maxine Hong Kingston learns from her mother that she once had an aunt who became pregnant, but killed herself and the baby in the family’s well. The aunt’s husband was gone for years-- like most of the men in the village, he was trying his luck elsewhere because the village crops were suffering from drought—and the baby was illegitimate. On the night the baby was born, the villagers raided the house. It was nearly destroyed. The family cursed the aunt; she became a “ghost” as if she was never born. It was forbidden to mention her name. Although this story was intended to be a mother’s lesson for a daughter about how not to humiliate her family, Kingston took liberty to fill the story’s gaps herself fantasizing about what it was like to live in China in previous generations. This essay introduces us to such themes as silence, the place of women in traditional Chinese society, and the difficulties that a Chinese- American faces growing up. One of the most powerful themes in the story that especially resonates with me is gender inequality. This essay effectively communicates unfair treatment of women in China and the amount of a support that women gave to the patriarchal system because punishment came from both: men and women. Punished women did not simply accept the treatment but acted in accordance with their culture: instead of standing up for themselves, they perpetuated the patriarchy by torturing other women. On the third page of the essay Kingston says that “to be a woman, to have a daughter in starvation time was a waste enough” (p.396). This passage effectively points out that women were considered physically and mentally inferior to men; it also implies that their job could be easily accomplished by men as if women are imperfect, mindless beings that are incapable of completing a task. For centuries in patriarchal hierarchy women’s

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