No Name Woman” is the first section of Maxine Hong Kingston’s earliest book, the acclaimed The Woman Warrior.
Analyze “No Name Woman” in terms of its genre. Make three lists demonstrating the ways “No Name Woman” can be characterized as 1) a memoir, 2) an essay, and 3) a short story (fiction).
These questions encourage you to relate your own life to the story that Kingston tells us in “No Name Woman.”
1. This cautionary tale is meant to persuade Kingston to conform to her parents’ values. What is the argument behind the narrative the mother tells? Does it make sense to you? What might be a contemporary argument in a middle-class American family?
2. Were you ever put at an “outcast table” or anything comparable in your house or school? Did you ever hear of such a ritual? What did happen when you were punished? What kinds of things were you punished for? Why do you think these specific things were chosen?
3. Our syllabus directs us to take this selection following the theme of gender and sexuality (Telling Lives: Exploring Gender and Sexuality), how is this a tale about gender inequality? How does Kingston suggest this? How are relations between men and women portrayed here?
4. Kingston talks a good deal about spirits and ghosts. How do they function in this essay? Which parts of this piece seem true to you? Which seem fictional? Why does she blend these elements together?
5. Sexual mores change over time and from country to country. What specifically about the aunt’s context made her transgression so severe? How would her “crime” be viewed in contemporary America? Why? What do you think an ideal response would be?
Thanks to Dr. Kelli Olson and Mary Clare DiGiacomono at Piedmont Virginia Community College for the guide questions