In this passage from “No Name Woman,” Maxine Hong Kingston imagines what old world China was like, and paints a picture of a repressive, strictly ordered society in which people were essentially unable to have private lives. Everything had to be done for the sake of the family’s or village’s well-being. In such a world, Kingston’s aunt represents the worst kind of transgressor, one whose private lusts disrupted the social order and threatened the very existence of the village. Kingston uses interesting and imaginative stylistic techniques to represent the “circle” or “roundness” of Chinese life and the struggle this creates for both the village and No Name Woman.
The village that Kingston’s aunt lives in was very strict and had their own set rules on how society should live. “If my aunt had betrayed the family at the 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.” (11-14) Kingston explains to the reader that if the village is doing really well in maintaining stability, then maybe she could get away with having a child out of wedlock. But because this happened while the village is not doing so well at the time, they made her pay for what she had done. No Name Woman’s scenario shows the reader the unfair rules the village abides by. If the village is doing well, they will push any problem associated with their rules of “roundness” aside, but if they are not doing so well at the time a rule is broken or a problem erupts, they will make that person suffer the consequence of their action.
The villagers blamed her for all the unfortunate events that were happening in the village at the time. “People who refused fatalism because they could invent small resources insisted on culpability. Deny accidents and wrest fault from the stars” (33-36) in these two sentences, Kingston shows the reader that the people in the village who do something wrong, would blame other people because their ego was so strong they believe they do nothing wrong to cause any problems. So when another person does wrong, they were not hesitant to point the finger at someone.
The village’s whole life was based on the idea of “roundness”. Kingston shows the reader what the idea of “roundness” means to the village by using symbolism. “The frightened villagers, who depended on one another to maintain the real, went to my aunt to show her a personal, physical representation of the break she made in the “roundness.” (4-7) the village views the idea of “roundness” as the universe, or unity. They believe that the “roundness” was the cycle of life; the way the community functions.
Kingston uses imagery to give the reader an image of the village “The round moon cakes and the round doorways, the round tables of graduated size that fit one roundness inside another, round windows and rice bowl-these talismans had lost their power to warn this family of the law: A family must be whole, faithfully keeping the descent line by having sons to feed the old and the dead who in turn look after the family.” (21-26). the sentence proves to the reader how much the village emphasizes the idea of “roundness”. They have tables, doors, and windows that are all round. Kingston’s vivid imagery shows the reader that their whole life and universe is based on the idea of “roundness”.
When Kingston’s aunt was pregnant without being married, the villagers felt like she was disrupting their “roundness”. Kingston shows the reader how the villagers feel about her aunt, “The villagers were speeding up the circling of events because she was too short sighted to see that her infidelity had already harmed the village.” (27-29) this tells us that the villagers feel what she was doing was wrong and had an effect on the whole village. They were enraged at her because she had disrupted their whole universe.
They felt she had done it on purpose which upset them even more. Their belief system was that if anyone disturbs their roundness, they were to get rid of them. Their roundness was their universe. Their whole life was based and influenced on the idea of roundness. If someone had disturbed it, they needed to get rid of them because that meant somebody was disturbing their universe. “Awaken her to the inexorable” (33) the villagers mean to punish her so bad that she feels herself waking up to a horrible and unbearable life. They want her to realize exactly what she had done, and how bad she has caused chaos in the village.
No Name Woman was a villager whose action caused disruption in the “circle” or “roundness” of the Chinese way of life. The villagers felt the need to remove her because they thought she was the problem. They assumed by getting rid of her, they could restore their “roundness” way of life. They did not want to admit that other issues and other people were also associated with their village’s problems.
Courtney from Study Moose
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