Eastern civilization has been noted throughout history as a society of strict standards based on a system of honor and high moral values. The traditions and values of Eastern civilization are an underlying element in the plot of Maxine Hong Kingston s No Name Woman . It is ultimately a social commentary and an illustration of Eastern cultural standards and the disciplinary actions when those standards are violated.
An Eastern traditional value found in No Name Woman is the supremacy of males in that culture. Eastern ideology draws up the male to act the role of a strong central figurehead in the family. His duties of fulfilling this sense of responsibility are the following: to be a source of financial income, to be a strong positive figure, and to provide emotional support for his family. The duty of the male and the ability to fulfill his duty as leader and caretaker of his family is well respected in Asian culture.
The role as a provider is an ideology engraved into the heads of all men in Eastern society. A sense of duty to financially support his family implants a strong determination and work ethic to provide for his loved ones. The responsibility and social emphasis as provider is illustrated in Kingston s essay. Maxine s mother explains to Maxine that your father and his brothers and your grandfather and his brothers and your aunt s new husband all left for America in search of these dreams.
In this small excerpt from Maxine s essay we see that these men virtually gave up everything they had in China to travel to America in search of work. This is a huge sacrifice as these men left behind everything they knew and everything they possessed in China. They left in search of work to a country they knew very little about with a hazy idea of what lied in the ahead in the future. However, the sense of duty as a provider forced these men to take the chance that they could better provide for their families by leaving for America. They sacrificed what they had and possessed in hopes their sacrifice would ultimately benefit their children in the future.
There lies a great sense of pride and honor in working hard to support your family in traditional Eastern values. Each one of these men that left for America found honor in this as Kingston says that all of them sent money home. They felt a strong sense of duty to be responsible for their families even though they were on the other side of the world. These men had the realization that it is the sole duty of the men to do whatever it takes to see that the needs of their families were met.
Acting the role of provider was a major and significant role of the father as well as was being a positive model for the wife and children. The typical Asian father had a sense of duty that he should teach his children valuable lessons about life. The father often would play the role of teacher. He would teach and implant his children with his knowledge and ideals in a stern manner but with intentions shaped by his love for them. All this was in hopes that the children would grow to become dignified, hard working individuals. The men who left for America in No Name Woman were simply playing the role of provider and father. They were showing their love for their children, and demonstrating the willing to work hard and sacrifice they often preached.
The role of women in Eastern social ideology was very different from the expectations we now have of women in America today. The women in Asian culture played the old-fashioned role of the classical ideal housewife. She would cook, clean, and take care of the children. In Kingston s No Name Women , the ideology of the housewife is clearly evident. In the essay one can see that the men were the ones that left for America. We see the women in a role of housewife as they stayed in China to take care of the children and the village. The women may have felt a responsibility to leave for America too in hopes they could help their husbands, yet they realized what their role was.
On a social level the women played a submissive role to the men in China during this time. Women from society s perspective were viewed as an inferiors to men. Eastern society believed that women were not as important as men. Men in this culture were given more social value due to what they brought to the family. This reasoning came from the ideology that men were leaders of the family as they provided financially and were looked to as leaders. Women were not expected much from, except to be a good housewife and mother to the children.
Women in Eastern culture were naturally at a disadvantage due to the poor social value they were given. In the event of women doing anything culturally unacceptable it would result in severe discipline and great social despair. The punishment of immorality is an indication of the strong values and honor of Eastern civilization. Throughout Eastern history there has been a great emphasis on moral uprightness and strong values. The acts of divorce and pregnancy outside of marriage are looked disdainfully upon. Such a violation of strong moral values is enough to be exiled from society. No Name Woman illustrates the punishment and the after effects of a woman being punished due to her immoral act. Maxine Hong Kingston s aunt went against the moral values of an entire society and ended paying the ultimate price.
The guilt of Kingston s aunt s actions and the awareness of the social repercussions of her sin was clearly evident to even herself. She realized that she would be ridiculed and that she did not have a choice but to commit suicide as well as to kill the baby. A baby born out of wedlock too would be shunned and looked down upon. An illegitimate child would have no future in such a civilization and which was recognized by the mother. Kingston s aunt was left with no way out but by plugging up the family well.
The illegitimate child had also brought shame upon the immediate family as well. In a civilization of honor and pride, the family felt a strong sense of disgrace and shame to be so closely connected to what society looked upon as crime. Feeling disgraced and embarrassed, they felt as though they needed to forget about her and eternally label her as No Name Woman . Ultimately they attempted to wipe out an entire existence that they wished never occurred.
In the essay, Maxine s wife tells her, don t let your father know that I told you. He denies her. Now that you have started to menstruate, what happened to her could happen to you. Don t humiliate us. You wouldn t like to be forgotten as if you had never been born. The villagers are watchful.
We see the family deny the shame that has swept their life and attempt to hide this painful past from the villagers who represent the world. The family decided that in their sense of duty and honor the best thing to do would be to withdraw this blemish from existence.
Kingston s No Name Woman is a social commentary and an illustration of Eastern family and moral values.