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Seeking Voice Within Silence

Author: BaoJing
Tutor: ZhangShengTing
School: Northwest Normal University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: Kingston The Woman Warrior Power Power Discourse Silence Voice
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2011
Downloads: 61
Quote: 0
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The Woman Warrior won immediate success upon its publication in 1976. Maxine Hong Kingston, the author of this nonfiction, took Chinese customs, legends, fabled literary quotation as basic writing materials, melting her own rich imagination with the real background of twenty century‘s American society, and thereupon, she created an outstanding work with special writing techniques and unusual content. It became an instant bestseller and secured a place in the top ten non-fiction books of the decade. This book brings great reputation to the author, and meanwhile establishes her status as a Chinese-American writer with a deep and long influence on American literature.In the field of literary criticism, studies on the theme of silence in literary works are becoming an increasing focus of attention. Actually, silence pervaded in Kingston‘s The Woman Warrior aims at protesting the authority, and Kingston attempts to express her resistance by virtue of different kinds of silence. The following questions naturally arise concerning silence: will silence be effective or not? How do those protagonists fulfill their assertion in silence? What is the final consequence? On the basis, this thesis will apply Michel Foucault‘s theory of power and power discourse to explore the theme of silence in The Woman Warrior.This thesis is divided into five chapters. The first chapter gives a brief introduction to Chinese America literature, The Woman Warrior and its author Maxine Hong Kingston, a brief summary of the plot, a review of other critics‘studies on this book, and at last the statement of this thesis is put forward.The second chapter introduces the main theories the thesis has employed: King-Kok Cheung‘s categorization of silence into oppressive silence, rhetoric silence and provocative silence; and Michel Foucault‘s theory of power and power discourse, including the definition, main functions, as well as some key elements and features which are essential to investigate the following chapters. The third chapter is the key part, in which a thorough analysis of silence in The Woman Warrior is made.This chapter consists of three parts: the first part is about the oppressive silence that is undertaken by No Name Aunt and Moon Orchid Aunt due to their powerless position; the second part is the analysis of rhetoric silence unfolded by shaping the images of madness and ghosts; the third part is going to seek another silent way to get rid of oppression, that is provocative silence. By analyzing the three types of silence, the author plans to examine the meaning that silence holds, and points out silence results from the lack of power and power discourse; silence does not mean nothing and absence but meaningful articulation.Since silence can articulate something, further exploration has been made in the fourth chapter, aiming to dig out whether these silent ways can break silence or not and help the subjects fulfill self-assertion. Of course, this attempt is meaningful in spite of imperfection, because the oppressive silence makes people stifle; the rhetoric silence, to some extent, tries to seek a way to voice, but it is too indirect and vague to function its roles; the provocative silence, in fact, cannot help the heroines fulfill their self-assertion. Lastly, the textual interpretation shows that silence should be broken by voice, only in this way can Chinese American women establish their identity and subjectivity, also in this way can Chinese Americans deconstruct the binary opposition and set up real harmony between American culture and Chinese culture.Chapter five is the conclusion. This chapter sums up the major points of the whole thesis and affirms the parallels between Foucault‘s theory of power discourse and the works The Woman Warrior; it makes a attempt to reveal that silence of course counts something as a way of expression, but this pattern of articulation really means little, as it is so indirect and too weak. Voice should be an effective manner to deconstruct the binary opposition and construct the real women subjectivity.

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