What is it that constitutes a mother-daughter relationship? In our society mothers are generally portrayed as nurturing and loving people by the media. We see one mother cradling her newborn baby in a diaper ad in a Woman’s World magazine, while another lovingly gives her child cold medicine in a television commercial. In fact, today it is even considered a beautiful thing, rather than a crude and exposing action, for a mother to breast feed her child in public. In light of this, for Maxine Hong Kingston’s mother, maternal instincts evidently played no such role in her relationship with her daughter, both emotionally and physically.
Through “Shaman”, the third chapter of her novel, Kingston makes it clear to her readers that the ties that bound herself to her mother were made up of anything but love. She relates the tale of her mother as a young, determined student, distant from her peers. She had worked her way through medical school in an attempt to prove her worth as a scholar, as well as that of a strong and steadfast woman. It seems that it was this quality that she carried with her throughout the rest of her life. While other mothers choose to protect their children from unnecessary evils, the author’s mother had “given [her] pictures to dream– nightmare babies that recur[red] again and again” (86). She instilled in her young daughter such a strong fear of war and bombing sprees that she would often “dream that the sky [was] covered from horizon to horizon with rows of airplanes, dirigibles, rocket ships, [and] flying bombs” (96). Kingston had additionally been taught to view all Americans as being ghosts, as well as being repeatedly informed that someday they would return home so they could buy “real” furniture and “smell flowers for the first time” (98). Finally, even as an adult we watch as her mother imparts on her the feeling of guilt, “responsibility for time, responsibility for intervening oceans,” for essentially keeping her from being a woman warrior (108).
In the physical sense, we never actually see Kingston’s mother touch her or even hear her say “I love you.” As a child the author recalls that her “mother’s enthusiasm for [her was] duller than that for the slave girl” her mother had so loved back in China (82).
ghostbel Comparing Ghosts in The Woman Warrior and Beloved comparison compare contrast essays
Ghosts in The Woman Warrior and Beloved In Toni Morrison’s Beloved ghosts are dead people walking among the living. Beloved has come back to be with her family, to have Sethe’s love and Denver’s companionship. In Maxine Hong- Kingston’s The Woman Warrior the word ghost was used to refer to people that were different from the characters, or people that the characters couldn’t understand. Ghosts were real, living people. The idea of what a ghost is in Beloved is strange to me – but it’s not as disturbing to me as the idea of a ghost in The Woman Warrior I don’t really believe in ghosts. I don’t ever expect to see my great grandmother in my room some night telling me that she’s met a lot of interesting people on the other side. I don’t ever expect to come back to earth and chat with my friends after I’ve died. Because of this, the concept of “ghost” in Beloved doesn’t disturb me though it has caused me to think a great deal about what a ghost really is. I began to compare it to the ghosts of The Woman Warrior. If a ghost is something different from me, something that I can’t completely understand does that make everyone a ghost? I don’t completely understand my friends or family. I don’t think it’s ever possible to completely understand or know anyone. If no one else can completely understand and know me then I’m a ghost too. Even to myself I am a ghost. I don’t understand why I do half of the things that I do. I don’t really know myself or who I am completely. Sometimes I do feel like a ghost. I have conversations with people, I talk to my friends and family all the time. They see my behavior, and I can try to explain to them why I do things and how I feel — but they can never get inside my head. They can never understand me. I will never understand them. There will always be something about each person we come into contact with that perplexes us. Does this make them a ghost because we can’t understand them? If I am loved, liked, or hated then I am not a ghost. IF I am simply not thought of at all by someone then maybe that’s what we could consider being a ghost. I would rather be hated then to have someone just be indifferent to me. At least then there is some feeling, motivation, or passion. Something about me has affected this person – even if it is something negative. I would prefer to think of a ghost as the kind of ghost we see in Beloved; a dead person come back to this side of things. The thought of walking through this life as a ghost is much scarier to me than the thought of dying and then becoming a ghost.