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Role of Names in A Personal Matter

The Role of Names in A Personal Matter

Names are an important part of defining one’s identity. After all, when someone asks you who you are you tell him your name. Reading A Personal Matter I was struck by the role of names in the story. The main character is known as Bird and this nickname gives Bird an identity that he struggles to overcome throughout his story. He sees himself as being just like a bird. “It wasn’t only that his hunched shoulders were like folded wings, his features in general were birdlike. His tan, sleek nose thrust out of his face like a beak and hooked sharply toward the ground….Then the image he was observing in the window glass was a composite of his entire life”(3). His only problem is that he can not fly away from his problems, despite the desire he harbors in regards to “flying off” to Africa. He appears more to flap his wings helplessly much of the time, lacking direction in his life and in the decisions that he must make.

At the end of the story, though, Bird finds some direction in his life, even if it is not what he originally planned on. This change in his identity is noticeably marked by his father-in law’s statement “You’ve changed. I childish nickname like Bird doesn’t suit you”(165). Bird is no longer like a bird, he is instead a person with his own directions, his own “flight pattern” set out. He has hope and forbearance in his life.

The name of Bird’s son is also a significant part of the story. For most of the story his son is without a name, as if naming him would give the child a true place in Bird’s life, which is what Bird wanted to avoid. “Provide the monster with a name and from that instant it would seem more human, probably it would begin asserting itself in a human way. [A]fter Bird had given it a name would mean a difference to Bird in the nature of the creature’s very existence” (146). When he does name the child, it is with the name of a childhood friend who Bird ultimately abandoned.

Free Essays – Response to Kingston’s Woman Warrior

A Response to Kingston’s Woman Warrior

Sometimes, I must admit, I look at my mother and wonder where she is coming from, what in the world she is thinking, and why does she act the way she does. I can not possibly be like her because, as I tell myself, if I catch on to her weird behavior now, I will be able to catch it in myself before it is “too late.” The funny thing is that I am sure that she did and still does the same thing in regards to her own mother. What is even worse is that I see my mother becoming like her own mother, despite my mother’s hopes that she is not like my grandmother. Does this, then, mean that I am going to be like my mother or that I am already like her? Why does this thought frighten me?

Kingston herself seems to be struggling with these questions as she writes The Woman Warrior. In the chapter “At the Western Palace” she is writing largely from her mother’s perspective and, through this process, perhaps learning more about the way in which she behaved as a child towards her mother. Her mother frequently tries to compliment her children yet all that they do is run away, leave to go to another room. It is as if they can not be bothered by their own mother’s words, the pride that she has for them. Instead of reveling in her words and love, they want to hide, to protect themselves from her words, from having to deal with her.

What must it have been like for Kingston to have to write this about herself, to realize the ways in which her words and actions have distanced herself from her mother? But then Kingston’s own words continue to make the mother seem like the outsider, the one who was different from everyone else, making her mother appear again as the one who is the ghost. The children, even her own husband, merely appeared to humor her, making no effort to want to learn about the Chinese culture and therefore not caring to know about their own mother. How often have we done the same with our own mothers, not bothering to talk to her, merely humoring her because we can not be bothered to make the time to really care about what she wants?

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