The recalled childhood of Kingston in “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe” demonstrates a familiar topic in our class: the power of writing. We can see the effects of emotion-packed oratory as she bombards her mother with anger and insults. She compiles a series of “guilts for [her] list to tell her mother.” (Kingston 204) Despite the intensity of the quarrel between the two, Kingston hints at the fact that her writings of the situation today are more logical and mature. She can analyze her relationship with her mother and family on multiple levels with mixed feelings. Without a doubt, this the most personal of Kingston’s chapters and shows to the readers the process by which she reflects on her childhood. As she does so, we come to understand how a person’s life is defined by a combination of societal conditioning and personal choices. Kingston by no means hates her mother, but she recognizes the difficulties her mother had and understands how such difficulty negatively affected her actions. I like to think the ending wasn’t bitter, but was more of a memoir of a family struggling to reconcile two cultures.
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior. NY: Vintage Books, 1989. pb.