Madness or Silence

December 9, 2010


For the blog we must chose if the last section, “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe”, is either madness or silence, but I think that both represent Maxine. 

Maxine desperately tries to be like her mother and be outspoken and the most popular girl as her mother was in medical school, and in the final section her mother’s talk-stories impact her school life and child hood. In the final section Maxine discusses her school life and how she is tied with another girl for least popular in the school, this is where  the silence plays a part. As much as Maxine tries to be Brave Orchid she is not, instead she is like a typical Chinese women who is shy and barely speaks,  this causes the madness. Because she is tied with this girl she then begins to torment her for no apparent reason but to try and make her talk, this is only part of the madness that Maxine illustrates in this last section, but her silence and lack of popularity in school I believe cause this madness. 

Maxine also mentions her neighborhood and paranoia. She compares herself to the neighborhood crazy girl “Crazy Mary”, and she feels as though she is the “Crazy Mary” of her family because she hears voices in her head, and this turns to paranoia as she fears she will have to marry the mentally ill neighborhood kid, or her parents will give her away to a Chinese man. 

I believe that the Madness is caused by the silence for one key reason. In this chapter Maxine touches on confessing to her mother certain things she did, and when she speaks of killing a spider her mother instantly tells her to stop because she can’t take it, this is the silence. Maxine is not able to talk to her family and is an outsider at school automatically because she is Chinese, so this silence turns to madness, and I think both are about Maxine herself. 

I also wanted to just touch on something we mentioned in class which was about the ghost. In the previous chapters Maxine mentioned not being able to stay at her mother house because the ghost haunt her, I think the Ghost is her mother. Although she loves her mother, her mot her made life very difficult and put contradicting views in Maxine’s mind. All her talk-stories and ghost stories of her killing ghost and of medical school and being strong women play a huge toll on Maxine and her madness. She desperately wants to be her mother but is more like Moon Orchid and other Chinese women because she is quiet and Maxine knows this goes against everything her mother instilled in her. The ghost is also her culture, although she loves it she doesn’t want it to hold her back as it did her mom, who went from doctor(Shaman) to Laundry worker. I realized this mostly from her name Maxine Hong Kingston, She wants to push her culture away but still remember where she came from so she hyphens rather than getting rid of her maiden name and culture completely.

One Response to “Madness or Silence”

  1.   beverly gross said:

    quite thoughtful about Maxine’s relation with her mother

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