“Defender of the Faith” and “No Name Woman”
“Defender of the Faith” and “No Name Woman”
There are many factors that affect the way a society has evolved - “Defender of the Faith” and “No Name Woman” introduction. Family, religion, ideologies, etc. are just some of the factors that affect the evolution of our society and the world as a whole. Moreover, there are many philosophers or writers who have witnessed an evolution of a society or culture; or who have significantly observed the effects of these factors in their lives. Such testimonials can be read in two different books. Each book signifies a moment in history from two very different times and distinct point of views. The common ground for this book however is that it tackles some very relevant issues that greatly affects our way of life like family, religion, ideologies, etc.
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In Maxine Hong Kingston’s No Name Woman, she utilized the resemblance and differences from three different personas to explore the traditions and beliefs of a traditional Chinese family and culture. The three personas consequently have varying point of views when it came on the topic of Chinese culture. In the end, Kingston criticized the traditional roles of a woman in their society. The three main personas in the narrative are the child Kingston, her mother and her aunt. Each has a varying point of view when it comes to the role of women the society hat they lived in. Traditionally, Kingston’s mother has a very conventional view of women in the society whereas in the case of her aunt, she tells the story of her growing up years in an olden Chinese society; somehow, she wants to impart to the readers the outcome of a traditional view on a more private and individual level. Now, the burden lies in the shoulders of the author to tell her side of the story. Being an Americanized Chinese girl, it was quite hard for her to evaluate her relative’s story mainly because she was already heavily influenced by the Western culture but yet, her Chinese family bond is still very strong and cannot be ignored. The narration of the first two personas in the narrative makes us wonder and explore to better appreciate the Americanized views of a mother-daughter relationship and vice versa. The harsh acceptance and dissatisfaction of her mother’s views generates very little consideration for the conventional views of women in Chinese culture. This memoir became very controversial when it was published because many critics believed that Kingston altered some Chinese facts and that she presented some fictional elements that she offered to the readers as facts (Row).
In the end, Kingston’s views were obviously very highly influenced by her already-Americanized viewpoints. In the narrative, she called Chinese men as misogynists based from the story that her mother told her. In particular, the very same moment when her mother told her the story, she became oriented with the Chinese culture and somehow, her mother introduced young Maxine to the traditional Chinese culture. Perhaps the highlight of her mother’s recollection is the part wherein when she said that No Name Woman (apparently, it was her aunt) decided to commit suicide because she carried a child out of wedlock. Because their family is very bound to their ancient traditions, they decided not to tell it to everyone to protect the family’s name. With the heavy influence of the American culture on her, this became a very questionable and unnecessary act for her family’s part in Kingston’s opinion (Row).
On the other hand, in The Defender of the Faith, Philip Roth demonstrated the various pressures within the modern American Jewish community and at the same time, he also wrote a short story about a decadent Jewish kid who, at that time (1950’s) was serving the armed forces. This particular kid, according to the story is inconsistent, hostile, and manipulative and is only interested in money. Consequently and as expected, this story garnered some very controversial reviews for the critics but majority, from the Jewish community (Butler). There were many Jewish and fanatics that got angry towards Roth and his story but until today, he firmly stands on his story.
The short story was supposed to be funny, satire even, but for the Jewish community, they impulsively overlooked the humor but instead, they concentrated on what they say as “anti-Semitism” in the story (Butler). Indeed, the story holds very funny moments but if we take a closer look and objectively read the story, the reader will realize that Roth wrote the story with the utmost respect for them. At the core, one may realize that actually, the story is not just basically about the Jews but as intended by the author, it principally deals with the disagreement of values such as justice and mercy. The Jewish community just overlooked the superficial context of the short story. If we examine the book, closely, it is not the main point of the author. As a herald of literature, Roth had to over exaggerate certain aspects of the story to make or highlight a point. Besides, it is fiction. The Jewish community just became very angry at Roth for portraying the as some group of corrupt people. Basically, Roth used the current setting of the year as the setting of the story (at that time, America was undergoing a war). With this in mind, it became even more personal for the Jews and they believed that most of what Roth wrote in the short story is basically uncharacteristic of them, their religion and their beliefs.
In this particular story, the obvious plot of the story revolves around the topic of religion. In Roth’s opinion, during that time, when Jews were causing so much stir in the world of religion and politics, it was a high time to base a character for one of his short stories on them. With the preset in mind that Jews truly have a very strong affinity for their religion and beliefs, Roth manipulated some scenes and characters in the story to add spice to it. But de facto, it does not necessarily mean that all Jews are like that. When the Jews read this story, they became very upset with him for portraying them in such a manner. On a more critical assessment of the essay, we can say that there really was a bias on Roth’s part when he did not only talk about the sergeant that served the army. Aside from that part, the bigger picture is that, he talks about the almost irresolvable disputes between modern American Jewish communities. At the core of the story, there is still a moral lesson that Roth wants to impart to his readers—and those are the values of justice and mercy. Until today, there are still numerous conflicts (both internally and externally speaking) within their community. Apparently, for Roth, the world is still not a friendly place for non-Jews to live in.
Religion and family are just one of the things/factors in our society that builds our character. No matter how we deny it, it shapes our principles and ideologies. In families, we they are able to influence us with everything that we needed to know. Undeniably, they have a very big place in our hearts. They have an effect on us—may it be positive or negative. As for religion, although there are some people who do not give a high regard for their respective religions, the majority of the world still has a religion or a belief that they strongly believe in (its called faith). These religion (or faith for that matter) affects the moral aspect of our values. From it, we are directed with certain “standards” that we should follow. These standards somehow become our way of life. In current times, some things just never change. The authors grew up on a different era but their point of views are still the same as many people today. Undeniably, there had been some changes in our society but some things just remain—like our beliefs for our religion and the bond that we share with our family. The difference between the two authors is that, they touched different issues that during their era, was considered taboo to talk about. They were indeed very brave in taking a leap to so that people may know that such things exist in real life and they have become part of that journey and they can tell their future children that they were brave enough to bear witness to a chunk of history.
Butler, Menachem. “Philip Roth’s 1962 Visit to Yeshiva.” The Commentator (2004). February 20, 2008 <http://media.www.yucommentator.com/media/storage/paper652/news/2004/12/06/Yudaica/Philip.Roths.1962.Visit.To.Yeshiva-821929.shtml>.
Row, Jess. “The Woman Warrior at 30.” (2007). February 20, 2008 <http://www.slate.com/id/2162276>.