1. Writers choose carefully titles. Lets consider this one. Why are names important and what would it mean not to have a name? Is identity an issue in this work? What does it mean to be a woman in the world Kingston presents?2. “You must not tell anyone,” my mother said, “what I am about to tell you (Kingston 3). Who is the “you” here? Isn‟t she doing exactly what her mother told her not to do? She‟s telling us!Socratic Seminar
3. What type of questions does Kingston still have after hearing the story about her Aunt?4. Use the text to discuss some of Kingston‟s commentaries on Chinese Culture.
“In 1924 just a few days after our village celebrated seventeen hurry-up weddings—to make sure that every young man who went „out on the road‟ would responsibly come home—your father and his brothers and your grandfather and his brothers and your aunt‟s new husband sailed for America, the Gold Mountain. It was your grandfather‟s last trip. Those lucky enough to get contracts waved goodbye from the decks. They fed and guarded the stowaways and helped them off in Cuba, New York, Bali, Hawaii. „We‟ll meet in California next year,‟ they said. All of them sent money home” (3).5. Where is this village? Later we see the men are headed to America . Where does the aunts story take place? Where are the mother and daughter living during the telling of the story?6. What do you suppose “hurry-up weddings” are and what is their purpose? How do these weddings function differently than American weddings?7. Why would America be called the “Gold Mountain”? How would you characterize these men?
“I remember looking at your aunt one day when she and I were dressing; I had not noticed before that she had such a protruding melon of a stomach. But I did not think, She‟s pregnant,‟ until she began to look like other pregnant women, her shirt pulling and the white tops of her black pants showing. She could not have been pregnant, you see, because her husband had been gone for years. No one said anything. We did not discuss it. In early summer she was ready to have the child, long after that time when it could have been possible” (3).8. What does this scene tell us about the mother‟s living relationship with the aunt? Note the quotation marks that begin this paragraph; they remind us that the aunt‟s story is being told to the narrator.9. Silence--a strange response, isn‟t it? What is this meaning of this silence? Why was she silent? Why tell now?
“The village had also been counting. On the night the baby was to be born thevillagers raided our house. Some were crying. Like a great saw, teeth strung with lights, files of people walked zigzag across our land, tearing the rice. Their lanterns doubled in the disturbed black water, which drained away through the broken bunds*. As the villagers closed in, we could see that some of them, probably men and women we knew well, wore white masks. The people with long hair hung it over their faces. Women with short hair made it stand up on ends. Some had tied white bands around their foreheads, arms, and legs” (3-4).10. What had the village been counting? Why do you thinkthe word “village” rather than “villagers” is used here? 11. How would you describe this raid? Look closely at the words: “great saw,” “disturbed black water,” “broken bunds,” “masks,” “long hair hung…over their faces,” and “short hair … [to] stand up on ends.” *bund: an embankment used to control the flow of water (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
12. Why has the narrator kept silent about her aunt for so long? What does she realize about her silence?13. Is the narrator saying that the family has acted worse than the villagers? How so? 14. Clearly the aunt betrayed her “hurry up” husband; however, how was the adultery and pregnancy a betrayal of the family?15. How do Chinese beliefs about existence after death elucidate the family‟s punishment of the aunt?16. Why bring in Chairman Mao and the even distribution of goods?17. How is drowning in the family‟s drinking water a spiteful act? Should we think of the aunt as a victim?18. From this paragraph how would you describe the narrator‟s feelings toward the aunt. (Consider: The aunt “haunts” and “waits silently for a substitute.” “I do not think she means me well.”)19. Are there similarities in the narrator‟s and the aunt‟s actions? How do they both cross forbidden boundaries?20. Why does her haunt haunt her?
21.This cautionary tale is meant to persuade Kingston to conform to her parents‟ values. What is the argument behind the narrative the mother tells? Does it make sense to you? What might be a contemporary argument in a middle-class American family? 22. Were you ever put at an “outcast table” or anything comparable in your house or school? Did you ever hear of such a ritual? What did happen when you were punished? What kinds of things were you punished for? Why do you think these specific things were chosen? 23. Is this also a tale about gender inequality? How does Kingston suggest this? How are relations between men and women portrayed here? 24. Kingston talks a good deal about spirits and ghosts. How do they function in this essay? Which parts of this piece seem true to you? Which seem fictional? Why does she blend these elements together? 25. Sexual mores change over time and from country to country. What specifically about the aunt‟s context made her transgression so severe? How would her “crime” be viewed in contemporary America? Why? What do you think an ideal response would be?