Maxine The central character in The Woman Warrior. Shy, awkward, introspective, and intellectual, she describes her anguished childhood years and her coming to terms with two competing cultures, American and Chinese.
No Name Woman Maxine's Chinese aunt, who drowned herself and her baby after villagers ransacked her house as punishment for her extramarital sexual affair with a man who probably forced himself on her. Kingston, who names this aunt "No Name Woman" because her family refuses to mention the aunt's real name ever again, devotes a chapter to her partly to end this silence.
Brave Orchid Maxine's mother, who attended medical school in China before she joined her husband in America. Her name suggests a brave, resilient, resourceful, and sometimes harsh character.
Moon Orchid Brave Orchid's sister, whose name implies a delicate, elegant, but passive nature. Unfortunately, her passivity does not help her survive after her husband rejects her when she arrives in America. Moon Orchid ends up in a mental asylum.
Tom Kingston's father, who came to America and worked in New York for years before sending for his wife in China. In China Men, the companion volume to The Woman Warrior, we learn that Kingston's father is a gentle and scholarly man who left a teaching career in China to support his family as a laundry worker.
Fa Mu Lan The legendary Chinese heroine who appears in Chinese ballads, novels, operas, and other literary forms. Historians do not agree on whether or not this Chinese Joan of Arc really existed. As a child, Kingston fantasized about becoming Fa Mu Lan.
Ts'ai Yen A Chinese historical figure who in 195 was captured by nomads and held captive for twelve years. A scholar, poet, and musician, Ts'ai Yen describes her years of alienation and exile in "Eighteen Stanzas for a Barbarian Reed Pipe," from which Kingston gets the last chapter's title. As an adult, Kingston strongly identifies with Ts'ai Yen.
The Silent Girl The Chinese girl whom Kingston bullies in sixth grade. Kingston fears that this girl's negative public image implies her own unpopularity and non-conformity.