Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior" recounts the troubles and triumphs of Chinese women in ancient folklore and in modern day America. Learn this word list that focuses on the theme of family conflict.
willingly obedient out of a sense of duty and respect
The tone surrounding the word "dutifully" is not so respectful because 1) it describes a manner of eating at an airport, 2) it describes Brave Orchid's niece and not her children, and 3) it is being used by an author whose book highlights struggles with familial duties.
“Do you think my son is in Vietnam?” she asked her niece, who was dutifully eating.
(followed by `to' or `of') lacking conscious awareness of
In the example sentence, both Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid are being oblivious and blocking strangers' ways. But later, Moon Orchid's obliviousness creates conflicts within the family, and throughout the book, Kingston shows how her obliviousness to Chinese customs creates conflicts with her mother, and her mother's obliviousness to American customs creates conflicts for her.
Finally Moon Orchid gathered up her stuff, strings hanging and papers loose, and met her sister at the door, where they shook hands,
oblivious to blocking the way.
Another definition of "barbarous" is "able or disposed to inflict pain or suffering"--this definition could fit the example sentence because Brave Orchid is pained by her children's behavior. But the chosen definition reflects how Brave Orchid refers to all Americans, which includes her six children born in America, as "barbarians".
They’d put the bad mouth on their aunt’s first American day; you had to sweeten their noisy
Brave Orchid’s children were antisocial and secretive. Ever since they were babies, they had
burrowed little nests for themselves in closets and underneath stairs; they made tents under tables and behind doors.
As she walked back to her sister, she noted corners and passageways, broom closets, other offices—ambush spots. Her sister could crouch behind a drinking fountain and wait for him to get thirsty.
Another definition of "reclaim" is "bring, lead, or force to abandon a wrong or evil course of life and adopt a right one"--this also describes Brave Orchid's view of Moon Orchid's husband, but in the example sentence, the word is simply referring to taking back what Brave Orchid believes is rightfully Moon Orchid's. Notice how Brave Orchid does all the claiming, even as she pushes Moon Orchid to reclaim.
“This is my sister who has come to Gold Mountain to
reclaim her husband.”
Although this description is showing Brave Orchid being tender by trying to breathe some warmth into Moon Orchid's fingers, the word "stoke" is usually applied to an actual fire or to human anger. Brave Orchid enjoys stoking fiery conflicts. In this case, Moon Orchid was the firewood that got burned in the process. Out of guilt, Brave Orchid is now trying to stoke Moon Orchid back to life.
Brave Orchid rubbed the slender hands, blew on the fingers, tried to
stoke up the flickerings.