This paper attempts to analyze gender identity in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior from the perspective of social network analysis. The three major female characters in The Woman Warrior – the narrator, the mother Brave Orchid, and the aunt Moon Orchid – experience the female gender role differently as a result of intersection of gender, race, and class. The historical background is China and the U.S. from the late 19th century to the 1970s.
I show that the formation of identities, particularly gender identity as exemplified in the three major female characters in The Woman Warrior, is a consequence of interaction within social networks and results in corresponding behavior. That is, friendly relations form with and without agreement on gender, race/ethnicity, and class between dyads, or two individuals. When people cannot verify their identities in an antagonistic dyad (two-person interaction), they tend to leave or maneuver an open triad (three individual connection) without transitivity (transfer) of positive relations, to find a network that can accommodate their identities. When people cannot verify their identities and leave the network, sometimes tragedies happen such as mental illness in the case of Moon Orchid and arguably the narrator. As for the defining function of race/ethnicity, gender, and class, particularly race in the context of the U.S. on social relations, it suffices to say when people share all three social dimensions, it is highly likely they form a positive closed triad and tend to have more friends who share one or more than one of the three social dimensions: gender, race/ethnicity, and class.