Ancient China was a cruel world to live in for women. The social order was plagued with the cruelty of war and unreasonable prejudices were aimed towards women. They weren't respected and appreciated as a figure of authority and for the people they were. Women were seen as nothing more significant than submissive wives. Furthermore, this society expected very little from women. In The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston challenges ancient Chinese society by portraying a young woman as a source of power in this patriarchal system. The strong characterization of The Woman Warrior demonstrates the empowerment of women. The mountain test is a rite of passage for her, as she becomes a stronger person. The dragon that The Woman Warrior encounters symbolizes the role of women in society.
The education of The Woman Warrior illustrates the empowerment of women by developing the protagonist's character and by putting her through difficult situations that she must overcome. The Woman Warrior is inspired by her mother's words, "She said I would grow up a wife and a slave, but she taught me the song of the warrior woman, Fa Mu Lan. I would have to grow up a warrior woman" (Kingston 34). She renounces her conformist life at the age of eight to follow the ways of a soldier. Unlike what is expected of her, the character has a voice. She has the choice to take the path she desires. Ever since she was young, she has known how to take this road in life: "When we Chinese girls listened to the adults talkstory, we learned that we failed if we grew up to be but wives and slaves. We could be heroines, swordswomen" (Kingston 33). In this story, women are restricted to the life preset to them by someone else. However, by training in the mountains under tough conditions, the Woman Warrior builds the vigor she needs to overcome difficult odds. Her training is very difficult but the Woman warrior demonstrates physical strength she learns to jump to formidable heights.