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Women in Conflict

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Women in Conflict

Helen Jackson

ENG 125: Introduction to Literature

                Kari Lomanno

July 13, 2015


Women in Conflict

        For years, women have been the subject of oppression. From not being able to vote to having unequal pay, women have dealt with various conflicts throughout history. “What It’s Like to Be a Black Girl” by Patricia Smith and “No Name Woman” by Maxine Kingston both present women from different cultures, that deal with similar conflicts. The women in both text deal with external conflicts that involve individual versus society which lead to internal conflicts of individual versus self. These conflicts shaped how the female characters saw themselves and defined their appearance.

        “What’s It’s Like to Be a Black Girl” and No Name Women” both present external conflicts of individual versus society. In the poem written by Smith, the young black girl deals with unhappiness about her appearance. In a sense, the young girl grows to dislike her skin color as a result of the issues that she endures.  In the short story written by Kingston, a young Chinese American girl deals with issues related to her appearance. She also endures multiple things due to her heritage and the time period in which she lived. Three literary techniques that are utilized in both texts include imagery, figurative language, and exposition

        . In the poem written by Smith, imagery, which appeals to the five senses, is used throughout (Clugston, 2014). Smith uses vivid descriptions of events that occur in black girl’s life as a result of their conflicts. She uses words such as “bleached white mop head”, “edges are wild” and “suffering” (Smith, 1991). These words give the reader a clear description of the way the young girls sees herself. She uses the “bleached white mop head” to hide her natural colored hair because she feels that her hair is untamable. This implies that she not only dislikes the color of her hair, but the texture as well.

        In the short story written by Kingston, she uses imagery to describe the different situations her aunt was in. The use of such words and phrases like “splattering blood” and giving step by step details of how her aunt beautified herself give the reader a vivid image to imagine while reading (Kingston, 1991). There are also mentions of how her aunt and siblings had their feet bound during the day to prevent them from growing. According to Gu et al. (2015) “the custom of bound feet among Chinese women has existed for almost a century. It is a custom that was banned in 1912, but practiced lawfully before this (Gu et al, 2015).  After the binding were taken off, the results were extreme pain as their parent let “the blood gushes back into their veins” (Kingston, 1975). This was a conflict on individual versus society. During the time period and in the country in which they lived, the women were labeled as more appealing and acceptable if they had smaller feet. They had to endure extreme acts such as this in order to be accepted. These events of individual versus society lead to conflicts of individual versus self. The girls were taught the little girls that there natural bodies were not pleasing enough causing conflicts within themselves. Issues dealing with self-esteem and self-worth could have been a direct cause of the cultural practices.

        Figurative language is largely used in “What It’s Like to Be a Black Girl”. Smith uses figurative language to emphasize the struggles that young black girls go through.  At one point, Smith describes when a girl reaches puberty and realizing her sexuality as “finding a space between legs” and also finding “a disturbance at your chest” (Smith, 1991). These words helped to express the lack of knowledge that young African American girls can possess when it comes to their bodies and also conflicts within themselves or individual versus self. A young girl’s body is forever changing and not knowing what these changes consist of or what they are can present a combination of emotions including of fear, confusion, and excitement.



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