When a person has enough power in a society, it gives them a lot of control over certain things. When they have this control, they can have ownership over a person or a thing. By naming someone, or something, a person gains an unspoken ownership over him or her, they are now in control of him or her and it has created a new identity for them and erased their old identity. Power, naming and un-naming, control and ownership and identity are very important elements in Mary and No Name Woman. Both essays deal with power, identity, control and ownership, while Mary focuses more on naming and No Name Woman focuses on un-naming.
One s power and position in a society can give them the right or ability to name or un-name a person. Someone can gain this right by his or her status socially, financially, and even racially. If it s their own child, of course, they have every right in the world to name him or her. But in some cultures, as is evident in No Name Woman, they have the right to take away someone s name if they have disgraced their family and/or community. A name is very significant because it gives a person a sense of who they are, an identity.
In No Name Woman, Kingston s aunt had no identity except for the story her mother told her and in Mary Marguerite s new boss, Mrs. Cullinan changed her name to Mary which then, in a way, removed Marguerite s original identity and gave her a new one, one she didn t want. By changing Marguerite s name, Mrs. Cullinan proves how much power she has over a little black servant like Marguerite. A rich white member of the society, in which Marguerite grew up, has more power and control over things than someone of a poor background or a black background.
Mrs. Cullinan wasn t the first to incite the drastic change of Marguerite s name, although she started it off by calling her Margaret, it was in fact, one of her friends who suggested that the name s too long. I d never bother myself. I d call her Mary if I was you. (5) As if showing off to her friends, and proving that she really does have control and power over black people, she starts calling her Mary, much to Marguerite s disgust. Marguerite soon learned that Mrs. Cullinan had changed Miss Glory s name twenty years ago. My name used to be Hallelujah. That s what Ma named me, but my mistress give me Glory, and it stuck.
I likes it better too. (7) After learning this, Marguerite was torn between laughing at Miss. Glory s original name and crying because she knew it wasn t the first time Mrs. Cullinan changed a name for convenience or to prove her power. She went to great lengths to get fired from working at Mrs. Cullinan s and to get away of the hellish horror of being called out of her name (6). She came in late, left early, and didn t clean the dishes properly, among other things, much to no avail. That is, until one day when her brother suggested to her a way to really get Mrs.
Cullinan for calling her Mary. Marguerite took away the most precious thing to Mrs. Cullinan, a casserole shaped like a fish and the green glass coffee cups. (7) Mrs. Cullinan s mother gave them to her, and Marguerite s mother gave her her name, both were precious items that meant a lot to each of them, and by taking them away from one another, it proved that they both had a lot of power. After Marguerite smashed the dishes, Mrs. Cullinan cried out Her name s Margaret, goddamn it, her name s Margaret (8) as a way of surrendering her own power and disowning Marguerite.
Mrs. Cullinan started off with all of the power in the beginning of the essay, but she then lost it all when Marguerite smashed the dishes and regained control of her own life. You must not tell anyone, my mother said, what I am about to tell you. (341) Kingston s mother tells her the story of her father s sister, her aunt who is the woman with no name. She tells about how she disgraced their family by becoming pregnant by a man other than her husband and how her family disowned her and refused to even utter her name for the rest of time.
The first sentence of the story shows that a person of the Chinese culture holds a very high respect for their family s rules and wishes. Kingston s mother tells her the story as a warning. Now that you have started to menstruate, what happened to her could happen to you. Don t humiliate us. You wouldn t like to be forgotten as if you had never been born. The villagers are watchful. (343) In the Chinese culture, the men have all the power, elderly men more than younger men, but it s still a male dominated culture. The women can never talk back or go against the rules.
They must simply do what they are told and never have any complaints about it. They aren t allowed to privately complain about it either. The round moon cakes and round doorways, the round tables of graduated size that fit one roundness inside another, round windows and rice bowls these talismans had lost their power to warn this family of the law: a family must be whole, faithfully keeping the descent line by having sons to feed the old and the dead, who in turn look after the family. (349) This signifies a never-ending connection between the members of each community in the Chinese culture.
The community has a very strict set of rules and guidelines that everyone must follow. All the married women blunt cut their hair in flaps about their ears or pulled it back in tight buns. (346) Everybody in the community followed the rules exactly to a T, as Kingston suggests, My aunt could not have been the lone romantic who gave up everything for sex. Women in the old China did not choose. (344) One human being flared up into violence could open up a black hole, a maelstrom that pulled in the sky. (348-349) Kingston s aunt went against these guidelines and interrupted the delicate balance very harshly.
Kingston s family proved their power over her aunt by removing her name from their vocabulary and acting as if she had never been born. Kingston then imagines what her aunt was really like, coming up with some different identities that would suit her nicely, but in reality, she is thinking about her own identity, constructing a special one for herself, against her parents and cultures rules. She is making an identity for herself, just as Marguerite did in Mary. They both removed the power of the people who were in control of them and constructed identities for themselves, regardless of what the outcome would be.
Kingston s parents control Kingston with strict rules and guidelines. Kingston goes against these rules, she publishes the story of the aunt who is unspoken of, and then creates an identity for herself that she likes, regardless of what her parents say. Mrs. Cullinan is Angelou s boss who controls her with rules, changes her name to Mary, and Angelou then takes away Mrs. Cullinan s power and regains her own identity. Kingston and Angelou prove in their essays that power gives control, control gives ownership, which in turn can make or break an identity.