For Forty Years, In China and in San Francisco, Winnie Louie and Helen Secrets are about to be revealed. Helen, convinced that she is dying of a terminal. Mar 19, The kitchen god's wife by Amy Tan, , Ivy Books edition, in English. The kitchen god's wife. byTan, Amy. Publication date DAISY download. For print-disabled users. Borrow this book to access EPUB and PDF files.
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"Remarkable mesmerizing compelling. An entire world unfolds in Tolstoyan tide of event and soundofheaven.info yourself over to the world Ms. Tan creates. THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE Amy TanBooks published by The Ballantine Publishing Group are available at quantity discounts o. soundofheaven.info KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE Notes including • Life and Background of the Author • Introduction to the Novel.
Who will look after her now? Fragile-looking, yet strong and brave, the kind of person nothing could stop. And now I can't tell him what I really feel, what it's like. It was sweet. Casket, I also helped decide this.
And Winnie angrily determines that she must be the one to tell her daughter, Pearl, about the past—including the terible truth even Helen does not know. Tan was also the coproducer and co-screenwriter of… More about Amy Tan. Amy Tan has a command with language in which event and concrete perception jump into palpable metaphor, and images from the daily world act like spiritual agents.
Read An Excerpt. Literary Fiction Category: Literary Fiction. Paperback —. Buy the Ebook: Add to Cart. Also by Amy Tan. Product Details. Inspired by Your Browsing History. Related Articles. Looking for More Great Reads? In the scandal stimulated by the trial, Jimmy Louie loses his job as interpreter and must return to the United States. He vows to return in two years, and meanwhile he supports her with letters and gifts of American dollars.
Auntie Du obtains Weili's early release from prison in the spring of by intimidating corrupt officials. Through trickery, Weili forces Wen Fu to sign divorce papers; Wen Fu avenges himself by stalking her, ripping up the divorce papers, threatening to steal the plane tickets, and raping Weili at gunpoint.
She captures his gun and forces him trouserless into the street. She leaves China by plane the next day, narrowly escaping occupation of Shanghai by the Communists, who ban all emigration. She settles with Jimmy in California, fearful that the child she bears may be the offspring of Wen Fu, inheriting his evil traits. When Winnie concludes her life story, Pearl ends a quarter-century of mother-daughter alienation by disclosing her multiple sclerosis to her mother.
Plans form for a trip to China to seek herbal treatments and cures. To seal their newfound comfort with the truth, Winnie burns the picture of the cruel Kitchen God and selects for Pearl a new icon for the red temple altar: Lady Sorrowfree. As the novel begins in , Weili uses the nickname "Winnie" given to her by her late American husband, Jimmy Louie. Her narration of her "secret" life story to her daughter Pearl forms the core of the novel.
Through the challenges of her life in wartime China, she replaces insecurity, dependence, and self-deprecation with peace of mind, selfassurance, and independence. Her granddaughters lovingly call her "Ha-bu. Being the second "second wife" the other, a suicide , she is dubbed his "double second.
San Ma Jiang's third wife, she plays a significant background role at several crisis points in the novel: Weili recognizes her qualities when she says to San Ma, "What a good person you are. He and his wives give Weili a home from to while she attends a Catholic boarding school in Shanghai. Old Aunt Jiang's brother's first wife, she is rigid about rules for proper behavior.
In later years, it is clear Old Aunt loves Weili, has a natural sense of humor, and feels shame about their circumstances after the war. New Aunt and Weili's mother had been classmates at the missionary school in Shanghai.
Jiang Huazheng "Peanut" Huazheng, Weili's cousin, daughter of Uncle and New Aunt, is called Peanut Huasheng in Chinese "because she was small and plump like the two rounds of a peanut shell. Ironically, unable to marry Wen Fu, she marries into a relationship that is even more untenable than had she married Wen Fu; her marriage is so unbearable, in fact, that it leads to her divorce and isolation from her mother and father.
Mochou A girl, the stillborn first child of Weili and Wen Fu; her name means "sorrowfree. Danru Weili and Wen Fu's third child and first son, his name means "nonchalance. They eventually must send him away from Shanghai, and he dies in an epidemic far from his mother.
Information Service. He meets and flirts with Weili at a Christmas dance sponsored by the Americans in Kunming in , and he gives her an American nickname, Winnie. Five years later, they meet accidentally in Shanghai and become friends and lovers.
Three years later, Weili flees to America to marry Jimmy, who has become a Christian minister. Pearl Louie Brandt Winnie's daughter. Born after Winnie's arrival in the U. Pearl has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Samuel Louie Winnie's son, born in , he lives in New Jersey in Phil Brandt Pearl's Caucasian husband and San Jose pathologist, he tries to protect Pearl from a full-fledged attack of multiple sclerosis and seems frustrated that he can't do more. Tessa and Cleo Pearl and Phil's daughters ages eight and three, respectively, in Weili meets Hulan shortly after marrying Wen Fu, when he reports to Hangchow for pilot training.
Hulan becomes Weili's lifelong friend in an outspoken relationship that seems to flourish on their differences. She also becomes Winnie's partner in a flower shop in San Francisco. Initially, Pearl thinks that Helen is her aunt. Long Jiaguo A vice-captain in China's new air force, he is head of the second trained air squadron that includes Wen Fu, Gan, and other new pilots.
Auntie Du Ching Hulan's aggressive, superstitious, opinionated, and kindly aunt, she is the widow of Helen's paternal uncle, and mother of a daughter who joins the Communists. After her immigration to the U. Twice married and divorced and recently rid of an engagement, he is again becoming engaged, this time to Mimi Wong, the celebration of which is one reason for the family gathering at the novel's opening. Mary lives in Los Angeles and is married to Doug Cheu.
Gan A mild-mannered, gentlemanly pilot in Jiaguo's squadron, he admires Weili's cooking, confides in her, spends time with her. Wan Betty A chance acquaintance who works as a telegraph operator in Nanking and later in Shanghai, she writes a letter to Helen about Wen Fu's death. Min She is a stage-struck, illiterate concubine whom Wen Fu installs in his home while Weili gives birth to Danru; Weili befriends and helps her.
Little Yu's Mother She is a widow whose daughter has hanged herself rather than endure an impossible marriage. With Peanut's help, she assists in the management of the Shanghai waystation for runaway wives.
Ma He is the skilled and crusty old driver of the truck with nine passengers, including Weili, fleeing from Nanking over fourteen hundred miles to Kunming. Mimi Wong Roger Kwong's young third wife. The historical events are not simply employed to provide color and realism, but are integral influences on the story itself. The chronology outlined below includes several historical events which are not mentioned in the novel but which play a significant role in the novel's historical and fictional events--for example, the U.
Sun Yat-sen dies. Chiang Kai-shek takes over the leadership of the Kuomintang. The Communists call a general strike in Shanghai, overthrowing local warlords. Chiang turns on the Communists, killing thousands. Chiang Kai-shek establishes a new Nationalist government at Nanking, challenged by Communists.
Jiang Weili Winnie is born in Shanghai. Hulan Helen is born near Loyang. Weili's mother disappears, abandoning Weili. Weili is sent to live in an uncle's house on Tsungming Island. She attends a boarding school in Shanghai. Weili continues attending the missionary school in Shanghai. Mao Tse-tung creates the Chinese Communist Republic in Jiangxi province, where millions of Chinese are without means of earning a living.
Japan invades and bombs Shanghai but is later forced to abandon it. Japan creates the puppet state of Manchukuo from Manchuria. Henry Pu-yi the "last" emperor" of China is abducted from Tientsin and made Manchukuo's puppet emperor.
As many as , Communists under Mao Tse-tung and Zhu De begin the "long march" of 6, miles north from Jiangxi to escape the Kuomintang.
Perhaps 8, survive the long march and arrive in Shaanxi. Mao Tse-tung is chosen as the Communist party leader after the success of the long march. The Chinese Communists and the Kuomintang join together to fight the Japanese, their common enemy.
Claire Chennault retires from the U. Army in April to become an air training advisor to the Chinese government June. The Chinese repel a Japanese attempt to take some bridges near Peking July. Chiang Kai-shek is named Commander-in-Chief of all of China's armed forces. The first offensive air mission over Shanghai August 14 accidentally kills almost 1, civilians. Shanghai falls November.
Capital moved from Nanking to Hankow December. Chennault sets up an air training base at Kunming. The capital is moved from Hankow to Chungking. The Japanese attack China's industrial heartland in the Wuchang-Hankow area. After five months of battle, the Japanese take Hankow and Canton, the last major Chinese port, effectively cutting China off from supplies by sea October.
They move to Hangchow for pilot training, where Weili meets Hunan. The air force flies its first disastrous mission over Shanghai. The pilots are moved almost immediately to Yangchow and then to Nanking, where Weili and Hulan experience taonan when Japanese planes fly over the Marketplace. They are sent from Nanking on the long trip to Kunming in southwest China.
Along the way, they hear the news about the destruction of Nanking. Weili's first child, Mochou, is born dead in Kunming. Wen Fu wrekcs his jeep, killing a woman passenger and losing sight in one eye.
The Japanese are defeated at Changsha, their first real defeat October. Britain had to focus its military attention on the Germans gathering on the English Channel.
The effect was the same as closing the Burma Road. The Japanese are gradually pushed back in China. Friction between Chinese Nationalists and Chinese Communists increases. War has weakened and corrupted the Nationalists, while mobilizing and strengthening the Communists. Attempts between Nationalists and Communists to settle differences fail.
The U. Japan surrenders August. All-out war is declared between the Chinese Communists and Nationalists. Communists seize territory wherever they can. Open civil war erupts between Nationalists and Communists. Yiku dies after abuse by Wen Fu and convulsions from illness.
Danru, Weili's third child and first son, is born. The Japanese bomb Kunming repeatedly while Wen Fu and Jiaguo are in Chungking training people for defense and setting up an early warning system. Back in Shanghai, the Japanese take control of Jiang Sao-yen's business.
He appears to be a traitor to the Chinese. Weili becomes pregnant several times and aborts the fetus each time. Weili, Wen Fu, and Danru travel back to Shanghai to her father's house. Soon after, Wen Fu's family moves into the house and takes control of the household. Weili and Danru visit the aunts on Tsungming Island and get Peanut's address. She moves in with Jimmy. Weili and Jimmy send Danru north out of Wen Fu's reach.
Danru dies in an epidemic. Weili is arrested, tried, and imprisoned.
Jimmy loses his government job and is ordered to leave 13 www. Martial law is declared by Chiang. He goes to San Francisco. Weili continues her term in prison. Jimmy studies to become a Christian minister.
Newly married to Kuang An and expecting his baby, Hulan visits Weili in prison. Auntie Du arranges for Weili's release April. Weili wires Jimmy, and he tells her to come to the U. Before leaving, she tricks Wen Fu into signing divorce papers.
He tracks Weili down and rapes her at gunpoint. She escapes and leaves China the next day to go to Jimmy in California, just five days before the Communists take over Shanghai and halt emigration. Pearl Louie is born in California.
Samuel Louie is born. Winnie and Jimmy help Hulan and her family get to America from Formosa. Jimmy Louie dies, and fourteen-year-old Pearl refuses to accept it. Pearl Louie marries Phil Brandt. Tessa Brandt is born. Pearl is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Cleo Brandt is born. Wen Fu dies in China of heart disease. Auntie Du dies in a bus accident. The family gathers for Bao-bao's engagement party and Auntie Du's funeral. Winnie finally confides to Pearl the story of her life, and Pearl tells her mother about her multiple sclerosis.
Pearl and her mother, Winnie. The events she describes are mostly in present time and are narrated in present tense. Winnie's Chinese name in most of these flashbacks is Weili. Chapter 25 is in present time again, narrated by Pearl immediately following her mother's story. Chapter 26 is narrated by Winnie in the days after she tells her story to Pearl. The visit requires Pearl, her husband Phil, and their two young daughters to drive fifty miles from San Jose to San Francisco for the banquet at a restaurant.
They must also stay overnight for the funeral of Grand Auntie Du to be held the day after the party. Here, we meet all the major present-day characters and learn something of their individual concerns, fears, and hopes: Each readily misinterprets what the other is saying.
Pearl does not seem able to confide in or talk companionably with her mother. Phil, a pathologist, tries to minimize the stress in their home lives while informing himself about medical advances in the treatment of MS and performing periodic "safety checks" on Pearl's reflexes and strength. Helen is referred to as Winnie's sister-in-law by a previous marriage. To Pearl, Helen reveals her own brain tumor, which the doctors call benign, but which she believes is terminal.
Helen urges Pearl to tell her mother about the multiple sclerosis. If she doesn't, Helen herself will do so in the clearing of the air that customarily accompanies the Chinese New Year. At ninety-seven, energetic Auntie Du was injured in a bus accident and died of a concussion in the hospital after seeming to be on the mend.
Auntie Du's Buddhist funeral is confusing to the Brandts, especially to the children, whose arguments result in their removal from the ceremony by their Caucasian father.
Amid the smell of incense, whirring video camera, wails of hired mourners, and chants of saffron-robed monks, the assembled family achieves little genuine mourning.
Pearl begins crying during the ceremony. Winnie and Pearl both realize that Pearl is finally crying for her father, Jimmy Louie, who died over twenty-five years earlier; at that time, Pearl refused to grieve. Auntie Du has left to Pearl her table-top Chinese altar to the Kitchen God, who watches over everyone's behavior, deciding "who deserves good luck, who deserves bad. Amy Tan opens her novel on an amusing and disturbing montage--the conjunction of a betrothal and a funeral.
The gathering of the Kwong and Louie families for a cousin's engagement banquet and the funeral of Auntie Du become the background against which are revealed excuses, animosities, old grievances, and regrets. A kaleidoscope of scenes pairs mother with daughter, aunt with niece, Caucasian son-in-law with Chinese brother-in-law, grouchy children with a loving "Ha-bu"--all weaving through the testy relationship between two crafty, strongly bonded septuagenarians, Winnie and Helen.
The novel's exposition bursts with examples of the theme of illusion versus reality. Interlacing the action of seemingly congenial family behavior are deceptions and discrepancies such as these: A Chinese-American woman, Pearl is so removed from China that she recognizes few Chinese sentences or written characters. Distracted, their concerns quickly turn to what kind of ice cream they will have when they leave the funeral.
This emotional catharsis suggests that her mourning is tainted with self-pity and fear of her own future incapacitation and death from MS. While revealing such thematic material, Tan does not intend for her characters to mire themselves in recriminations or for her readers to slog through a grief-sodden terrain. Anguish and sorrow are masterfully balanced by lighter moments such as these: The Chinese legend of the Kitchen God and his wife, as told by Winnie to the Brandts at the end of Chapter 2, provides a partial parallel for the story of Winnie's own life, which will become the main narrative of the novel.
Herbal remedies now draw a widening range of Western supporters and users. As it progresses to different parts of the nervous system, it may be accompanied by such symptoms as tremors, lack of coordination, unsteady gait, mental disorientation, impaired vision, numbness, and paralysis. Onset may be followed by decades of remission; emotional trauma can trigger a relapse. However, average life expectancy for the MS patient today is more than thirty-five years after its onset and can be extended through systematic self-care and adjustment of lifestyle.
Also, medication and therapy may lessen its severity and improve the individual's mental outlook. Art deco--a brash break with traditional materials and classic lines--dominated the fashion world in the s. Pearl's bedroom furniture, dating from her teens, is so out-of-date that it appears to have cycled back into style.
Honor and service to ancestors require gifts and periodic cleaning of burial sites. Relatives living away from ancestor memorials may contract with local professional mourners to carry out their family responsibilities.
In Chapter 19, Shanghai's patriots retaliate against those who collaborated with the Japanese by defacing family grave plots. The many dialects of Chinese serve over seven hundred million speakers from China, Southeast Asia, and Tibet.
Mandarin serves the largest number of speakers as the standard written and spoken language--over ninety percent of all Chinese use it. His name now suggests the existence of hidden reasons and causes for an individual's behavior. Iraq is the stronghold of the shia, or a party composed of Shiites.
The focus of celebration is the payment of debts, housecleaning, and the ending of quarrels to prepare the way for a peaceful new year. Amitaba is a Buddha who rules over paradise while enjoying endless bliss. The cry to Amitaba recurs in Chapter 12 as shoppers in the Nanking marketplace drop to the ground during the bombing and call on the heavenly guide to end their pain and terror.
The revitalization of hard-line communism, often referred to as the Cultural Revolution, was led by the Red Guard and fueled by the fanaticism of Mao's wife, Chiang Ch'ing, ultimately degenerating into terrorism, victimization, torture, murder, and anarchy. In , under internal and international duress for human rights violations, Mao curbed the Red Guard's power to avenge private animosities in the name of Party enhancement.
The originator of Taoist study was Lao Tzu. Today, various forms of Zen influence most of the Orient. The study of Zen has also expanded in many parts of the West, including the United States. She believed that immigration to California would relieve her of the many secrets and deceptions that helped her deal with her crisis-filled life in China.
After immigrating to America, Winnie managed to live without new lies until , when her longtime friend Helen claimed repayment of an old debt, asking for Winnie's help in getting Helen and her family from Formosa to the U. So once more Winnie lied, stating that Helen was a half-sister, the offspring of one of her father's other wives. Helen Kwong is not related to Winnie, even by marriage. Winnie acknowledges that the relationship with Helen reflects genuine sibling rivalry even though the two women are kin only in the lies they perpetuate and the trivial arguments they relish.
She has lived in continual fear of Wen Fu's reappearance in her life. Helen knows about Wen Fu and about most of Winnie's early life. Helen suddenly threatens to tell all their shared secrets before the Chinese New Year unless Winnie takes responsibility for making her own disclosures.
Helen tells Winnie there is no more need for all the secrets they have kept from their families. Through a letter from a mutual friend in China, Helen has learned that the despised Wen Fu died in China just the previous month.
Winnie has difficulty absorbing the news and its impact on her life. Uncertain how to deal with Helen's threat to reveal all, Winnie cleans her house, awakening memories of her family life in America through discovery of such items as an old copy of Playboy she had ordered her son Samuel to destroy, initials carved on Pearl's old dressing table, and Pearl's childhood treasure box containing a schoolgirl letter, an announcement of a Sadie Hawkins Day Dance, and a marked-up religious card from Jimmy Louie's funeral.
Facing the alienation that separates her from Pearl, Winnie acknowledges that she has always loved her daughter more than she loved her son. She admits to herself that she owes Pearl the truth about her own life, including the terrible fact that Wen Fu rather than Jimmy Louie is Pearl's father.
Commentary Beginning in Chapter 3, Tan shifts the narrative point of view from Pearl to the strong voice of her mother, Winnie. In these two chapters, Winnie's thoughts touch on an amazing range of events from her life, creating a fragile framework for the novel's focus--the story of a Chinese child from a wealthy background whose mother abandons her, leaving her devalued and ignored in a feudal household from which she must make her way into a world once defined by centuries of imperialism and warlords, then challenged by internal political divisions, invading Japanese, and communism.
Winnie maintains that her best friend--and persistent foil--Helen Kwong, has inborn luck, a quality that has seemingly dried up in Winnie because of "the fate that was given me, the choices I took, the mistakes that are mine.
To Winnie, marriage to Wen Fu foreshadowed a long slide into physical pain, spiritual torpor, and diminished will. Yet, when seen from the point of view of growth, Winnie's inner worth blossoms when she is told by the sisterhood supporting her that only she herself can create her own good fortune.
In assessing her life and luck, Winnie recalls an incident years ago that changed the way she looked at life. Standing outside Jimmie Louie's church when Pearl and Samuel were very young, greeting members of Jimmie's Christian congregation after a Sunday service, Winnie was introduced to Lin, a man from her uncle's village whom she might have married, now a successful doctor. Overcome by heat as well as embarrassment at recalling a childhood faux pas, Winnie felt the fusion of "my past, my life today, my first husband, my second husband, Lin"--and then she fainted in front of everyone.
Later, when she started to consider how things might have been had she married Lin, she had a sudden insight and "from that day on, I began to look at everything in my life two ways, the way it happened, the way it did not.
The concept of preserving outward appearances at all costs is a controlling social mechanism throughout the novel, often explaining why Tan's characters go to such lengths following age-old traditions and rituals to avoid shaming themselves. For example, receivers of gifts open them in private to avoid revealing disappointment and thus embarrassing both the givers and receivers.
The Horse years in this century took place, for example, in , , , and on the Western calendar. Winnie characterizes a Horse year as a time "when people stamped their feet and became reckless. In , Dr. Sun Yat-sen directed this political party. Suppressed by China's new president, the party twice tried to establish revolutionary governments in Canton.
In , after Sun's death and considerable inter-party strife, the Kuomintang passed into the control of General Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalists. This island, now called Taiwan, was under Japanese control from to In , Communist forces drove Chiang Kai-shek and China's nationalists to the island, where they established the Republic of China--in contrast to the People's Republic of China, which is Communist mainland China.
In the s, this translated into the American lifestyle as a day or an event when girls could invite boys to escort them to a dance or a movie. She remembers the room she shared with her mother in their fancy house, where they lived with Weili's wealthy father, Jiang Saoyen, and his three other wives.
She recalls in detail a day in She overhears her mother and father arguing, probably about her mother's status in the family. Later in the day, Weili and her mother take an extensive excursion alone--most unusual--to downtown Shanghai, walking around her mother usually carried her , window shopping, attending a movie, and generally enjoying the sights and sounds of the city.
The same evening at hqme, her mother spends time showing Weili a new embroidery stitch, teaching her to count her fingers and toes, and displaying jewelry that will all be Weili's some day. When Weili awakes the next morning, her mother has disappeared, leaving many questions in Weili's mind: Where did she go? Did she leave with the man she met at the movie theater?
Why did she leave Weili behind? Who will look after her now? The decision about Weili's immediate future is made by some unnamed power--perhaps her father and his third wife, the sensible San Ma. As a result, about a week after her mother's disappearance, Weili travels two hours by motorboat up the Huangpu RIver to Tsungming Island.
Here she joins the household of her father's younger brother and his two wives, "Old Aunt" and "New Aunt" to Weili. Remorse, yearning, and gossipy nonsense tangle the slender threads in Weili's memory of a mother who abandoned her daughter to free herself from a loveless marriage. She remembers her mother "ten thousand different ways. She has never been able to anchor the image of her strong-willed, fashion-conscious mother to a final fate or resting place.
Returning to , we see Weili spending almost twelve years either in a missionary boarding school in Shanghai never seeing her father or in her uncle's house on Tsungming Island, which is ruled by the two aunts, who either ignore her or carp at her. In that house, Weili never enjoys the status of being a family member, ranking lower even than a perennial guest.
For example, she finally has no choice: Weili's younger cousin, nicknamed "Peanut," and Peanut's two younger brothers get the attention in the family. In early , before the Chinese New Year, Weili accompanies her overdressed, overpainted cousin Peanut and the two boys to the local marketplace.
As part of the holiday celebration, vendor stalls sell special foods, toys, candies, hair ornaments, and much more. Fortune tellers nourish dreams of a bright year ahead, and Peanut spends more than her share of the money they have been given to pay for a fortune about what kind of husband she will have.
Actors in the marketplace perform a silly play and beg for money to support a local charity. One bold, flamboyant actor is Wen Fu, the eldest son of a family with an overseas business. He delights the two boy cousins and becomes attentive to Peanut, apparently aware that hers is the wealthiest family on the island. He even ferries her home from the marketplace in a borrowed wheelbarrow. In the days that follow the Chinese New Year celebration, Wen Fu continues his wooing of Peanut with secret messages and meetings, arranged with Weili's disapproval and assistance.
Suddenly, Weili begins to dream of a home among loving family members. Seeing herself betrayed, Peanut becomes physically and verbally abusive to Weili, who remembers that the fortune teller predicted Peanut would lose her local suitor to someone else.
Neither of them are as yet aware of how greedy and heartless the Wens are. Needing her father's approval of the marriage, Weili's aunts take her to Shanghai for a visit with her father. He agrees to the marriage and gives her a substantial financial dowry for her personal use. San Ma, her father's third wife, then takes her on a seven-day spree of dowry shopping, buying everything from triple dressers and armoires to intimate garments, tubs for personal hygiene, and ten pairs of silver chopsticks.
Although the purchases seem very generous, Weili later learns that San Ma had purchased items for a much larger dowry--"five times bigger"--for another of Jiang's daughters. Weili concludes that her father must be aware of the Wens' poor reputation and that he must not have thought much of her to marry her to Wen Fu.
As an omen of how the Wens will treat her, most of her purchased dowry is taken by members of the Wen family as their own or sold overseas by the Wens to get the money. Her hidden sets of silver chopsticks and her dowry in the bank become her only possessions of value. Commentary The loss of her mother in childhood is the dramatic source for many of Winnie's thoughts and feelings. According to Amy Tan's reflective article "Lost Lives of Women" Life, April , her own concept of Chinese "loss of face" began at home with the study of a photograph taken in showing female members of her family in mourning.
After Daisy Tan confided the facts of the rape of her mother, Jingmei, and her subsequent subjection to the role of concubine, Daisy burst into an emotional defense: You do not know what it's like to have no position in life.
I was her daughter. We had no face! We belonged to nobody! This is a shame I can never push off my back. Tan herself traveled to China and followed the Huangpu River from Shanghai--the route Weili took after her father dispatched her to Uncle's house on Tsungming Island--to her grandmother's place of exile. Pre-Communist China's superstitions play active roles in the characters' lives--mythical cures, curses, whimsical gods, spirit money, seers, lucky days, and other forms of numerology.
For example, Weili overhears the fortune teller shaping marriage predictions to Peanut's wishes and reactions, "chasing away" the local man she was supposed to marry, sending him to someone else, and promising Peanut wealth with a man farther away. Later, Weili cannot explain except through destiny the transference of the ill luck that skips Peanut--that is, marriage to Wen Fu--into the catastrophe that overwhelms and dominates much of Weili's adult life.
For several pages, the story takes on the trappings of a fable. After Auntie Miao applies her mercenary skills to a satisfactory--that is, a mutually profitable--union between the Wens and Jiangs, the buoyant, reassuring visions of "happily ever after" transform Weili her uncle's out-of-favor foster child into the Cinderella of the moment.
Even bittersweet memories of her mother fail to daunt Weili's joy in her betrothal.
Although obviously forewarned, Weili pays allegiance to the same patriarchal system that held her mother in bondage and forced her to finally value her own freedom over her duties as a mother. Perhaps the young Weili believes her mother's story was a fluke, a rare example of a headstrong, Westernized, overeducated wife too sure of herself to allow a man to do her thinking for her.
Weili and San Ma's seven-day dowry-buying spree reads like a tale about a starving beggar following a philanthropist to a banquet table and sampling at will from a rich man's birthright. So long deprived of the family attention that builds self-esteem, Weili grabs at every bauble, every purchase that revalidates her inner worth. Like a pre-marital counselor, San Ma explains the importance of each item, such as the intimate garments and the special tubs in which she should wash to keep her body sweet and appealing to her groom.
The dramatic irony of the seventh day of shopping presents a wide-eyed bride-to-be handling the "Chinese silver, pure, soft silver, just like money you can exchange" and ignoring San Ma's dealings with the clerk over table settings to serve ten. Like man and wife in ideal matrimony, a pair of chopsticks in Weili's fingers are of equal length and value, mated with a silver chain to keep each from straying from the other. Mimicking her role as wife and nipping at imaginary morsels with heavy silver chopsticks--the only bridal gift that Weili will manage to save for herself--she actually clutches at nothing of true significance.
Warlords sometimes individually waged war on one another and occasionally formed coalitions and alliances. In , warlordism was replaced temporarily by popular nationalism. However, after the new president's death in , regional warlords vied with each other for control of the central government.
Most provinces continued under the control of local military commanders until the Communist unification in The collapse of the warlords in that year coincides with Weili's escape from her abusive husband, Wen Fu, who treated Weili as a feudal lord might treat his vassal, a virtual slave, always subject to the lord's peculiar whims.
These and other luxuries--the mirror, Western clothing, jewelry, a private room, servants, and freedom of movement-indicate that although Weili's mother was a "double second" wife, she still enjoyed being pampered. Thus, the place of "second wife" was considered a "bad luck spot" by the envious third, fourth, and fifth wives, San Ma, Sz Ma, and Wu Ma. Weili's mother allowed herself to become "Double Second. The pedicab replaced the bulkier rickshaw, in which the driver ran on foot while pulling the cab with long poles grasped under each arm.
Now called Chungming, the island grew hundreds of years ago from a sandbar in Shanghai harbor, an estuary of the Yangtze and Huangpu rivers. Later, these women had to walk carefully in light, birdlike steps, creating an impression of fragility and modesty. When the ruler died, Confucius became an itinerant teacher and sage. Three important doctrines of Confucius include believing in benevolence doing unto others as to yourself , acting with benevolence, and acting in accordance with propriety.
Emperor Hsuan T'ung, the teenaged heir of the Manchus, abdicated and was forced into house arrest on February 12, Later a young man of Manchurian ancestry, Henry Pu-yi, was made puppet head of Manchukuo, formerly Manchuria, by the occupying Japanese. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, a teenage classic of emotional turmoil and insecurity. This novel of a runaway boy who flees failure at a private school was considered a shocking novel in the s and is still the periodic target of book banning.
Each year is represented by one of the following animals: Now Peanut seems full of helpful suggestions about Weili's wedding. Peanut passes on news about the unsavory business practices of the Wens, as well as a "sex story" to the sexually naive Weili.
In the story, a young man dies because his penis becomes stuck in a woman whose overpowering yin destroys her groom, who has a lesser yang.
Weili's casual glimpses of the tiny organs of her little boy cousins do not prepare her for the sight of Wen Fu's erect organ on their wedding night.
Relieved after telling Pearl about her wedding night ignorance and agony, Winnie turns her narrative to the circumstances under which she met Helen in , one month after marrying Wen Fu.
While Chinese factions have been fighting among themselves, the Japanese have taken over Chinese territory in the northeast. Using the false credentials of his deceased brother, Wen Fu has been accepted in the air force. With Weili in tow, Wen Fu reports for pilot training in Hangchow, about miles southwest of Shanghai. The living conditions in an old monastery at the training center are primitive, but the wives of the pilots make life as pleasant as possible.
Weili and Hulan become friends even though their differences in family background, education, worldliness, and personality frequently put them at odds with each other. When the thread of Winnie's story returns to the private details of her marriage, Winnie is not at ease discussing her husband's cruelty and vulgarity--even to her married daughter, Pearl.
She prefaces her first account of Wen Fu's abuse with: So I will tell you what happened, although maybe not everything. Maybe I'll come to a part where I cannot say any more. And when that happens you just have to imagine what happened.
And then you should imagine it again and make it ten times worse. Returning to , Weili is surprised at how tolerant Jiaguo is of Hulan's nagging.
Weili and Hulan have found a little outdoor pavilion in which to picnic, relax, and work embroidery in the hot summer afternoons and from which they have a glorious view of the surrounding area. One afternoon during a thunderstorm, Weili admits strange and erratic desires for food. After a few questions, Hulan convinces her she is pregnant.
Weili is both uninformed and misinformed about pregnancy and birth. Hulan tells of her own unfortunate experience in her home near Loyang, trying to help her unmarried sister give birth. The man was Jiaguo, "so scared of my sister's curse that he married me," Hulan confides.
Now Weili begins to understand his great patience with Hulan. Wen Fu seems almost indifferent to the idea of a baby, and he continues to mistreat Weili. When Weili confides in Hulan, expecting commiseration, her trusted confidante reprimands her for not being more receptive to her husband's desires.
Suddenly they are told their husbands are flying out and the wives rush to pack their husbands' clothes. They arrive at the air force base just in time to see their pilot-husbands getting final orders and then flying away, apparently into an air attack in which victory is anticipated. Commentary In Chapter 8, Tan continues spacing segments of oral transmission with digression as Winnie relates to Pearl her quick metamorphosis from scared maiden to war bride and more gradual transformation to assertive woman.
Tan reminds the reader, first, that Pearl knows nothing of her mother's burden of humiliation, guilt, regret, and worry for her daughter, and second, that the autobiography is a necessary account, narrated on her own terms lest Helen tells the story her way. The joy of a mother-daughter relationship is central to the story with the sad irony that, unlike Weili, Pearl has a mother but, at this point in the action, does not avail herself of a loving, confiding relationship.
Instead of bolstering one another, Pearl has drifted from intimacy into annoyance with her mother and self-absorption, while Winnie has turned to Helen, her annoying, competitive pseudo-sister.
Chapter 8 illustrates a motif of surface value vs. Echoing the green of her mother's jade earrings and foreshadowing later references to Weili's green dress and coat, the greenhouse windows wink a promise of hope and refuge from adult chicanery and the extended family's callousness.
Almost immediately, the green of hope withers as Peanut relates the news about the Wen family's sordid "garbage business," a disreputable method of milking foreigners of money by passing off Chinese shrines and paintings of ancestors to the Americans and British as treasured antiques.
Weili's developing fetus causes her to search for a certain food to satisfy her hunger, a yearning that parallels her longing for a loving family and a secure home, both lacking since her mother's disappearance. Practitioners of Oriental herbal medicine use moxibustion as a curative, soothing therapy, muscle relaxant, or cauterizing agent. In early , Chiang turned air force matters over to Madame Chiang, charging her to eliminate its corruption, confusion, and incompetence.
Chiang's American-educated brother, Dr. V Soong, was Chiang's minister of finance and an enthusiastic supporter of using air power in China and of asking the U. Herself educated at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, Mme. Chiang regularly used her knowledge and influence to aid her husband. Later, the first female to receive a commendation from the Chinese government, she wrote autobiographical studies of China's revolutionary years. On July 17, , Chiang sometimes referred to as "Generalissimo" convinced China's leaders of the need for massive defense and retaliation efforts, and on August 7, the War of Resistance against Japan was officially declared.
Two days later, August 14, was the date of China's first offensive air action at Shanghai, the sortie from Hangchow that takes flight at the end of Chapter Army Air Corps.
He knew of the need for air expertise in China so he retired as captain from the U. Army and immediately went to China, where he became advisor to Chiang Kai-shek on air defense strategy.
In , in China, Chennault formed the Flying Tigers, an American volunteer group of skilled American pilots who were offered special bonuses to join the China mission. They celebrate early successes in Chapter 18 with the dance at which Weili meets Jimmy Louie. Chennault was recalled to official duty in the Army Air Corps in , when he officially headed the U.
He finally retired in as a major general. However, on July 28, Peking fell to the Japanese. The woman reporting the losses has herself been widowed by this unsuccessful assault. Weili and Hulan argue ". Later, while cutting out pieces of green fabric for a dress, Weili considers how she would react to news of Wen Fu's death and admits to herself she wishes this would happen.
If Wen Fu were to die, she herself would choose her own replacement husband. The completed dress does not fit her pregnant body--"Stuck in my dress, stuck in my marriage, stuck with Hulan as my friend. Their quarters are again primitive, but Hulan cooks up mixtures for sealing the dirt floors and replastering the mud brick walls. With Hulan's welcome help, Weili prepares an expensive celebration dinner for her returning husband and his friends, the first of many such meals for the pilots.
She spends her own dowry money for the elegant food since Wen Fu spends all his air force salary on drinking and gambling. Weili finds a special friend in shy and awkward Gan, an unmarried pilot. Privately he shares with her his fear of a ghost that first appeared to him as a boy eleven years ago during the last Tiger year The ghost promised to return for him before the next Tiger year , but only after Gan experienced nine bad fates.
Gan has already experienced eight of the predicted fates, and is only four months away. Winnie admits to Pearl that, with Gan, she "almost" felt love from a man and love for a man--new feelings for her. Many of the pilots whom Weili and Wen Fu entertained were subsequently killed--but never Wen Fu because he turned and flew away whenever an air battle was imminent.
Jiaguo considers having him court-martialed for his cowardice, although Wen Fu always has a reason for fleeing the action. Gan is shot down and dies after two days of excruciating pain.
Weili admits that after he died, "I claimed his love. He became like a ghost lover. She concludes that she herself was Gan's ninth fate, after which the ghost returned to claim him. By winter , war has ground down Jiaguo's squadron, which moves temporarily to Nanking, Chiang Kai-shek's new capital, less than fifty miles west of Yangchow.
Almost immediately, they are told they will soon move again because of the approaching Japanese. Wen Fu takes four hundred dollars of Weili's dowry money and buys a dilapidated old Fiat sports car with the top cut off. He glories in racing around the countryside, frightening Weili, ignoring her condition of being six months pregnant.
With Jiaguo as his passenger, Wen Fu recklessly runs the car into a field and onto a rock pile that turns out to be a grave. The car catches fire and burns. Hearing the story from Hulan, Weili laughs hysterically at the irony of Wen Fu's recklessness, picturing the burning car as an offering to the dead pilot who was the car's former owner. In Nanking, Weili telegraphs for more money--to be sent via Peanut in Shanghai this time. Then Weili and Hulan experience the terror of taonan, the untranslatable Chinese word that implies the mental lapse that precedes attempts to escape--the loss of connectedness to logic, to familiar faces, and to landmarks.
The frantic, scrambling mob shuffles through a swirl of propaganda leaflets dropped from the Japanese planes, offering good treatment in return for an unresisting populace. Weili loses contact with Hulan as they attempt to get away from a hurtling stampede of people fearing imminent invasion. In the chaos and fear that follow, Weili cries out for her mother and loses track of time. Sighting Weili's green coat, Hulan rescues her on a pedicab she has commandeered, beating off with a stick anyone who tries to take it from her.
They must leave Nanking the same day, and Weili forgets about the money she has sent for from her dowry. Commentary Wartime brings the beginning of Weili's dependence on sisterhood--a strong motif of the book--reflected at the personal level in her appreciation of Hulan's fierce loyalty and pragmatism. The synergy of women working together results in a private bath-house in their Hangchow quarters; in Yangchow, it powers an upgrading of spartan, vermin-infested surroundings.
Weili begins to appreciate Hulan's homely skills, as well as her sincere regard for Weili's well-being, as illustrated in the escape from the Nanking marketplace. Weili turns her attention from potential widowhood to the celebration of the returning pilots. For the first time in her life, Weili appears to be building self-esteem by taking the limelight as creator and hostess for splendid feasts.
These efforts help compensate not only for her devaluation by the Jiangs and by Wen Fu, but also for the privations of war and the deaths of pilots in their compound: When the dinners expose Weili to the personalities of the other pilots, she cannot help contrasting the strutting, arrogant, deceitful Wen Fu with his foil, Gan--a shy, considerate, honest young man who unabashedly enjoys Weili's company.
Encountering a variety of men for the first time in her sheltered life, Weili wonders, "Why didn't I know that I had a choice? Symbolizing the relationship between Weili and Gan, the two play a game of "chickenfeather ball" in the moonlight, gently batting back and forth a gamepiece as light as their friendship, which ends before it can develop into an emotion that calls for commitment from either of them.
Tan heightens the pathos of the potential love affair with Gan's ghost story, colored with mystical beliefs and numerology--for example, prophesying ghosts, the twelve-year cycle of zodiac animals, and the nine fates life-affecting incidents.
The number nine traditionally represents completion and finality. As with many socially awkward incidents, Weili's joking response to Gan is a form of distancing and denial: Yet, deeper than Weili's fear of loss is her fear of love, with its implicit threat of hurt.
In her words, "I had never felt love from a man, or for a man. And that night I almost did. I felt the danger, that this was how you love someone. Only, I was not aching for a love I once had.
I was regretting I never took it. Like her mother gazing for answers in the mirror, Weili arises from the humiliations of Wen Fu's bed and searches in her reflected face for the good that Gan saw in her. Her comforting memories of Gan are marred only by her conclusion that she and their incomplete relationship were his ninth bad fate, which cleared the way for the ghost's return to snatch him up. The Japanese continued pressing down the coast to secure the important cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Similar in some respects to rummy, it uses small tiles instead of cards. An Americanized version, mah-jongg, became popular in America during the s. Weili gives many of their possessions--clothes, radio, sewing machine--to Wan Betty, the telegraph operator in whom she has found understanding. The small group traveling together, mostly by truck, consists of Weili and Wen Fu, Hulan and Jiaguo, two other pilots, two officials, an old man, and the truck driver, Old Mr.
The challenging trip of about miles has five segments: Chiang Kai-shek moves the capital of the Nationalist government to Hankow in December Wen Fu shocks everyone by shooting a farmer's stubborn pig that gets in their way. They learn that Nanking has been cut off by the Japanese. From Kweiyang to Heaven's Breath on the mountain ridge--about miles, the last portion of which is a winding, uphill, one-lane road of many switchbacks beginning at a village called Twenty-four Turnarounds.
Once they get through the dense fog near the top, they emerge above the clouds and under blue skies to drive along the mountain ridge to the town of Heaven's Breath. Even Wen Fu is moved by the beauty of the summit and breaks into song.
In Heaven's Breath, they encounter an army truck on the way to help set up a new seat of government in Chungking.