She learned to “shout” and speak up for herself. Rose is encouraged by An-Mei to assert herself; she influences Rose who stands up against Ted in Without Wood. Ying-Ying confronts her past to help her daughter. In Rice Husband Lena evaluates her life with Harold because Ying-Ying gathers the threads of her past to set Lena’s spirit loose. She teaches her to be a tiger, she has “one eye asleep, the other open and watching,” this is her true self. She shows this to Lena, that she is not only a frail old lady, therefore Lena can admit to being miserable and change this.
Waverly thinks her mother does not communicate with her, however, at the end of the story there is a suggestion that her mother will break down the barrier and give her the love and confidence she needs as she says “I will ask my daughter what she thinks. ” Her mother gives Jing-Mei the strength of family and love in the two sisters she finds. Some general points 1. Look at p. 259. The daughters’ stories of their mothers’ past lives seems to differ from the truth. Why do you think this is?
The daughters cannot understand their mothers’ “real circumstances” because American society cannot locate them; therefore the Chinese heritage is reduced to “nonsense”. 2. Look at p. 253 and p. 267. How does the daughters’ attitudes to their Chinese identity differ from that of their mothers? Waverly thinks Chinese identity is external only. She has Chinese genes therefore she can blend into Chinese culture. Her mother sees this, as entirely wrong, it is more your inner-self and projected mannerisms, which are Chinese, and they cannot be connected in any way to the American way of life.
Jing-Mei thought she was entirely American and the belonged only to this society. Her mother argued that her true nationality was in her Chinese blood and is only a different way of thinking. However, Jing-Mei associates Chinese ness with the embarrassing things her mother did such as “being color-blind to the fact that lemon yellow and pale pink are not good combinations for winter clothes”. Jing-Mei later sees her mothers view as “right” when she goes to China and she feels her heritage as her “blood rushes a new course”. 3. Despite this, the final part of the book, Queen Mother of the Western Skies, appears to be optimistic.
Mothers do pass on their strength to their daughters, and daughters do inherit things from their mothers (see example p101 and 103) even when they fight it (p267). The title stories on p. 147 and p. 213 suggest there is a bond that links successive generations. P101. Waverly leans that fighting out of stubbornness you become “alone”, she is obstinate like her mother. P103. Lena sees horrors (e. g. “I saw a beetle wearing the face of a child” like her mother did, this is “the part of me I got from my mother”. P267. Jing-Mei “vigorously denied that she had any Chinese whatsoever beneath [her] skin” P147
When the daughter looks in the mirror, she sees her self, suggesting t hat her children will resemble her. This knowledge conveys the link between generations, the ties that bind the past and the present. P213 Every generation of women experiences evil and through loss of innocence they become aware of it. The grandmother wants women to be aware of evil and still maintain their hope for future happiness. Three things to think about: 1. What is the significance of the ‘life’s importance’ Suyuan Woo gives to her daughter? Suyuan gives Jing-Mei the pendant which is her life’s importance to soother her humiliation.
She is also offering love and confidence to her daughter, her offering of her own heritage. This perhaps signifies that she foresees her own death; the injured crab is a “bad sign at Chinese New Year” and might herald her end. Significantly, after her mother’s death the pendant begins to assume great importance to Jing-Mei. The pendant signifies Suyuan’s desire to impress upon her daughter that she is “best quality” and should strive for nothing less. 2. There are many instances of things and people being lost and found in the book. Do you think this might be important?
Yes, because it shows the struggles of coming to terms with their heritage and culture. Self-discovery and understanding relationships are important aspects to the novel. 3. Why does the book end as it does? The book ends as it does because Jing-Mei has found her heritage and discovered what she wants in life. The structure of the ending unifies the book. Not only does this chapter pick up where the first chapter left off, but it also uses the same point of view and narrator. It continues the use of parallelism evident throughout the book, but most especially in Feathers from a Thousand Li Away.