1. What signs are there that Lena’s relationship with Harold is under stress? There is slight animosity between Lena and Harold and she was “secretly glad to watch his discomfort” at holding up the traffic. This shows that she cannot love him that much if she wants him to suffer. The couple also argues over who should pay for a flea exterminator, this petty behavior shows cracks in their relationship. However, their problems are so “deep [she does not] even know where the bottom is”, their relationship appears to be on the rocks.
The couple also do not share and have a detailed accounting system to split their expenses, without the joy of giving, their relationship cannot survive. Len challenges Harold about the fact that he earns much more money than her and yet they pay the same. The tension is manifested is this argument. However, Harold does not understand and is not sensitive to her needs. 2. How is this reflected in their house? There are “flaws” in the structure of the house which reflect the flaws in Lena and Harold’s relationship Lena has little energy and this is reflected in the “running down” of the floor.
The two “lopsides” of the roof perhaps represent Lena and Harold sloping away from one another with separate interests and goals. Lena says that her mother can see that “underneath all the fancy details that cost so much, this house is still a barn”; similarly, even though Lena tries to “pretend” she has a happy marriage, her mother can see the cracks. 3. Lena’s Mother has a kind of second sight. Why does this make Lena uneasy? This makes Lena very anxious because she is scared that her mother will condemn her marriage and her home, seeing through her fai??
ade of happiness. Lena wants her mother to be proud of her and tell her how well she has done; however, she fears that she will be critical of her house and her relationship. 4. What would you say Lena’s weaknesses are? Lean lets herself be used and abuses by Harold by paying half of everything, and she even “encourage it”. She is unhappy but has such low confidence that she believes that she is worthy of misery; therefore she makes no move to change this: “For the most part, we deserve what we get. I didn’t get Arnold, I got Harold. ”
She is taken for a fool because she has such low self esteem, and she is taken in by him because she was “caught of balance by this latest revelation of love”, she thinks her insecurities will go away but they only intensify as she fears that Harold will one day break off their relationship because she “smells bad”, for example. 5. Why is Lena’s mother unhappy about the list on the fridge door? Lena doesn’t eat ice cream and still pays for half of what her husband eats. The mention of ice cream also perhaps upset Ying-Ying because she associates it with a difficult time when her daughter was anorexic.
It also upsets Ying-Ying that her daughter’s relationship appears not to be based on love but “based on a balance sheet”; this mechanical behavior cannot be loving. 6. What is the significance of the accident at the end of the chapter? The cylinder of the vase is broken; perhaps this symbolizes a ring and therefore foreshadows the end of Lena’s marriage. The fragility of the table which Harold cannot see shows his ignorance of their failing marriage. 7. The four daughters’ relationships with their mothers begin to change in American Translation.
Make notes on how this happens in the four stories. In Rice Husband Lena’s mother gives her the confidence and encouragement by saying to her “why don’t you” stand up for yourself? This brings about the realization by Lean that she has a desolate marriage: “I was startled to realize Harold never noticed I didn’t eat ice cream. ” In Four Directions, Waverly being to understand her mother: “I knew what lay on the other side… I had peered over the barriers and could finally see what was really there. ” And Lindo is accepted by Waverly and included in her plans to an extent:
“Part of me wants to leave our differences behind” and go to China together. Roses’ mother helps her “speak up” to Ted; she gives her “power”. Rose lets her mother see her and she listens to her, rather than “let her words blow through her”. Jing-Mei sees her mother loves her by giving her her “life’s importance”. She still doesn’t understand her mother but she feels more confident in their relationship. Magpies 1. At the beginning of the chapter, what does An-Mei Hsu say she has tried to pass on to her daughter? Why have her efforts failed?
Compare her words with those of Lindo Jong on p. 254. What does she want for her daughter, and why does she feel she has failed? She wants her to live for herself not eat her own “bitterness” and “other people’s misery”, she says her efforts have failed because “she was born to me and born a girl”, therefore she will be like her mother even though she tried desperately to make her daughter different to her. Lindo wants Waverly to have “Chinese character and American circumstances”; this cannot be achieved because in reality “the two things do not mix”. 2.
What does the story of the magpies on p. 217 tell us? It warns not be sad. Our sorrow will “feed someone else’s joy”, this will not stay with us, and therefore sadness can be abused and taken advantage of by those who feed off it. 3. What does the story of An-Mei’s mother tell us about the position of women in China at that time? Women were abused by their husbands. Chinese women resigned themselves to their situations and suffered silently. In contrast, modern Chinese-American women are free to control their lives; ironically, they frequently fail to do so.
Rose is a perfect example; she lacks any courage to assert herself. 4. How does her mother sacrifice herself to empower her daughter? She commits suicide so that An-Mei will be free from the shame, which she would otherwise be forced to live with due to her mother’s low status as a concubine and abandonment of her husband’s family. 5. Strength is passes from mother to daughter in a number of ways in Queen Mother of the Western Skies. Make notes on where this occurs. An-Mei Hsu gives her daughter strength by changing herself, she sees that she can “do something else” rather than wallow in misery.