Amy Tan's Kitchen God's Wife Term Paper

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Kitchen God's Wife

All cultures have their differences. However, the similarities that exist between one and another are just as numerous. Regardless that values, religions and languages vary, human beings share a number of traits. For example, no matter where one goes in this world, it would be difficult to believe that children and their parents would not have some form of communication breakdown at one time or another. This is especially true if the parent or child has trouble opening up and sharing with someone else. In fact, it is very unfortunate that some sons or daughters lose their parents before they have ma chance to express their feelings. The Kitchen Gods Wife is about a Chinese mother and American-raised daughter whom, like many mother and daughters across the world, have kept secrets from each other. and, similar to other mother/daughter pairs, once they do communicate, are so much the better for it.

As soon as the book opens up, Tan gets to the communication problem between Winnie and Pearl. Pearl, who appears to want to forget her Chinese roots, has had multiple sclerosis for seven years and not told her mother. This is only one aspect of her life that she has kept secret. Pearl usually stays away from home, because she has difficulty tolerating her mother's bossiness and criticism, as well as antiquated superstitions. As Pearl says right in the first line, "Whenever my mother talks to me, she begins the conversation as if we were already in the middle of an argument." (11). The longer the two go without communicating the worse their relationship is becoming.

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Even Pearl's husband, Phil, has tried to improve the communication between the mother and daughter, to no avail. He and Pearl used to have horrible arguments, because Phil would tell Pearl that she was being selfish and sometimes what one does in life is not necessarily joyful or convenient (15).

Pearl learns that she has to return to her childhood home for her cousin's engagement party and elderly aunt's funeral, so she also has to spend more time with her mother. She only hopes that her mother does not drop any bombs -- little did she realize!

Term Paper on Amy Tan's Kitchen God's Wife Assignment

In the first couple of chapters, Pearl explains why she has such difficulties with her mother. Once again, most daughters would clearly be able to identify with these problems. Pearl says she meant to tell her mother about her MS, but every time she begins, Winnie talks about someone else who is sick, such as the customer who, "...thank God, it turned out not to be cancer, but -- "(28). Her mother has difficulties dealing with illness, especially since Pearl's father died of cancer.

The superstitions are just as bad, Pear believes, because they have become woven in with the fear of illness. Winnie relates the story about the Nine Bad Fates, for example, who stipulate that a person is destined to die if eight bad things happen. If the person does not recognize that the last one is happening and stop it, the ninth one is always fatal. Winnie obsesses that she did not see the eight things happening to Pearl's father, so he died.

Pearl is just as obsessed with her mother, "To this day it drives me crazy, listening to her various hypotheses, the way religion, medicine, and superstition all merge, with her own beliefs. She puts no faith in other people's logic -- to her, logic is a sneaky excuse for tragedies, mistakes, and accidents" (29).

That basically, says Pearl, is the main reason why she has not told her mother about the MS. She does not want to hear her mother hypothesizing about why she has this disease. Now, so much time has gone by, that it would be even worse to tell her. Of course, Pearl is deceiving herself on both points, as daughters often do. First, Pearl is keeping this away from her mother, because it gives her some control over her mother to keep a secret. Second, it is never too late to tell one's mother about a personal problem or illness. If a mother loves her child, as Winnie does Pearl, she will want to know. As Pearl says about another incident later, "I think about a child's capacity to hurt her mother in ways she cannot imagine" (33-34), but Aunt Helen argues, "She is your mother" (34).

Secrecy and miscommunication is part of the Kwong family, as found out later. Aunt Helen is concerned that everyone is treating her so well, because she is dying. It could not be just because they love her and were scared when she fell. In fact, the communication is so confused in this instance, that not even Pearl knows what is really true about her Aunt's illness.

No one has a childhood without some kind of trauma, and each person handles it differently. Some people do not remember being abused as a child, and in their adult years wonder why they are depressed and have such low self-esteem. With help, they are able to get better as they deal with the past. Other people never face their past, and drown themselves in alcohol, or abuse their own children. Pearl has not yet dealt with her trauma -- her father dying. For years, she has been holding in her sadness and anger at his leaving her. Much of this anger is directed to her mother. Why didn't her mother do something to keep him alive? An irrational thought, but children do believe that their parents have the ability to make things right. Pearl's nightmares about her father continue, because part of her refuses to say goodbye once and for all. Also, like the Kitchen God story, she has to admit she was wrong.

With Wen Fu's death, Winnie can finally tell her secrets to Pearl and begin to deal with her own childhood traumas that are so much more severe than her daughter's. Like Pearl, she has held in her emotions for years, and it has made her bitter and angry. She says, "Now you see how I once was. I was not always negative-thinking the way you and Helen say. When I was young, I wanted to believe in something good. And when that good thing started to go away, I still wanted to grab it, make it stay" (152). That is exactly what Pearl has been doing with her father's death...trying to make him stay and not go away.

More important, Winnie confides to Pearl that "Although sometimes, even a mother cannot help her daughter, no matter what." Then Winnie recalls the incident about Pearl's boyfriend, Randy, who she knew was no good for her daughter. She told Pearl to be careful, but as all children do, Pearl was angry with the intrusion. Later, both Pearl and Winnie's hearts break because Pearl has to deal with the breakup with Randy. As Winnie says, she did not do this because she was negative, but because her daughter could not think for herself. Winnie's lifelong experiences gave her that right to think for her daughter. She was older and wiser. Yet, this, too, is so difficult for children to understand. Sometimes children want their parents to be all knowing, and other times, they want to be able to make their own decisions. This dilemma is part of gaining independence and growing up.

Winnie has lived many lives...as an abandoned child, as a wife of an abusive husband, as a wife of a good man who dies of cancer and as a single mother raising a daughter. She lived through the years of feudal China as well as through the horrors of World War II. She was a true survivor who came to the United States to begin again and to hopefully create another life that would be better than the one with Wen Fu. For decades, her personal strength allowed her to cope with the traumas of the past and not bother her child about what she has endured. However, she realizes it is time for her to end the silence from her end. It has been too long, and her daughter needs to know the truth that concerns her, as well.

Winnie tells her life story, hoping that Pearl will forgive her for keeping silent all these years. As she begins to talk, she first apologizes for not having told Pearl the truth about her own mother, Pearl's grandmother, and how she abandoned six-year-old Weili. For Winnie, this is terribly difficult...to admit that her mother did abandon her when she was so young. and, unlike Pearl who lost her father from cancer, Winnie will never truly know why her mother left.

Finally, Winnie tells her the most difficult truth of all -- that Wen Fu raped her the day that she left, and nine months later she had Pearl. Winnie not only endured an abusive husband, but had the strength to leave him against cultural norms, and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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