Chinese Cinderella

Chinese Cinderella

Themes and Colors
Physical and Emotional Abuse Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Self-Worth Theme Icon
The Power of Stories Theme Icon
Toxic Family Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Chinese Cinderella, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

In Chinese Cinderella, Adeline Yen Mah tells the story of her painful childhood in China as an unwanted daughter of cruel and abusive parents. Although the physical abuse inflicted by her Father and her stepmother Niang is painful and frightening, it is their emotional abuse that ultimately does the most lasting harm and remains with Adeline even into adulthood. Her story demonstrates the way that the emotional trauma of abuse can be more…

(read full theme analysis)

Adeline Yen Mah’s memoir is a coming-of-age story colored by her abusive childhood; it is an account of her journey of survival and overcoming trauma. After being raised in such a demeaning environment, Adeline takes her first steps towards overcoming her childhood and entering adulthood when she begins to learn to base her self-worth on her own abilities and her capacity to create a new future, rather than on the approval or acceptance of her…

(read full theme analysis)

Although young Adeline stumbles into writing stories “by accident,” she immediately falls in love with it. She is compelled by her newfound ability to reshape the world around her and to hear other people express many of the pained emotions she has long felt but been unable to voice. Story-writing, Adeline discovers, offers her a reprieve from the “horrors of [her] daily life,” allowing her mind to focus entirely on the process of crafting a…

(read full theme analysis)
Get the entire Chinese Cinderella LitChart as a printable PDF.
Chinese cinderella.pdf.medium

Although Adeline is abused most often, Father and Niang’s cruelty affects everyone in the family. The life of the family entirely revolves around the parents’ demands, desires, and preferences, creating a toxic family dynamic in which everyone is bent towards serving the whims of one or two people. Niang and Father’s demand for total control and their utter selfishness has the greatest negative impact on their children, ultimately causing most of the children to…

(read full theme analysis)

Although her home life is abysmal, Adeline’s childhood is full of genuine and affectionate friends. Though they do not realize it at the time, these friends and the love they show to Adeline are critical in keeping her from utter despair. The power of Adeline’s friendships suggests that a strong network of friends is crucial to enduring a traumatic situation and can even compensate for a lack of family support.

Adeline’s primary school friends…

(read full theme analysis)