Girl in Translation

Matt is Kim's only real friend at the factory. At first, he and his mother, Mrs. Wu, and younger brother, Park, work at the thread cutting table, though Matt later moves up to being a steamer. Right away, the adults realize that there's attraction between Matt and Kim. However, their very different trajectories keep them from acting on their feelings for each other for a long time. Matt begins skipping school at a young age to take a second job and support his family, while Kim devotes herself to academics and believes it's her way out of the factory system. Matt eventually decides that Kim is too good for him and then begins dating Vivian, a gorgeous young woman who shares his unwillingness to look outside the factory system for employment. Matt is naturally charming and gregarious, which means that he easily makes friends at his usual haunts as well as his places of work. After Mrs. Wu dies, Matt is overcome with emotion, leaves Vivian, and he and Kim have sex. Their relationship continues for a few blissful weeks, during which Matt suggests getting married and having babies of their own, though he doesn't want Kim to attend Yale. He believes it's his responsibility to care for and support her, not the other way around. Because of this, Kim chooses to break up with Matt without telling him that she's pregnant. He returns to Vivian and later, marries and has at least two children with her. When he and Kim reunite twelve years later, their chemistry is still there. He admits he knew she was pregnant and believes she had an abortion, though Kim never tells him that he has a son, Jason, who looks just like him.

Matt Quotes in Girl in Translation

The Girl in Translation quotes below are all either spoken by Matt or refer to Matt. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead edition of Girl in Translation published in 2010.
Prologue Quotes

I know how it will go: she already spends all of her time after school at the shop, helping with small tasks like sorting beads; later, she will learn to sew by hand and then on the machines until, finally, she can take over some of the embroidery and finishing work, and then she too will spend her days and weekends bent over the unending yards of fabric.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Matt, Jason, Matt's Daughter
Page Number: 2
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Two Quotes

As Ma had explained earlier, all employees were secretly paid by the piece; this meant that the work the children did was essential to the family income. When I was in high school, I learned that piece payment was illegal, but those rules were for white people, not for us.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma, Matt, Aunt Paula
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
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Eight Quotes

I held my breath when we finally got a good view of the Liberty Goddess. She was so close and so magnificent. Ma and Matt were right next to me. Ma squeezed my hand.

"How long we've dreamed of this," she said.

"We're here," I said. "We're really in America."

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma (speaker), Matt
Related Symbols: The Liberty Goddess
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
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Thirteen Quotes

When she saw us, she seemed heartbroken, her grief so complete that it left no room for anger. I thought, I never want to love someone like that, not even Matt, so much that there would be no room left for myself, so much that I wouldn't be able to survive if he left me.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Matt, Vivian
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:
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"I promised I would make a better life for you, Ma. I'm sorry I was so stupid."

Ma's voice broke. "My little girl, you've had to do everything for us. I am the one who is sorry, sorry I couldn't do more to help you."

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma (speaker), Matt
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:
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Epilogue Quotes

I kept him from his father all these years. When I gave Matt up, I forced Jason to do the same. For my attempt at nobility, our son paid the price.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma, Matt, Jason
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:
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Matt Character Timeline in Girl in Translation

The timeline below shows where the character Matt appears in Girl in Translation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Two
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
...Paula is her aunt, and the two begin to laugh. The boy introduces himself as Matt. (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
When Kim takes a break, she finds Matt at the thread cutters' table. He's sitting with his mother, Mrs. Wu. Mrs. Wu notices... (full context)
Three
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When Kim gets to the factory the next afternoon, she sees Matt dragging a cart piled high with skirts. She helps him push the cart to the... (full context)
Four
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
At the factory several days later, Kim approaches Matt, tells him "joyful Christmas," and offers him the panda keychain. She tells him that it's... (full context)
Five
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...missed their deadline on the last clothing shipment. Ma promises to work harder. They pass Matt working alone at the cutting table on their way back to their station. He politely... (full context)
Six
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...work to catch up on. Strangely, Aunt Paula invites them to her office. Kim catches Matt's eye on the way and laughs when he rudely mimics Paula. In her office, Paula... (full context)
Seven
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
When Kim arrives at the factory, Matt comments on Kim's new clothes and says she looks pretty. Though she relishes the compliment... (full context)
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...children are required to talk to each other, refuses to do so. Instead, she asks Matt for help. She tells Matt about her fight with Luke and he suggests that maybe... (full context)
Eight
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Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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...seconds. Kim tries her best to look industrious in front of Aunt Paula. One afternoon, Matt helps Kim and Ma in his free time. Ma tells Matt that he's growing up... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Matt pretends to be offended and as they banter, he learns that Kim has never actually... (full context)
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Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Matt butts into the conversation, and Aunt Paula suggests that he take over for Mr. Pak.... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Matt gives Kim his gold necklace and asks her to give it to Mrs. Wu. Kim... (full context)
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On Sunday, Ma and Kim meet Matt in Times Square. Kim is struck by how fancy everything and everyone looks, especially the... (full context)
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Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Finally, Matt ushers Ma and Kim onto the Staten Island Ferry to see the Liberty Goddess. When... (full context)
Nine
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...him the article and when she's finished, Park slowly smiles at Kim. An hour later, Matt approaches Kim and offers to pay her for the magazine. She asks why he pretends... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
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Later, at the factory, Matt invites Kim to go with him to deliver something to his father. Kim is surprised,... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Finally, they stop in an alleyway near an abandoned building. Matt raps on a doorway and after a minute, a man lets them in. They walk... (full context)
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Matt walks to one man who Kim assumes is Matt's father. The man seems annoyed to... (full context)
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As Matt's father returns to the table, he notices Kim and asks her what cards she would... (full context)
Ten
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
At the factory, Kim is tuned into Matt's every move. One afternoon, she mistakenly comments that his pants look different. He admits he's... (full context)
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
One afternoon, a girl named Vivian is waiting for Matt outside the factory. She's gorgeous, kind, and perfect in every way. Kim learns that Vivian's... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...Kim's popularity rises, boys begin to take interest in her. She feels liberated now that Matt is no longer available. She spends most of her weekend evenings on the phone with... (full context)
Eleven
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Matt drops out of high school to work full-time, while Kim begins taking freshman classes at... (full context)
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...for Park to run. She runs with him but when she looks back, she sees Matt grab the boy and yank him around. The boys try to insist that they were... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...and ushering children into secret places. Kim ends up in a dark men's bathroom with Matt and three little kids. They huddle together, trying to avoid the open toilet. Kim comforts... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...pounds, both with the fear of being found out and because of her proximity to Matt. Finally, the door opens. The little kids tumble out. Kim moves to leave as well,... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...flirts openly with other boys at the factory. She reminds herself that despite the kiss, Matt has still chosen Vivian, not her. All of this is made worse by the fact... (full context)
Twelve
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...out. Kim enjoys spending time with Curt, as he makes it easier to bear seeing Matt with Vivian. One fall day, Curt asks Kim why she doesn't love him. She insists... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...that they're very good. Because of this, she harasses them more than usual. One afternoon, Matt watches Paula say nasty things to Kim and Ma and when she leaves, he asks... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...March, Kim and Curt are leaving a school building together one afternoon when Kim notices Matt watching. His eyes show shock, pain, and jealousy, and he turns and strides away. Kim... (full context)
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Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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When Kim and Matt arrive, they're too emotional to think clearly. Kim offers Matt a towel and he begins... (full context)
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Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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A while later, Matt talks about having to care for Park and admits that he's never even told Vivian... (full context)
Thirteen
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Later, the doorbell rings and Kim leads Matt up into the apartment. He and Ma chat over tea and after a bit, he... (full context)
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Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Haltingly, Matt says that when he was out with Vivian, he'd sometimes see Kim's face in front... (full context)
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Matt says he's not sure he wants to be rescued, and says he likes Chinatown. He... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
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...an office job over the summer as well. Kim and Curt officially break up and Matt spends all his free time with Kim. Park, however, withdraws after Mrs. Wu's death and... (full context)
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Kim and Matt spend time wandering around Chinatown, where she learns that Matt knows everyone. One afternoon, Kim... (full context)
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Once, when Kim and Matt are lying together at his apartment, he suggests that Kim skip Yale and stay in... (full context)
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...redirects his lips to her cheek. Later, Kim tells Annette. Annette insists that Kim tell Matt, but Kim explains that if he knew, he'd want them to stay in Chinatown and... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
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...a chair and says with certainty that Kim is pregnant. Kim says she can't tell Matt, which makes Ma worried she's thinking about having an abortion. Kim cries that it's her... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...Pa. Kim notes that choosing to be together like that isn't the same as tying Matt to her with a baby. Ma takes Kim's shoulders and admits that at first, she... (full context)
Epilogue
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...time. Kim thinks that Mr. Ho looks familiar, and asks him if he knows a Matt Wu. Mr. Ho does, but he clearly doesn't recognize Kim from years ago. She asks... (full context)
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Kim explains that in her mind, she runs into Matt everywhere. She wonders if that's why she chose to work at the hospital close to... (full context)
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...requires no mistakes, so that she doesn't have to listen to her heart, she hears Matt calling to her in English. Kim is immediately overcome with joy as she looks at... (full context)
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Kim asks after Park and Vivian. Matt explains that he and Park are working at UPS, while Vivian started work in a... (full context)
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...as though she had no choice. She also insists she knew that she couldn't make Matt happy. Kim asks if he could live with a cardiac surgeon for a wife who... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Kim opens her mouth to say something, but Matt interrupts and says that Vivian is pregnant again. Kim starts to sob, and Matt holds... (full context)
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Kim offers to give Matt a ride home on her Ducati motorcycle. The ride feels much like their first bike... (full context)
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kim and Matt say goodbye, and Kim watches him walk into his apartment. She begins to ride away,... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...rides home, it begins to rain. She thinks that the worst part is that seeing Matt again brought up an old dream of raising a family with him, which she thought... (full context)
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Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...an opera she and Ma saw at the Met. She lies on her bed with Matt's necklace and thinks back on everything. (full context)
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...loved him. Part of it had to do with the fact that the baby was Matt's. Kim had wondered if she could make it work with Matt, but when she learned... (full context)
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Kim thinks that she gave Matt his life with Vivian and his children, though she took away his life with her... (full context)