Girl in Translation

Pa Character Analysis

Pa is Kim's father and Ma’s husband; he died suddenly of a heart attack when Kim was three and so never appears in the novel. He was the principal of a school where Ma taught music, and the two married for love despite the fact that he was fifteen years her senior. Throughout the novel, Kim often wishes that Pa were around to help them, as she believes that life would be easier for them with him in it.

Pa Quotes in Girl in Translation

The Girl in Translation quotes below are all either spoken by Pa or refer to Pa. 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.
Nine Quotes

Ma had told me that Pa had been a brilliant student, with a talent for both languages and science, and that I'd gotten my intelligence from him. I used to take comfort from that, but now I just wished he were here to help me.

All I wanted was to have a break from the exhausting cycle of my life, to flee from the constant anxiety that haunted me: fear of my teachers, fear at every assignment, fear of Aunt Paula, fear that we'd never escape.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma, Aunt Paula, Pa
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:
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Pa Character Timeline in Girl in Translation

The timeline below shows where the character Pa appears in Girl in Translation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
One
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...a drive in which eleven-year-old Kim searched futilely for skyscrapers and the Liberty Goddess, Aunt Paula and Uncle Bob park the car in a run-down, dirty neighborhood. Everyone gets out of... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...a stained mattress, a flaking dresser, and a wobbly coffee table. Kim realizes that Aunt Paula lied: it's clear nobody has lived in the apartment for a while. Kim believes that... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...Kim explains that she and Ma spent their first week in the U.S. in Aunt Paula's house on Staten Island. Kim met her Uncle Bob for the first time and realized... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...and an inexpensive box of green tea on the counter. Ma told Kim that Aunt Paula left the cheap tea out on purpose; the special tea was never truly meant for... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Aunt Paula returned around lunchtime, sat with Ma and Kim at the table, and complimented Kim's intelligence.... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
...bed, wrapping her in coats and one thin blanket, and promises to speak to Aunt Paula about the state of their apartment. Then she pulls out her violin and plays a... (full context)
Two
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
...attends a school that's very far away from the apartment, in a cleaner neighborhood. Aunt Paula set it up so that that Kim will use an address in that neighborhood as... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...boys push racks around. A layer of fabric dust coats everything. Ma points out Aunt Paula, who is handing out work to seamstresses. The ones who get larger piles seem grateful.... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Aunt Paula leads Ma and Kim through the factory. They pass a large table with old ladies... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
...swiped it from "Dog Flea Mama's" station. When Kim looks confused, the boy mimics Aunt Paula's habit of scratching her neck. Kim gasps and says that Paula is her aunt, and... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...Mrs. Wu. He doesn't look at her and ignores Matt as well. Matt explains that Park is shy and doesn't hear well, and then declares he's taking a break. Other kids... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...must be cooked fully and fears the water will give her diarrhea. She fantasizes that Pa is still alive and thinks about Ma at work at the factory. (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...on music. Ma's parents had been killed during the Cultural Revolution after getting Ma and Paula into Hong Kong, and then Pa died in his early forties. Music is how Ma... (full context)
Five
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...what Mr. Al said about the block being condemned. Ma insists it means that Aunt Paula will soon move them, but Kim believes that it means that Mr. N. will never... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Ma sternly tells Kim that they have to repay their debts to Aunt Paula, even if Paula is flawed. Kim asks if Paula has always been like this. Ma... (full context)
Nine
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...begins stashing all her paychecks there. Kim spends all her free time studying and wishes Pa were around to help her, as he'd been a brilliant student. Eventually, Kim picks up... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Kim tells Park that she has an article on his motorcycle. The sewing ladies are shocked to see... (full context)
Thirteen
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Ma and Kim aren't surprised when Aunt Paula calls them to her office; they know that they should hear from Yale soon. When... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Aunt Paula says that Ma and Kim are ungrateful, points out that she sacrificed to get them... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Aunt Paula suggests that Ma and Kim leave the factory and the apartment if they feel taken... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
...allows them to go. On the way, Kim tells Matt about what happened with Aunt Paula, but leaves out her acceptance to Yale. They wait in line for a moment until... (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
...In a rush, Kim says that she's moving away, but she could take him and Park with her. (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
...Kim and Curt officially break up and Matt spends all his free time with Kim. Park, however, withdraws after Mrs. Wu's death and seems nearly unreachable. (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
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...cries that it's her only option and she'd never be able to support Ma, Matt, Park, and a baby. She apologizes for being stupid, but Ma haltingly says that she's sorry—Kim... (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
Kim asks Ma if she ever worried about marrying Pa. Ma explains that when she did, she never imagined that Aunt Paula would still bring... (full context)