Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Daughter Days: Snow Flower Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A few days later Mama carries Lily, dressed simply, to Madame Wang's waiting palanquin, where Snow Flower is sitting. Snow Flower is very pretty and wears a blue silk tunic embroidered with clouds, along with the shoes Lily made. The girls smile at each other. Madame Wang sits in the middle of the bench with a girl on either side to keep the palanquin balanced. The motion of the palanquin makes Lily nauseous. When she hears many voices and the sounds of bells and carts, she knows they've reached the Temple of Gupo fair. Madame Wang exits the palanquin, and Lily sees that Snow Flower looks nauseous as well.
The reader here is asked to compare the girls based on their clothing. Lily's simple clothing choices are indicative of her simple life and poor family, while Snow Flower's cloud tunic shows a significant level of sophistication in comparison (while also foreshadowing Snow Flower’s connection to flying and escape). This reinforces that the girls aren't matched in familial economic standing. This will be a continual source of questioning for Lily as she considers her own worth in relationship to Snow Flower.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Snow Flower suggests they look out the window. Lily scoots over on the bench and the two pull the curtain aside to look out and take in the incredible sights of the fair. Lily is silent while Snow Flower chatters about visiting the fair every year with her mother, tells Lily about Old Man Zuo's taro (a type of sugar treat) stand, and says that "Auntie" has to take them. Lily questions her use of "Auntie," and Snow Flower incredulously remarks at the fact that Lily finally speaks, adding that she herself gets in trouble with her words, and saying that Lily will be an ideal wife because she chooses her words carefully.
Snow Flower seems to exhibit sophistication and worldliness that Lily can barely comprehend. Notice again the way in which the goal of marriage is discussed. Even at seven years old, Snow Flower and Lily are aware that achieving this goal is their primary purpose at this point in their lives. According to Snow Flower, Lily will be a good wife because she adheres to rules and traditions.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Madame Wang returns and calls Lily and Snow Flower out of the palanquin. They're next to a paper goods stand, and Madame Wang instructs them to choose a piece of paper on which to write their contract. Snow Flower asks Lily what paper she likes, and Lily points to a large sheet. Snow Flower inspects it and deems it of poor quality, and Lily can barely comprehend how refined Snow Flower is. Snow Flower finds a better piece of paper in the back of the stand and shows Lily how to inspect it. Madame Wang pays for the paper and the girls sit down at the table in the stand to write their contract.
Lily continues to experience awe at Snow Flower's impressive knowledge and refinement. Notice that Snow Flower teaches Lily how to choose a fine piece of paper—this is only the beginning of the education that Snow Flower provides Lily in such matters, and notice that she gives it happily and willingly.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Snow Flower says they have to write the best contract ever. Lily suggests they follow the rules, and Snow Flower impatiently suggests that they make it unique to them. Lily makes a few suggestions, and Snow Flower picks up a brush and begins to write. Both girls sign their names at the bottom. Madame Wang announces that she's pleased, and counsels the girls to not let other girls come between them.
Lily again shows her obedience as she tries to make sure they follow protocol. Snow Flower proves herself far more free-spirited than her fellow “horse” Lily, and desires to make the contract more personal. These differing traits will come up against each other throughout the novel.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Get the entire Snow Flower LitChart as a printable PDF.
Snow flower and the secret fan.pdf.medium
Lily feels extremely happy as she walks back to the palanquin with Snow Flower and Madame Wang. The palanquin takes them to the center of the market, where Madame Wang gives the girls money to buy a celebratory gift. Lily has never had this kind of responsibility, but Snow Flower takes charge and leads Lily to a stall selling embroidery supplies, where the two select colored threads.
Snow Flower teaches Lily how to handle responsibility and make choices of her own, showing off her status and education in the process. The embroidery threads will allow the girls to further their house learning and better perform as women, again reinforcing their goals in life of perfectly performing womanhood.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
When Lily and Snow Flower return to the palanquin, Snow Flower begs Madame Wang to take them to the taro stand. Madame Wang resists but gives in, and at the taro stand, seats have already been set for the three women. Old Man Zuo prepares a chicken dish and then the sugary taro for them, and Lily pours tea. When she puts the teapot down, Snow Flower corrects her placement of the pot, turning it so the spout doesn't point rudely at Madame Wang.
Lily isn't embarrassed by Snow Flower's correction, as she obviously idolizes Snow Flower even at this early stage of their relationship. Lily idolizes her so in part because she's internalized the idea that she's worthless because she's female.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
For the return trip, Madame Wang allows Lily and Snow Flower to sit next to each other, and the two giggle, hold hands, and sort their embroidery thread. Lily tells the reader that Madame Wang went on to take them to the Temple of Gupo every year through their daughter days, and Lily and Snow Flower continued to meet there after they married—as circumstances allowed.
The narrator Lily's aside that they continue to visit the temple yearly sets up a tradition and a cycle to follow through the rest of the novel. Here, the girls create their own tradition, and it provides comfort and happiness for them for many years.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
When they arrive at Lily's house, Madame Wang bids goodbye to both of them. Lily is ecstatic that Snow Flower is staying, but knows that Snow Flower is used to a better way of living. Mama comes out and greets the girls. In the house, Mama introduces Snow Flower to the family. They eat dinner together, and Snow Flower's manners show sophistication beyond what Lily's family has ever seen.
Lily isn't the only one awestruck by Snow Flower's manners, which again sets Snow Flower apart from Lily and her family. Notice Mama's new kindness towards the girls—from what has already been said about Mama, we can ascertain that this agreement is financially good for the family, so she acts nicer.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Later that night, Lily and Snow Flower go upstairs with Mama and the other women. Snow Flower suspiciously dabs her fingers in the bowl of wash water and puts on a sleeping garment of Elder Sister's. Mama tucks the girls into bed and whispers to Lily to be happy. Alone at last, Snow Flower and Lily tell each other about their families and their foot binding. Snow Flower says that she struggled so much that she was tied to a chair where she could only look out the window at the birds. Hearing this both scares and thrills Lily. Snow Flower puts her hand on Lily's cheek, says that she's glad they're "old sames," and falls asleep. Lily wonders how she can make Snow Flower love her.
Snow Flower's “horse” nature is developed further in the story of her foot binding, as she was spirited just like Third Sister was. However, rather than escaping her fate through death, Snow Flower mentally escaped by watching the birds. Birds and flying creatures then become a symbol for Snow Flower's desire for freedom, and her habit of mentally fleeing her worries and troubles. Lily's final comment indicates that while she may feel love for Snow Flower, she views Snow Flower's love for her as something that must be earned.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon