Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Hair-Pinning Days: Beautiful Moon Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Beautiful Moon returns home the next day. She, Lily, and Snow Flower have all received the first installments of their bride-prices, which include food and cloth. The cotton and silk Lily receives from her husband's family is very fine, and remind her of Snow Flower's stylish clothes. The girls are required to make clothes for themselves, as well as enough quilts, pillowcases, shoes, and other household textiles to last a lifetime. All the girls love making shoes, as they get to show off their technical and artistic skills, and the dowries arrive with patterns of the feet of everyone in the house. The girls stitch intricate designs to try to impress their future families.
The fact that the girls spend so much time and energy creating shoes for themselves, and more importantly, for their future families, makes it very clear how important of a commodity feet are. The girls have never met their future families, but they know the foot size of everyone in the family. Their families' feet, then, become a vehicle through which they can impress these people who will care for them (or demand their care) for the rest of their lives.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
The Catching Cool Breezes festival is still going on, and the heat has not yet broken. Lily speaks of the memory of putting her feet in the river as a child, and Beautiful Moon and Snow Flower speak of their own memories of coolness. Baba and Uncle finally string up a canopy outside the house, lay down quilts for the girls to sit on, and instruct them to not tell their mothers.
Lily again ties feet and water together with the idea of freedom, which in the hottest months of the year mean experiencing moments of coolness. Baba and Uncle here show that they do care for the girls, even if they're supposedly considered useless. Instructing the girls to not tell their mothers also indicates that whatever the reader might be told about a woman's place in her married home, these women do have power over their husbands.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Lily hasn't been outside in her village since her feet were bound, and she relishes the rhythm of village life. Lily embroiders a serene landscape on shoes for her mother-in-law, who has slightly larger feet than Lily. Snow Flower works on a pair of purple and white shoes embroidered with flying creatures, and Beautiful Moon works on her red wedding slippers. Village children stop to chat and let the girls hold their baby siblings, and the girls wonder what it'll be like to care for their own babies someday.
Lily, Snow Flower, and Beautiful Moon finally get to catch a cool breeze outside. This is a supremely hopeful and happy time for them as they are able to escape their usual setting and look forward to their future, and the shoes here represent their hopes for the future. Snow Flower's shoes especially point back to her desire to fly away and experience true freedom.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
On the fifth day of the festival, Madame Gao visits and delivers a letter from Elder Sister, who cannot leave her in-laws' home due to her advanced pregnancy. Her letter is sad: she's very pregnant, very hot, and her in-laws still make her do all the housework. Lily feels grateful for the custom of not moving in with in-laws permanently until the birth of one's first child.
Again, Lily is young, naive, and feels as though she'll never experience anything like poor Elder Sister. She continues to take comfort in customs and traditions and even with this evidence that tradition isn't always positive, her wishes don't stray from her traditional future.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age 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's reverie is interrupted by strange sounds. She looks to Beautiful Moon, who's brushing at her neck and breathing strangely. Lily instructs Snow Flower to get help and Snow Flower runs off on her tiny feet, yelling for help. Lily notices a bee on Beautiful Moon's embroidery. Beautiful Moon's face, neck, and tongue are swelling rapidly, and her breathing gets worse. Children and widows gather and watch the sight of Beautiful Moon's skin turning blue. Beautiful Moon meets Lily's eyes, and Lily tells her that Uncle is coming, and that they all love her.
The girls were never supposed to be outside in the first place, and breaking tradition in this way, even though the men facilitated it, has horrendous consequences for Lily and Beautiful Moon (who is apparently deathly allergic to bees). This tragedy will reinforce Lily's belief in the absolute necessity of adhering to traditions without question.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Lily continues to talk to Beautiful Moon until finally the horrible sounds of her breathing stop and her head hangs. Uncle runs into the alley and under the canopy and begins howling with grief. Baba and Elder Brother, with Snow Flower on his back, arrive. Uncle picks up Beautiful Moon's body and carries her inside. Snow Flower takes control, telling Uncle that Aunt must be informed. She makes a plan to fetch Aunt and Mama, and then they wait.
Beautiful Moon's death hearkens back to the death of Third Sister. Beautiful Moon still dies painfully, although here at least Lily seems able to comfort her somewhat and tell her that they all love her. Snow Flower does exactly what needs to be done and doesn't allow her emotions to negatively affect her responsibility.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Madame Wang arrives and asks how she can help. When she sees Beautiful Moon's engorged face, she instructs Snow Flower to wrap Beautiful Moon's face in muslin so Aunt doesn't have to see it, and dress her in "eternity" (burial) clothes. When Aunt arrives, she doesn't cry, but stands with her hand on Beautiful Moon's heart for hours. The funeral happens quickly, and Aunt does everything she's supposed to. Afterward, she doesn't cry during the day, but at night she moans and wails.
Aunt, like Snow Flower, doesn't allow her emotions to affect how she performs her duties. She does what's expected of her, does it correctly, and experiences her emotions privately, though she is clearly devastated—Beautiful Moon was the one bright spot in Aunt’s miserable life. Madame Wang appears to actually care about the girls she attends to, as she never gives any indication that she's losing money through Beautiful Moon's death.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Lily explains that there's a special belief that the spirits of young women who die before marriage come back to prey on other unmarried girls in the hope of taking one to the afterworld with her for company. Snow Flower and Lily decide to make a flower tower, or a model house in which Beautiful Moon's spirit might entertain itself. On the day the heat wave breaks, Lily and Snow Flower walk to Beautiful Moon's grave and light the flower tower on fire. They recite a song they composed for Beautiful Moon's spirit, and when they return home, they write it on their fan and add a moon to the designs. Lily tells the reader that this tragedy can be explained by yin and yang, or the balance of opposites.
Lily again shows herself to be very concerned with tradition. She views Beautiful Moon's death as something deserved and expected, given all the good in her family's lives, and is unable to view it simply as a meaningless tragedy. Beautiful Moon, however, gets to live forever on Lily's fan. In this way, language becomes a way to make someone immortal. On the fan, Beautiful Moon stays with Lily not just through the novel, but into the afterlife, as the text of the novel is supposed to be burnt upon Lily's death.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon