Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Hair-Pinning Days: The Temple of Gupo Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lily's parents are happy to see her, but she struggles with the feeling that they lied to her for ten years. She rebels by refusing to engage with her family under the guise of shyness. After five days, Mama and Lily end up alone in the women's chamber and Mama calls Lily out on her pettiness, slapping her hard across the face. Lily holds her gaze angrily and grabs Mama's arm, pulling her down to her own level. She calls Mama a liar and brings up her lies about Snow Flower. Mama retaliates by blaming Lily for Beautiful Moon's death. Mama says that she gave Lily the life she now has because she personally bound her feet. Lily snarls that she won't expect kindness from Mama anymore, and although she'll be charitable to her family in the future, she won't forget this transgression.
Remember that Lily's true coming of age is the process of becoming Lady Lu, so this rejection of her natal family is the first step in that direction. Lily is beginning to feel out what her power as a married woman actually is, although Mama won't let her forget that she must still be traditionally loyal to her natal family. Lily's reply, however, indicates that while she'll follow tradition and do what she's supposed to do, she won't do it with any positive emotion or because she wants to. This represents another instance in which tradition is divorced from emotional truth.
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Mama says she pities the Lu family for taking Lily, and the conversation is over. Lily says she softened to the rest of her family but remained distant from her mother, though she properly followed rules and customs outwardly. Lily says that she would later repeat this process of showing her emotions for a moment and then hanging onto her grievances, although the next time this happens it’s disastrous.
Again Lily falls back on customs and traditions to protect her from feeling uncomfortable emotions. The narration hints at the fact that this is indeed a trend for her, and that it will have disastrous consequences. For now, though, holding onto tradition and ignoring emotion provides Lily with a modicum of comfort and security.
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Snow Flower and Lily write each other often, although they can't visit each other. Lily travels to Tongkou four or five nights per year and watches the countryside go by from her palanquin. She describes Tongkou and the path she walks through the village to her married home. She spends her nights in her husband's bed, trying to conceive a son, but they don't see each other much otherwise. Lily’s mother-in-law is fair but strict, and Lily is willing to learn how things are done in her household.
Here the reader is asked to compare the actual practical differences between a laotong relationship and a marriage. It's even more obvious now that a woman's purpose in a marriage is to produce sons, as that's all Lily tries to do with her husband at this point. Lily and Snow Flower, however, experience more and more emotional intimacy as they move away from their natal families.
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Lily and Snow Flower meet for the first time since their weddings to travel to the Temple of Gupo. Lily doesn't want to talk about Mama or Snow Flower's deceit, so the two delicately discuss how they're trying to get pregnant. They make offerings and pray for sons at the temple.
The girls can only hope and pray that their bodies will cooperate and do what they're supposed to do, and therefore allow them to triumph as “virtuous” and successful women.
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Get the entire Snow Flower LitChart as a printable PDF.
Snow flower and the secret fan.pdf.medium
Neither Lily nor Snow Flower becomes pregnant in the next year, so when they visit the Temple of Gupo again, their prayers and offerings are deeper. Lily begins to get funny looks about her potential infertility as the year goes on. Several months later, Madame Wang delivers a letter to Lily from Snow Flower, saying that she's pregnant. Lily is humiliated and jealous.
Lily's jealousy here indicates that she truly believes she's now superior to Snow Flower, and therefore should've gotten pregnant first. This is a huge difference from Lily's previous idolization of Snow Flower, and is tied to Lily's attempts to divorce herself from experiencing real emotion.
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The next time Lily’s husband has sex with her, Lily holds him on top of her until he falls asleep. The next morning she initiates sex again and then stays in bed even after he gets up and goes into the kitchen. Lily expects admonishment from her mother-in-law, but when Lily finally emerges, Lady Lu and Yonggang are smiling. Two weeks later, when Lily is at her own home, she wakes up feeling ill and vomits. Aunt gets up to wipe Lily's face and smiles. Lily writes Snow Flower to tell her of the good news.
The way that Lily structures the narrative here indicates a belief that conceiving a child is simply a matter of following tradition closely and doing what's supposed to be done. It's an achievement rather than luck, and Lily is able to believe she's in control of her body and what it can do. This provides Lily a sense of achievement and security.
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Mama is very strict with Lily and makes sure she eats only bland foods. Lily accepts the limitations, as she knows her worth is dependent on her baby. Lily's husband and in-laws are thrilled. They allow Lily to make a stop and visit the Temple of Gupo to pray for a son on her way to living permanently with them. Lily picks up Snow Flower on the way, and their baby bellies get in the way of a proper hug.
Lily is very aware that she's only worth as much as the child inside her. If the child is a girl, Lily's value will decrease, hence the stop to pray for a son. Lily and Snow Flower also get to continue their tradition of visiting the temple together, which gives them comfort.
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Pregnancy agrees with Snow Flower, and she looks radiant. When they reach the temple they enter proudly and compare their stomachs with the other expectant mothers. They offer poems written on fans to the goddess, and each steal a pair of baby shoes lined up along the altar. Lily explains that a woman who wants a healthy baby steals a pair of shoes, and when her baby is born, returns a pair of shoes to the altar. This is because in local dialect, the words for "child" and "shoe" are the same. Lily and Snow Flower eat at Old Man Zuo's stand to end the day.
With this insight into the intricacies of the local language, we see again how language itself can create and reinforce meaning. This continues to develop the connection between a woman's body and her worth, as a woman's worth is determined first by her foot size and then by her children.
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Snow Flower and Lily stop at an inn that night to sleep. They lie in bed facing each other and put their hands on each other's stomachs. Lily can feel Snow Flower's baby moving, and Snow Flower says that she'll love Lily's son as much as she loves Lily.
Snow Flower seeks to expand the laotong relationship to include their future children. This indicates a hope for the future that their relationship will continue to be strong and emotionally fulfilling.
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