Lily, Snow Flower, and the other female characters live very different lives from the men around them. In the culture and time of the novel, a woman's purpose is primarily to bring honor to her natal (birth) family and her family by marriage, and to do so primarily by bearing sons. While a woman's role in society is undeniably a product of the cultural traditions of the time, the specific beliefs and expectations…(read full theme analysis)
In the first few pages of the novel, Lily, at eighty years old, explains to the reader that the story to follow is a story about love and the different forms that love can take. She explains that she has spent her entire life craving love that, as a woman, she's undeserving of receiving. This sets love up as a major motivator throughout the novel, as well as creates a dichotomy between love as…(read full theme analysis)
Experiencing pain and suffering is linked early on to the simple fact of being female. A girl is expected to undergo the painful process of foot binding starting around age six. While tiny bound feet are considered attractive, the pain a girl experiences during the binding process is also supposed to prepare her to endure the emotionally wrought experience of "marrying out" and leaving one's natal home, and then the physical pain of childbirth. Further…(read full theme analysis)
As a work of historical fiction, the culture, traditions, and actual historical events of the time (1823-1903) permeate every aspect of the novel, simply by virtue of the genre. However, Lily's engagement with culture and tradition doesn't just dictate how her life should be lived; rather, the way in which she internalizes and uses her culture and beliefs blinds her to a more holistic understanding of the individuals and events in her life.
One…(read full theme analysis)