Unpolished Gem

by

Alice Pung

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An Pung Character Analysis

Alice’s grandfather, Kuan’s father, and Huyen Thai’s husband. An is a school teacher in Cambodia, and he already has a wife and two daughters when he meets Huyen Thai. Despite not being able to afford it, An marries Huyen Thai anyway because he loves her, but he is further disappointed when his new wife gives birth to two daughters as well. An prefers only sons, and as such, he is symbolic of the sexist nature of traditional Chinese culture. He doesn’t celebrate when his daughters are born, and when his first two daughters as just toddlers, An barely seems to notice. He does go on to be the proud father of five sons, plus two more daughters, and he loves Huyen Thai even though she frequently does “crazy things.” An gives Huyen Thai’s sixth son to his first wife to take away some of Huyen Thai’s power, and she agrees to leave the boy behind. An dies of starvation during the reign of Pol Pot, and Kuan keeps his picture on a Buddha shrine in their house. When Huyen Thai dies, the children put a picture of An on her grave to “remember him.”

An Pung Quotes in Unpolished Gem

The Unpolished Gem quotes below are all either spoken by An Pung or refer to An Pung. 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:
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Plume edition of Unpolished Gem published in 2006.
Part 1 Quotes

When it came down to childrearing, they were her children, he had nothing to do with such prosaic things. Fathers were only there to plant the seeds, it was mothers who did the watering and the fertilizing. Of course, the paternal influence would occasionally return to lop off a few leaves for good measure, and smirk for photographs in front of his prize garden, but he made sure to leave immediately afterwards in case the cumquats only glowed orange but were black inside. It was never the pa’s fault if the kids went bad.

Related Characters: Alice Pung / Agheare (speaker), Huyen Thai, An Pung
Page Number: 37-8
Explanation and Analysis:

“If you could give me sons, then I wouldn’t need to go over there!”

Related Characters: An Pung (speaker), Huyen Thai
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2 Quotes

“She’s built like a boy,” said my grandfather, “and now you’ve given her that terrible name. She’s going to grow up like a boy if you’re not careful, and then no one will want her. Who wants a girl always running about this way and that? Keep that child still, and stop calling her Little Brother! What do you think it is—some kind of joke? Do you think it’s funny hah?”

Related Characters: An Pung (speaker), Huyen Thai, Little Brother
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
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An Pung Character Timeline in Unpolished Gem

The timeline below shows where the character An Pung appears in Unpolished Gem. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Marriage Theme Icon
...boys, were proof of her power, and children everywhere were drawn to her. Her husband, An Pung, thought her power nonsense—he wanted “nothing to do with such prosaic things.” As a... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Huyen Thai mothered all the children living nearby, and they took to calling her “Ma.” An would scoff at his wife’s collection of children and reminded her of their fourth boy.... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Marriage Theme Icon
...mother of five sons, Huyen Thai desired a daughter “above all else.” Crying, she told An that she only traded the children to save money. After all, daughters cost less to... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Marriage Theme Icon
An was bored living with his first wife. The daughters he shared with her were “dull... (full context)
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Soon after, An snatched Huyen Thai’s newborn son and gave him to his first wife. “He took my... (full context)
Part 2
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
...died when they were just young. After her grandmother gave birth to her first daughter, An Pung was “inconsolable.” Usually, in Chinese culture, when a baby turns one month old, they... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
...a year later, Huyen Thai was pregnant again. She gave birth to another girl and An thought for sure he was cursed. Huyen Thai named her MeiHuay, beautiful flower, but called... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
...daughter. The child refused to wear dresses and she was constantly dirty. “Discipline that child!” An Pung would order his wife. (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Huyen Thai soon gave birth to another child, a son this time, and An Pung threw a big celebration when the baby turned one month old. Before the party,... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
After An left the room, Huyen Thai gave Little Brother a lollipop to calm her down and... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Marriage Theme Icon
Shortly after Huyen Thai fled China, Alice says, she met An Pung. They were both teachers at the same school, and even though An was ten... (full context)
Part 3
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
...“It’s our toilet!” she cries. “Our ensuite toilet!” The family’s Buddhist shrine, the one with An Pung’s picture on it, is located downstairs, directly under the toilet. “We are crapping on... (full context)