“What are you doing, Alice?” Alina asks as Alice lays on the grass looking up at the sky. Alina lays down on the grass next to her sister. “What am I supposed to be looking at,” Alina asks. “Up,” Alice says. “Just up.” Three small cousins lay down as well and they all look up at the sky. “Agheare, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Kien yells from across the grass.
Alice realizes that her life really is going to be all right, and just like when she realized that she must snap out of her depressed state, her love for Alina aids her in this understanding.
Alice ignores Kien. She can hear her mother telling Kuan that she is laying in the grass “with no shame,” and Alice looks around the cemetery. Que is setting a bowl of soup on top of a grave, and another aunt puts out a bowl of pasta. There is a huge spread of food across the grave, and Uncle Frank stands back and admires the marker. “Eight thousand dollars,” he says. “I helped pick it out.” Kuan and his siblings put fake flowers on the grave, and they all stop to fight about their placement. “What a misery effort,” Que says. Then, they each line up to light the incense. “Buddha bless our mother,” they all say softly.
Here Alice seems no longer bothered by her mother’s criticisms, which represents a major accomplishment on Alice’s part. Since she was a young child, Kien has been shaming her, and Alice now knows that she has nothing to be ashamed of, least of all her Chinese heritage. This scene, which almost closes the book, is a good encapsulation of Alice’s family: Chinese Buddhist culture combined the capitalist sensibilities of Australia, and humor combined with tragedy.
PUNG is written in large gold letters across the grave marker. “It’s so deep!” Alison says as she throws rice into the open grave. Alice notices that one of the cousins has brought Easter bunny chocolates wrapped in shiny gold foil for the children. Alice thinks about Little Brother, and as they all walk away from the grave, they are told not to look back.
PUNG written in gold symbolizes the value of family, especially the elderly, within Chinese culture. The gold-wrapped Easter bunny chocolates are humorous evidence of their assimilation and Australia’s multicultural society—the Pungs pray to Buddha while eating Christianity-themed chocolates.
Alice remembers back to when she was a kid and Huyen Thai still lived with them. Her grandmother had given her four solid chocolate eggs. “Don’t eat them all at once,” she said. Alice’s cousins ate their eggs right away, but she made a small box out of paper and put them in her drawer. She had wanted them to last, so she waited four weeks until she went to eat one. When she opened the drawer, she saw that the chocolate had melted and ruined her box. There were even ants crawling around the drawer.
Alice’s memory highlights the risks of hiding away cherished items of value, like Kien’s gold or even her refusal to turn on the sitting room chandelier. When things—or people, for that matter—are hidden away and ignored, one runs the risk of losing them. When Kien and Kuan hide Alice away they nearly lose her, just like Alice lost her chocolate, and this also reinforces Alice’s deeper message about the importance of family within Unpolished Gem.
Alice began to cry, and both Kien and Huyen Thai tried to console her. Huyen Thai offered to buy Alice more chocolate, but she didn’t want new chocolate. “It doesn’t matter anyway,” Alice said. Huyen Thai helped Kien clean up the melted puddle, and for once, “they did not yell at Alice for making such a mess of things.”
In Alice’s final memory, her mother and grandmother are actually getting along, and no one is telling Alice that she ought to be ashamed of herself. In this moment, the chocolates really don’t matter that much because all Alice truly needs is her family.