The Kitchen God's Wife
"Tan is one of the prime storytellers writing fiction today." -NEWSWEEK Winnie and Helen have kept each other's worst secrets for more than fifty years. Now, because she believes she is dying, Helen wants to expose everything. And Winnie angrily determines that she must be the one to tell her daughter, Pearl, about the past-including the terible truth even Helen does not know. And so begins Winnie's story of her life on a small island outside Shanghai in the 1920s, and other places in China during World War II, and traces the happy and desperate events tha led to Winnie's coming to America in 1949. "The kind of novel that can be read and reread with enormous pleasure." -CHICAGO TRIBUNE
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I - THE SHOP OF THE GODS
Amy Tan is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships. The daughter of two Chinese immigrant parents, her family history greatly influences her work.
Point of view is the manner in which a story is narrated or depicted and who it is that tells the story. The video further explains point of view and cultural perspective. (This annotation contains a video)
From which point of view is the story told?
The setting of this chapter is
How does Pearl feel about her family obligations?
Phil's tone in this statement is
Pearl's Grand Auntie's beliefs were a combination of superstitious rituals that attracted good luck.
Pearl notes that her mother insists on keeping the shop the same over the years. What does this suggest about her mother?
An author may describe a character indirectly by what he or she says, does, or thinks. How do we learn about Pearl's mother?
In this text, the author uses a(n) __________ to describe the startling beauty of the wreaths.
What type of characterization does the author use to describe Mary and her children?
What diagnosis does Doug's friend give Pearl?
How does Pearl's diagnosis change the way she and Phil communicate with each other?
What upsets Pearl about her mother's beliefs?
Why does Pearl's mother get upset with her?
What does Pearl begin to understand as she observes her mother and other members of her family?
Aunt Helen wants to rid herself of secrets because she thinks she is dying.
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
2 - GRAND AUNTIE DU’S FUNERAL
Why is Phil apprehensive about bringing the girls to Grand Auntie Du's funeral?
What causes the misunderstanding between Pearl and her mother about Grand Auntie Du's casket being closed during the service?
Pearl admires the jiao-zi her mother makes. The image below shows jiao-zi. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Pearl ask her mother to read the banner above Grand Auntie Du's casket?
Why is Pearl's mother upset when the banner falls?
At Grand Auntie Du's funeral, Pearl flashbacks or memories of her father's funeral. The video defines flashbacks and how they are used in narratives. (This annotation contains a video)
What does the flashback reveal about Pearl's relationship with her mother?
Pearl cannot understand all of the conversation between her mother and aunt because she has difficulty understanding some of the Mandarin words.
What do the actions of Pearl's mother towards the girls indicate?
What does the tea represent for Grand Auntie Du?
What gift does Grand Auntie Du leave Pearl?
This is an image of the Kitchen God. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Pearl cry after she opens the bag from her mother?
3 - WHEN FISH ARE THREE DAYS OLD
Who is the narrator in this chapter?
How is Winnie's luck different from Helen's?
Why does Winnie refuse the Lin family's offer of marriage to their son?
How does meeting Lin change the way Winnie looks at things?
Winnie's statement about the complications of telling the truth is a _____________ of the novel.
Use the "define" feature to determine the meaning of revolutionary. Which definition fits its use in the highlighted text?
Why are there so many different stories about Winnie's half brother?
4 - LONG, LONG DISTANCE
Winnie's description of Bao-Bao is an example of
Theme is a central idea of a text. View the video on theme. What theme does Helen's conversation with Winnie illustrate? (This annotation contains a video)
What news does Helen give Winnie?
What decision has Helen made?
What does Winnie's cleaning represent?
Why is it ironic that Winnie now finds Pearl's secret treasure box?
How does Winnie view the stained carpet?
5 - TEN THOUSAND THINGS
Why does Winnie tell Pearl she has a pain in her heart?
What does Winnie understand about her memories of her mother?
What kind of relationship does Winnie have with her mother?
How does Weili know that "Double Second" is bad?
Charlie Chaplin was an English actor, comedian and filmmaker who rose to fame in the silent era. This clip is similar to the one Weili saw with her mother. (This annotation contains a video)
Weili thinks it is dangerous for her mother to be meeting a strange man at the movie theater.
What does Weili discover when she wakes up the next morning?
What explanation does Old Aunt give Weili for the funeral banners?
What literary technique does the writer use to describe Winnie's mother?
Marxism is the political, economic, and social theories of Karl Marx including the belief that the struggle between social classes is a major force in history and that there should eventually be a society in which there are no classes.
What upsets Winnie about her mother's marriage to Jiang?
How does Weili's mother become the "Double Second"?
Why does Weili create different stories about what happened to her mother?
6 - PEANUT’S FORTUNE
Winnie reminds Pearl that she did not have a mother to help her make important decisions.
Names are important in this novel. Notice that most characters have name changes. This is a motif. The video explains how motifs support the theme of a story. (This annotation contains a video)
Why doesn't Weili feel like she belongs to her uncle's family?
Winnie's Chinese name is Jiang Weili. She uses this name when she tells the story of her life in China.
How does Weili learn how to run a household?
What prompts Uncle to build the greenhouse?
Pearl's mother is referring to "Catcher in the Rye", a controversial book written by J.D. Salinger that some schools banned because of its sexual content, profanity, and violence while others considered it a classic.
What do Peanut's clothes reflect about her?
Peanut's brothers laugh at her when they see her after she applies makeup to her face. She may have looked like the image below. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the fortune teller improve Peanut's luck?
Why is Weili unable to change her luck?
What is the purpose of the play?
Peanut accepts gifts from Wen Fu but plans to tell her mother that she bought them herself. What theme does this support?
How do Wen Fu's actions support the theme of secrets and deception?
What are Weili's motives for telling Wen Fu stories about Peanut?
7 - DOWRY COUNTING
Winnie uses flashbacks to relate the story of her past to Pearl. She also interrupts herself to add reflections or observations. This is part of the structure of the novel. The video will further explain structure. (This annotation contains a video)
Winnie contrasts customs in China with those in America.
Why does Weili refuse to continue to be a go-between for Wen Fu and Peanut?
Why should Peanut have been suspicious of Aunt Miao's motives for arranging a marriage for Peanut's family?
Winnie's words are an example of
How does Weili's father treat her when she returns to his house?
What is the purpose of the money dowry?
What changes in Weili's character does her father reveal?
How does San Ma characterize Sz Ma's three daughters?
How does Winnie feel about the dowry San Ma helps her choose?
What happens to Weili's dowry?
8 - TOO MUCH YIN
The dress Old Aunt chooses for Winnie may have looked like the one in the image below. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Peanut's interest in a white wedding dress for Winnie emphasize?
Two days before Winnie marries Wen Fu, Peanut tells her about the unscrupulous business practices of Wen Fu's family.
Why does Winnie rely on Peanut's stories to learn about sex?
Peanut's story emphasizes the pitfalls of not accepting the mate chosen by one's parents.
Why does Winnie change the ending of the story about the girl who drains her husband?
9 - BEST TIME OF YEAR
Hangzhou, formerly romanized as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Hangchow is shown in blue. (This annotation contains an image)
Giving Chennault the name Shan Nao illustrates the ___________ of renaming.
Winnie listens to the advice of Wen Fu's mother about marriage because she has no mother of her own. What type of advice does Wen Fu's mother give her?
What secret does Wen Fu keep from the pilots and Winnie?
The wives bond together to find a solution to their common problem.
Winnie reveals Helen's real name and relationship to her.
How is Hulan different from Weili?
10 - LOYANG LUCK
Why does Winnie think Jiaguo was not powerful?
What insight does Weili have about her husband?
How does Hulan explain Weili's craving for different foods?
Why does Hulan tell Weili the story about her sister and her baby?
How does Hulan respond when Weili tells her about Wen Fu's "unnatural desires"?
What literary device does the author use to depict Hulan's emotional pain when the pilots leave?
11 - FOUR SPLITS, FIVE CRACKS
Hulan and Weili disagree on how they should respond to the news of the surprise attack by the Japanese. They argue about the impact of words in bringing good or bad luck.
Weili vews getting stuck in the green dress as a ______________ for her life.
How do Weili and Hulan patch their relationship?
Contrast the ways in which Weili and Wen Fu handle money.
Why do Weili's meals become important to the pilots?
Danny Kaye was an American actor, singer, dancer, and comedian. His performances featured physical comedy, idiosyncratic pantomimes, and rapid-fire nonsense songs. His antics in the clip below show why people liked him. (This annotation contains a video)
What do Gan's actions towards Weili indicate?
Why doesn't Weili share her true feelings with Gan?
A foil is a character who contrasts the characteristics of another character. View the video for a better understanding of a foil. How is Gan a foil to Wen Fu? (This annotation contains a video)
How does Weili's memory of Gan help her grow as a person?
12 - TAONAN MONEY
Winnie has difficulty translating some Chinese words into English because some words do not have an American equivalent.
How does Wen Fu use the dowry money that Weili requests?
Why does Weili laugh when Hulan tells her what happened to the car?
What falls from the sky after the Japanese attack on the city?
Hulan identifies Weili by her green coat. The color green is a recurring motif.
13 - HEAVEN’S BREATH
Winnie weaves together the past and the present as she tells her story. The events from the past are told in flashback.
Why does Weili give some of her things to Wan Betty?
From Nanking harbor southwest to the Hankow-Wuchang area via boat on the Yangtze River is about 400 miles.
What does Wen Fu reveal about his character when he shoots the pig and threatens the old man?
They travel at least 400 miles from Changsha southwest to Kweiyang on dirt roads.
What disappoints Weili about the first-class hotel?
What cruel joke does Wen Fu play on the villagers?
How does Hulan help the group continue their journey when the driver cannot see because of the mist?
How does their arrival in Heaven's Breath affect the group?
The transfer of power was completed in October 1938.
How does the time frame change?
14 - BAD EYE
How does Winnie describe Kunming?
Mah jong is a card game that originated in China. Four players play the game using numbered tiles or cards. In all, there are 144 tiles, of which 36 tiles are in the Bamboo suit, 36 in the Circle suit, 36 in the Character suit, 16 Wind tiles, 12 Dragon tiles, and 8 bonus tiles (4 Flowers and 4 Seasons). (This annotation contains an image)
How does Weili pay for her servant girl and cook?
What is the significance of the name Weili gives her stillborn baby girl?
Why is Weili so upset when she knocks over the table of scissors?
What does Weili discover about Wen Fu's accident?
Weili wants Wen Fu to be punished for his offenses with the army jeep. Why, then, does she show appreciation to Hulan for convincing Jiaguo not to press charges against Wen Fu?
When Wen Fu slaps Weili, what upsets her more than the slaps to her face?
There is a shift in time and place. When and where does this conversation occur?
15 - A FLEA ON A TIGER’S HEAD
How does Winnie rationalize her inability to forgive Wen Fu?
How does Wen Fu act treat the hospital staff?
Why does Weili name her daughter Yiku?
How does Weili respond when the servant girl tells her that Wen Fu has raped her?
How does Wen Fu vent his anger toward Weili for confronting him about raping the servant girl?
Why doesn't Weili take Yiku to the hospital as soon as she realizes how ill she is?
How does Yiku comfort Weili as she is dying?
16 - THE GREAT WORLD
Who do you think the woman is?
What does Weili's willingness to believe that the young girl is Auntie Du's daughter indicate about her?
What does Weili like about Win?
What similarities does Weili see in herself and Min?
Weili enjoys watching Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, iconic dance partners who made motion pictures together from 1933–1949. Can you see why she liked this duo? (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Auntie Du tell Weili about Min's relationship with Wen Fu?
Why does Min hesitate to take Weili's money?
17 - THE FOUR GATES
Weili feels her life is symbolic of the times - growing worse. When the Burma Road is cut off, the people are unable to get supplies. The image below shows the Burma Road, indicated in red. (This annotation contains an image)
What does food symbolize for Hulan?
Weili thinks Hulan's eyesight is failing. What else does failing sight represent?
How does Weili view the young recruits?
Everyone is happy to be alive after the attack. They find reasons to be thankful.
What secret of Hulan's does Weili discover when she reads Jiaguo's letter?
Weili realizes that she and Hulan have each been jealous of the other's marriage.
Why does Weili identify with the mother with the broom?
18 - AMERICAN DANCE
Listen to "Air Mail Special," the song that is playing when Weili and Wen Fu walk into the American Club. Can you picture Wen Fu snapping his fingers to the beat? (This annotation contains a video)
Who attracts Hulan's attention?
Jimmy Louie gives the girls American sounding names. He gives Weili a lucky sounding name, Winnie.
Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve Apostles, is notorious for betraying Jesus. The story is found in twenty second chapter of Luke in the Bible.
Why is Judas a suitable name for Wen Fu?
Wen Fu threatens to keep Weili's son if she does not beg him not to divorce her. Even after she begs and degrades herself, he tells her she is still divorced.
Why do Auntie Wu and Hulan refuse to sign Weili's divorce papers?
19 - WEAK AND STRONG
Winnie's description of herself as weak and strong seems paradoxical. Her attitude helps her to survive.
What news does the man bring?
Hulan and Weili exchange gifts as they depart to go their separate ways. How are their gifts to each other similar?
Why does Weili feel that her father must help her?
How have things changed in Weili's father's house?
Why do most of the servants and members of Jiang Sao-yen's family leave?
The word means "national people's party" in Chinese. In 1912, Dr. Sun Yat-sen directed this political party. Suppressed by China's new president, the party twice tried to establish revolutionary governments in Canton. In 1925, after Sun's death and considerable inter-party strife, the Kuomintang passed into the control of General Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalists.
How does Weili describe Wen Fu and his family?
How does Weili manage to get her mother's room back?
20 - FOUR DAUGHTERS ON THE TABLE
What does Weili learn from observing the beggar's situation?
What does Weili realize about her uncle and father?
How does Peanut bring shame on her family?
Why is Weili surprised about the part of the city Peanut lives in?
What realization does Weili come to as she walks past the bargain stalls selling used books and magazines?
According to Jimmy Louie, what is the difference between fate and destiny?
How does Jimmy Louie respond to Weili's revelations about her family?
There is a shift in the writer's attitude or tone as Winnie describes her meeting with Jimmy. The video will help you understand the difference between tone and mood. How do the author's words make you feel? (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Winnie always cry when she remembers meeting Jimmy Louie that day?
21 - LITTLE YU’S MOTHER
Roadside wives is a euphemism for
How have Peanut's beliefs changed?
Peanut's marriage is another example of
Why does Little Yu commit suicide?
What do the woman's comments suggest to Weili?
22 - ONE SEASON LEFT
How does Weili's attitude change after she decides she will divorce her husband?
How does Weili's father respond when she tells him she is divorcing Wen Fu?
How does Weili manage to leave without causing suspicion?
23 - SINCERELY YOURS TRULY
Listen to the words of the song that Jimmy Louie sings to Winnie every morning. (This annotation contains a video)
How do the words of "You Are My Sunshine" apply to Jimmy Louie and Winnie's life?
Why does Weili send Danru up north to stay with Hulan?
What news does Auntie Du bring Weili?
Why is Weili arrested?
Why does Weili spend two years in jail?
Why does Jimmy return to America when Weili goes to jail?
Weili's actions in this text support the theme of
Why do San Ma and Wu Ma visit Weili in jail?
How does Jiang-yen triumph over Wen Fu?
24 - FAVOR
How does Hulan offer to help Weili?
What figure of speech does the author use to describe Hulan's happiness?
What secret does Auntie Du reveal about Kuang An?
Why does Auntie Du insist that Weili telegraph Jimmy Louie the news that she is out of jail?
How does Weili get Wen Fu to sign her divorce papers?
Wen Fu's anger and uncontrollable behavior create tension. The video defines tension and explains how it is used in writing. (This annotation contains a video)
25 - BAO-BAO’S WEDDING
The narrator tells this chapter from _______ point of view.
Who is Pearl's father?
Why is Pearl now able to tell her mother about her illness?
"Les Misérables" is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo first published in 1862. It is considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in 1832 the novel focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. Below is an image of costumes worn by two actresses in a stage version of the novel. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Pearl try to help Mary understand how her actions make her feel?
What secret does Aunt Helen share with Pearl?
What does Pearl realize about the arguing between her mother and aunt?
26 - SORROWFREE
There is a narrative shift in this chapter. From whose point of view is this chapter told?
Why does WInnie go to Sam Fook Trading Company?
What statue does Winnie purchase at the shop?
Amy Tan's story is based on events that actually happened to her. In the video below, she gives insight into her motivation for writing. Note her references to characters from "The Kitchen God's Wife." (This annotation contains a video)
What does Winnie name the statue she gives Pearl?