immigrant to America soon after the immigration ban was lifted. A challenging story that forced the
reader to try to understand that certain customs and traditions that were seen as 'usual' can be very
unlike the ones we as Americans are used to. A story where, even though it lacked a lot of violence,
action, or suspense it still was able to grab its readers and viewers.
With a little bit of her own experiences tied into the story, we learn the 'fictional' story of four
Chinese mothers (Lindo Jong, Suyuan Woo, Ying-ying St. Clair, An-Mei Hsu) and their daughters, all
American born (Rose Hsu Jordan, Jing-mei Woo, Waverly Jong, Lena St. Clair). In a feudal China, the
four mothers decided to avoid having their future children live in such a traumatic country and thus
decide to move to San Francisco's China Town. Yet, as similar as the stories should be, small
differences between novel and movie can always be found.
The main difference between the novel and the movie is the overall feel for it. If you watched the
movie and then read the book you might have seen how the book was able to keep an intriguing, and
even 'dark' feel as we can feel the words jumping out at us as a tense moment arises. While in the
movie, these 'moments of despair' seemed to arise quickly and pass over just as fast. We saw that in
most detail when it came to death.
In the novel, we are told a story of anger, of hate, a woman scorned. We are told a story of a
cheating husband and a feeling of having absolutely no way out. We can feel how her walls were
closing in all around her as she desperately searched for a way out. Can you imagine how far gone
your mindset has to be where the only escape is to kill your own child? How something so cruel and
inhumane is treated as a way out? In the novel we can feel the decline of happiness until she ultimately
performs a makeshift abortion. While in the movie we see signs of trouble, but not captured as well as
it could've been that ultimately ended with a babies last bath.
Another case of where the novel vividly describes certain things that the movie just can't do is the story of An-Mei's scar. In the novel we figure out early on that An-Mei's mother who is to remain
nameless decided to run off and be with a man and become one of his concubines. This act is seen as
dishonorable by the family and they run her off. One night during dinner An-Mei's mother returns
looking to see her daughter. Tempers fly, words are shouted, tables are overturned and with that
scalding hot soup covers An-Mei's neck.
In the movie however, it is a simple argument between An-Mei's Uncle and Aunt. Yet, as different as
it was it was still effective in showing that customs in China are very different than what 'we' as
Americans see as customary and what is pushing boundaries. The scene in the movie, complete with
abuse, shows how feudal and violent China could be even under peacetime. In that sense, the scene
served its purpose, but still could've been elaborated on a little bit more.
Yet, sometimes a few changes to a novel has to be made to be sure the movie covers as much as
possible without going over the alloted time. Especially when dealing with a segment that can take a
few minutes to fully describe. Such as the significance of a 'red candle.' This is apart of Lindo's story
that revolves around her 'first' marriage. A burning red candle that can last a whole night without
extinguishing before it was supposed to was to signify eternal happiness and bliss. A servant that was
ordered to watch the candle throughout the night had to leave the room because of a misunderstanding
between a thunderstorm and an attack by the Japanese. After all, the roar of thunder sounds like...