Preferences of words in the novel
Silver Sister by Lillian Ng
In Lillian Ng’s Silver Sister, the protagonist, Silver Sister, is an 80 years old Chinese woman who has experienced a great deal of occurrences in her life. She has lived in many places from her hometown in a village in China called Lung Sun, to Canton, Hong Kong, Singapore, and finally to Australia. She describes each place and compares it with Australia. The words being used in her comparison determines where she positions herself. By using positive words in describing Australia, Silver Sister takes side with the place and reflects the ideology of the novel.
In describing a graveyard in Australia Silver Sister uses words like elevated and prestigious to refer to its place:
[…]Botany Bay in the eastern suburb of Sydney, a place with good feng shui in elevated ground with a view of the sea. I’m glad she [Ah Yi] had a proper burial; […] and now lying in a prestigious graveyard, […] (pp.25)
Meanwhile Silver Sister only describes her father’s grave in her village as something in the back of our ancestral home.
I cannot help comparing her burial with that of my Papa’s, and I often wonder how I got the strength and the guts to bury Papa in the back of our ancestral home. (pp.25)
The words ‘elevated’ and ‘prestigious’ give more detailed description about the place compare to ‘in the back of our ancestral home’. Moreover those two first words have more positive meanings than the last word. In other word Silver Sister gives better judgment to Australia than to her village.
She also describes the people of her hometown. As a result of war many people from her village become “beggars” and “vagabonds”. These people search for food to the charity kitchen. She then mentions people in Australia who are ‘beggars’ as “destitute” and ‘vagabonds’ as “old folks without home”. The different words she uses to describe two identical things in two different places gives different interpretation....
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