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SECTION IV: “QUEEN MOTHER OF THE WESTERN SKIES”
This parable is about a grandmother who observes her grandchild laughing. She wishes that she could laugh like the child, but she is aware that it is impossible for her to again have such childish innocence. Having tasted the harsh realities of life, the grandmother has become bitter. As she looks at the smiling face of her grandchild, she regrets her attitude. She hopes that the child will cause her mother (the grandmother’s daughter) to laugh and live with hope.
The old lady describes the laughter of the child by comparing it with a “Laughing Buddha” and “The Queen Mother of the Western Skies.” The laughing Buddha is uninhibited in expressing his emotion; in a similar manner, the child laughs spontaneously, without inhibition. The child’s laughter is also pure and clear like the reigning queen of the western skies. The laughter symbolizes the uncorrupted innocence of childhood in comparison to the corrupted bitterness of the grandmother, who now regrets her negative attitude. She hopes that her own daughter, the child’s mother, will be able to laugh and live with hope because of the child. This final parable serves as a kind of thematic umbrella for the entire novel, for all of the Chinese mothers have experienced terrible things during their life times, and now expect to find evil everywhere they turn. As a result, they border on bitterness like the grandmother in the parable; and like the grandmother, they want their own daughters to have a better life -- to laugh and live with hope. In the final chapters remaining in the novel, the mothers’ viewpoints will again be seen.