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MonkeyNotes-The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
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Notes

When Weili’s son Danru is born, Weili’s mind is filled with immense sorrow due to the death of her daughter Yiku who she loved very much. There is a special reason behind Weili naming her son Danru. It is a Buddhist name, which means ‘non- chalance.’ Weili wishes that her son would not be as attached to his mother (her) as Yiku had been. Weili knows that she can only care for her son but cannot safeguard him from all dangers. She does not want to develop emotional ties with her son as she wants to avoid the pangs of separation, in case he too gets separated from her. But the very first time she looks at her son’s innocent face all her suppressed maternal instincts come alive, and she is ready to fight the world, especially Wen Fu, for him.

There is a new problem waiting for her when she reaches home with Danru - Min, the beautiful concubine of Wen Fu. But for Weili, Min proves to be a good excuse to protect herself and her son from Wen Fu. She asks her husband for a divorce to which he disagrees. Instead, he orders Min to leave. The very thought of divorce had come to Weili’s mind after a lot of introspection and toleration. Divorce was almost non-existent in China in those days. A woman had to be a good wife to her husband. She had to adjust to her life with him, irrespective of whether he was old, a leper, or a drunkard. She had to be in her husband’s shadow and had to spend her entire lifetime in strife just in order to prove that she is an excellent wife. A woman of the 1930’s, Weili had her own ideas about her husband. Though she did not have any rosy dreams, she had never ever wanted a cruel man like Wen Fu as her husband. The death of Yiku, however, had stretched her tolerance to its limit. So she had wanted to use Min as a pretext for her freedom from Wen Fu.


In the earlier chapters, Weili had always compared herself with Hulan, now the reader finds that, Weili does not hesitate to compare herself with Wen Fu’s concubine, Min. Min and Weili are different in every aspect, whether the social class they belong to or their educational background or even morality. Min belongs to the low strata of society. Weili is a refined, cultured and educated woman, whereas Min is a dancer at the great world, which is a club. But in Min, Weili finds many qualities, which are praise worthy. Min sings and dances beautifully like the actresses of the silver screen. Her song has the depth, which bewitches her audience. Min is an enthusiastic girl and she beckons Weili to learn dances from her. In turn, Weili teaches her the manners required for one to become a sophisticated lady. Min is grateful to Weili for both, letting her live in her house for some time as well as offering her money in her time of need. Weili feels that, in a way, both Min and she are similar, ‘pretty skin, foolish heart, strong will, scared bones.’ Though they come from two different backgrounds, Weili does not feel that she is superior to Min in any way. This is because they are both suffering in their present situations and are hoping for a better future.

Weili learns something about her friend’s marriage that she had not known earlier. Some time back, Weili had been puzzled when Hulan had reacted strangely to Weili’s misgivings about Wen Fu’s excessive passions. On reading the letter written by Jiaguo, Weili now becomes aware of the sexless marriage existing between Hulan and Jiaguo, a fact, that Hulan has kept a secret from Weili.

Weili miraculously escapes unhurt from the Japanese attack over Kunming. Weili realizes that such attacks would continue. Weili is worried about Danru’s safety and is relieved to find him safe with Auntie Du.

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