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One factor remains constant throughout Weiliís adult life, that is, her friendship with Hulan. They always remain loyal to each other. This is except for that one instance, when Hulan informs Wen Fu about Weiliís hiding place after she leaves Wen Fuís house the first time. In spite of the fact that they come from two different backgrounds, the two women share a very special bond. This maybe because of the similar developments in their lives, for instance, marrying men who were earlier involved with other women, grieving when they lose their loved ones in an epidemic or even working together to improve their housing conditions. The pleasant walks that they take in the evenings are enjoyable and satisfying for both. Even their petty and serious arguments contribute to the growth in their relationship.
It is because of Helenís blackmailing that Weili agrees to tell her daughter about her past. Weili even musters up the courage to tell her daughter the terrible truth that she might be Wen Fuís and not Jimmy Louieís daughter. The revelation of the past finally bridges the gap between Weili and her daughter Pearl and forms a new level of trust and understanding. Pearl also tells her mother about her illness. Her initial reaction is one of anger but then she calms down and decides to take Pearl to China for some Chinese medicines. She even replaces the idol of the kitchen god with that of Lady Sorrowfree. This is symbolic of the fact that, from now on there will only be happiness, and no regrets.
Though born and brought up in such a dogmatic patriarchal Chinese society, Winnie had the immense courage to resist, defend, and when the need arose, to fight back. Her life is an example not only for her daughter, Pearl but also for other women. "Fragile-looking, yet strong and brave, the kind of person nothing could stop" is Weiliís personality is a nutshell.
The rest of the characters are not so forceful as the major character, Winnie. But the characters of Helen and Wen Fu could be dealt in some details:
Helen is the close friend of Winnie, the prime character. Helen is a country girl, uneducated and lacking the manners of a refined lady. Though Helen and Winnie have almost nothing in common in terms of education, social class or personality, they share strong ties of friendship. Helen is married to Jiaguo who is a senior pilot and the boss of Wen Fu, Winnieís husband. Her marriage to Jiaguo is the result of the tragic death of her sister. Jiaguo is responsible for Helenís sisterís death and in order to free himself of his guilt feelings, he marries Helen. Jiaguo is a good-natured man who tolerates a wife like Helen who at times nags him. He even tries to teach her to read and write.
The friendship between Helen and Winnie blossoms mainly from their mutual help at Hangchow. Even later, while they travel long distances, Helen comes to Weiliís aid. They have to stay many different places, depending on where their husbands are stationed. The living conditions are often crude and unclean. It is only when they co-operate with each other do they can manage to settle down to a satisfactory life.
Of the numerous things that Winnie remembers about her friend Helen, there is one particular incident where Helen is very brave. This is what makes the incident unforgettable. The incident occurs in Nanking when Weili and Hulan experience the shock of their lives-Ďtaonan.í Hulanís timely help saves Weiliís life. Weili is grateful to Hulan for risking her own life to save her.
Trust is the firm foundation on which their friendship is based. Helen threatens to break it when she tells Winnie that she will disclose all of her secrets, if Winnie refuses to talk to her daughter about them. But, in fact, it is only a trick employed by Helen to improve the strained relationship between the mother and daughter. In spite of her several faults Helen is the most loyal and trustworthy friend of Winnie.