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MonkeyNotes-The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
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The linguistic style adopted by Amy Tan in The Kitchen God’s Wife is fairly simplistic. The Chinese and American culture is beautifully blended to catch the attention of the Western as well as the Asian readers. Most American readers do not know the Chinese history. Hence the style is kept simple and the narration is in the story form. To sustain the reader’s interest, the element of suspense is maintained throughout the novel. The flavor of Chinese language comes through the use of words like ‘tang jie’ and ‘syin ke’- their meanings in English are also given. The Chinese customs and practices add to the exotic oriental image, in the minds of the Western reader.



The burning of The Kitchen God’s effigy by Winnie symbolizes the ultimate destruction of Wen Fu in form as well as in spirit.

The Kitchen God stands for Wen Fu as both of them are vicious and adulterous. Weili symbolizes The Kitchen God’s Wife. Both have the same fate, getting married to an unworthy man. Their husbands, though cruel, are more popular. Though they both suffer in their lives, nobody worships them and their sacrifices too go unsung.


Visual, gustatory and olfactory images are seen in this novel. The refreshing scenery of the hilly terrain near the village, ‘The Heaven’s Breath,’ is an example of the visual images. The beautiful blue sky is a welcome treat to the eyes of Winnie and her co-travelers who are completely exhausted after their long and difficult journey. The eels that the two friends, Helen and Winnie, taste on their journey is a very good example of the gustatory image. The taste lingers to the extent that, Helen remembers the eels better then the other significant incidents in her life. The olfactory images come out clearly in the fragrance of the tea-leaves at Hangchow. The condition of the monastery is very bad and the facilities available are rudimentary. The only solace from this is the scent of the tea-leaves, which greatly appeals to the wives of the pilots.


Weili is shocked to see the condition of her father after so many years. Jiang Sao-yen, the autocratic head of the house is now a weak man. He is disabled and has also lost his power of speech. He now has to depend on his wives for everything he wants. Weili cannot imagine him to be the same man that she had known as a little girl and a young woman. Though physically and mentally handicapped, he cleverly tricks Wen Fu, who frantically searches for the gold promised by Jiang Sao-yen, which does not exist. This trick is a subtle attack by the old man on Wen Fu. It is also strange that the man, who had been silent for years, offers gold ingots to Winnie on hearing about her miserable life with Wen Fu and on hearing about her decision to leave him.


Contrast is seen in the personalities of Winnie and Helen. Winnie is refine din her manners and has all the elegance of a cultured lady. Helen on the other hand is crude and unsophisticated. She is born in a poor farmer’s house and is uneducated.

Gan and Jimmy Louie as a foil to Wen Fu: - Gan and Jimmy are considerate and kind-hearted. They know the right way to talk to a lady. Wen Fu is totally opposite them. He does not know the worth of a virtuous wife like Winnie. He is an opportunistic and exhibits all the traits of an arrogant and indecent fellow.

Examples of Chinese dialects

Words like "tang Jie" meaning sugar sister Peanut lovingly used to call her cousin, Winnie "tang jie."

"Syin ke" which means heart liver. Winnie’s mother used to tenderly call Winnie "Syin Ke" in her early childhood days.


Winnie narrates the Chinese myth of the Kitchen God to Pearl and her daughter. On hearing this, Phil jokes that this Kitchen God resembles Santa Claus. Winnie finds Phil’s comment utterly foolish and says, "He is not Santa Claus. More like a spy-FBI agent, CIA, Mafia, worse than IRS, that kind of person."

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MonkeyNotes-The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan


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