The Old Chinese City in Shanghai
1. We have a saying that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Yet Pearl felt very hurt by her father's words, near the beginning of the book. When have you experienced something similar?
"This is another of my father's standard criticisms and one he picked up from Confucius, who wrote, 'An educated woman is a worthless woman.' People calle me bookish, which even in 1937 is not considered a good thing. But as smart as I am, I don't know how to protect myself from my father's words" (pp. 3-4).2. The novel begins with Pearl saying, “I am not a person of importance” (p. 3). After Yen-yen dies, Pearl comments: “Her funeral is small. After all, she was not a person of importance, rather just a wife and mother” (p. 246). How do you react to comments like these?
3. These quotes from the first chapter show us a major cultural difference for most westerners today. Try to imagine how you would feel if your father said this to you, and then the man you had a crush on (Z. G.) backs up what your father said.
Their father: "I've arranged marriages for the two of you ... The ceremony will take place day after tomorrow" (p. 19).
Pearl: "I'm to be sold -- traded like so many girls before me -- to help my family. I feel so trapped and so helpless that I can hardly breathe" (p. 26).
Pearl: "In the end, Z. G. says the one thing I didn't expect. 'You should marry the man. He sounds like a good match, and you have a duty to your father. When a girl, obey your father; when a wife, obey your husband; when a widow, obey your son. We all know this is true" (p. 30).
Shanghai's Nanjing Road in the 1930s