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The Kitchen God's Wife

Amy Tan

Chapters 16–18

Chapters 13–15

Chapters 19–21

Summary

Chapter 16: The Great World

Winnie gives birth to a baby boy. She names him Danru, which means "nonchalance." After having Danru in the hospital, she goes home on her own, without notifying anyone at the house or Wen Fu. When she arrives at home she sees that there is a woman sleeping in her bed. When she goes downstairs, confusedly, Helen introduces her to her aunt that has come to stay with them. This woman is Auntie Du. Auntie Du mentions traveling with her daughter, which makes Winnie think that the woman upstairs in her bed is this woman's daughter. Soon, however, she finds out that she it is not Auntie Du's daughter and that it is a woman that Wen Fu has brought into the house. She allows this young woman named Min to be Wen Fu's concubine under the pretext that she is the sister of one of Wen Fu's fellow pilots, which is the lie Wen Fu had told Winnie. By allowing this woman to be Wen Fu's concubine in disguise, Winnie no longer has to succumb to her husband at night.

Winnie becomes friends with Min, who was a singer/dancer and who had worked as a performer at The Great World, which is compared to an adult amusement arcade of sorts. Min teaches Winnie to dance, and Winnie teaches Min how to write her name, how to behave with proper manners, and even suggests that when she becomes an actress she should call herself "Miss Golden Throat."

Winnie's secret about who Min's true identity goes undetected until Auntie Du confronts Winnie, informing her (unknowing that she knows all of this already) that Wen Fu is having an affair with Min and that Min is pregnant. Winnie becomes embarrassed that everyone at the house knows the truth but does not want to kick Min out. She, therefore, creates a plan in which she will ask for a divorce. Wen Fu rejects this and tells her that she will never tell him what to do. The next morning Min is gone. Winnie feels badly about this and tries to find out to where she has gone. When she finds Min, Min tells her that she has already gotten an abortion but accepts the money that Winnie offers her anyway.

A week later, Helen tells Winnie that Min has already run off with another man, which makes Winnie feel better, since it makes Winnie feel as if she no longer has to worry about Min.

Chapter 17: The Four Gates

Winnie has moments of happiness with her son, Danru, who is already ten months old. Her marriage, however, becomes worse and worse, just as the war is becoming worse. The British are involved and have closed off the Burma Road and cannot decide on which side they are. The Americans are not any better and many of the Chinese themselves have succumbed to the Japanese. There are rallies, protests, and constant bomb threats.

Wen Fu and Jiaguo leave for two–three months to train people who have recently arrived and volunteered to defend the new capital. Whereas Winnie is glad to be rid of her husband for a short period of time, Helen becomes paranoid and excessively worried. She takes to eating compulsively, and, one day, she mistakes a flock of birds for fighter planes. Realizing that she cannot see well after this incident, Winnie takes Helen to the marketplace to buy a pair of glasses. While they are there, however, an alarm goes of telling people to run to the nearest gate because the Japanese are coming. After a mad run for the gates, everyone is relieved when they see that the Japanese have bombed another area of the city. That night, they celebrate and eat and talk and laugh. And when this happens again and again, they celebrate also but each time with a more somber tone and with less joy. The bomb threats continue three times a week until one day the bombs actually fell.

One day while in the market Helen and Winnie got caught in an alarm. Danru and Auntie Du were at home and, thinking that it was just an alarm as it usually was nd that Danru and Auntie Du were on the way to one of the two gates already. They split up. This time, however, the bomb dropped near Winnie's gate, and when she got home Auntie Du and Danru were not there yet. After a frantic search, her servant girl finally runs to her and tells Winnie that the Auntie Du and Danru have arrived home, safely.

Also, in this chapter, a secret about Helen is revealed. While the men are away, Jiaguo writes Helen a letter that she asks Winnie to read out loud for her. By reading more than she was supposed to, Winnie finds out that Helen and Jiaguo's marriage is unconsummated.

Chapter 18: American Dance

Around Christmastime, 1941, Winnie, Helen and their husbands attend an American dance where they eat American foods like brownies and cheese for the first time, listened to American music ,and where Winnie meets Jimmy Louie. Everyone has a good time, and Helen and Jiaguo are dancing close, making Winnie wonder if they have finally consummated their marriage.

There had been talk of a Chinese schoolteacher who had left her husband and was sleeping with all of the American men. Winnie and Helen wanted to see this woman at the dance, but instead they found a Chinese man in an American uniform. This man was Jimmy Louie, who explained that he was American born and that he worked for the United States Information Service as a translator. All of the women were approaching him, asking him to give them American names, which he did. This is how Hulan became Helen and how Weili became Winnie. Winnie, while standing near him and while dancing with him, feels what she calls not love but, "the danger of love," for Jimmy Louie.

When Jimmy meets Wen Fu, and Wen Fu asks him to give him a great American name, Jimmy Louie gives him the name of Judas. Winnie, who has studied some English, immediately picks up on the reference and smiles. She teases him while dancing with him, telling him that it was terrible thing to do to her husband.

When she gets home that night, Wen Fu becomes angry with her because one of the other pilots had made a joke about how the American men were taking the Chinese women, alluding to the dance between Winnie and Jimmy Louie. Wen Fu forces her to divorce him then and makes her sign a paper with a gun pointed at her head. Winnie is internally elated about this until he tells her that Danru is no longer hers because of the divorce. He tells her to beg for forgiveness while the gun is still pointed at her head, but he does not change his mind. Then, keeping the gun pointed at her, he rapes her.

The next morning, Winnie takes the divorce paper and Danru and asks Auntie Du and Helen to sign as witnesses, making it official. They will not, but they promise to help her escape. They take her to a boarding room where she stays until Wen Fu comes looking for her. Helen, not realizing Wen Fu's danger, had helped him find her.

Analysis

These chapters represent both the lowest point for Winnie and the glimmers of a new beginning starting to show through. The war has reached a peak and the bombs begin to fall nearby and close to home. Wen Fu becomes more and more violent: he threatens Winnie with a gun, rapes her, abuses her, and threatens her. Winnie feels as if there is no way out, whenever she tries to escape he finds a way to pull her back in. She feels that those who have gotten away, like Min, are lucky. Even her dead babies are lucky, and she finds ways to have abortions so as to not bring any more children into the world in which she lives. The Winnie of earlier chapters would not have had an abortion, and she would not have known even how to go about one. Winnie has moments where she even wants to end her life.

Tan chooses to bring both the peak of the war and the peak of Wen Fu's violence into play at the same time. She does this so that there is a kind of "pathetic fallacy" occurring. Pathetic Fallacy is a literary device in which exterior elements such as weather become a mirror for internal elements such as feelings and thoughts. In these chapters Wen Fu's violence is mirrored by the bombs that fall on the city and by the Japanese planes that are a constant threat. There are also symbols, however, that there is a new beginning on the rise. For example, Helen's glasses are a symbol. It is Winnie who leads Helen to be able to "see." Winnie also, for the first time, is realizing the reality of her situation and is trying to find a way out. Also, the fact that she receives a "new name" is important because this re-naming, this conversion from Weili to Winnie, is the glimpse of the new beginning that she will eventually be able to have with Jimmy Louie. Giving someone a name is a kind of baptism and a kind of rebirth. Winnie will enter a life with Jimmy in which she will try to forget her past and begin anew. We already know that she will eventually marry Jimmy Louie, and so we know how to read the devices and symbols that Tan gives us throughout these chapters.

Relationships are another important subject of these chapters. It becomes evident, as it has been evident throughout, that Winnie does not agree with the way that Helen views the world. Under this idea, the glasses, of course, take on new symbolism, illustrating that they do not have the same way of "seeing" and that Winnie thinks Helen's way is wrong and "blurry." It is apparent that no one really knows how dangerous Wen Fu is to Winnie since it is Helen, the person who had helped her escape, that brings Wen Fu to Winnie. Helen is not a bad person, and she probably thought she was doing the right thing and giving Wen Fu a chance to apologize and be kinder. Auntie Du is also a good woman, and yet she does not sign the divorce papers because she does not truly understand Winnie's predicament either.

Furthermore, there are other relationships that are explored in the novel such as that between Winnie as a wife and Min as her husband's concubine. This is a particularly touching relationship in which Winnie acts as an older sister. It is a special relationship through which good moments are shared and serves to reinforce our faith in people and our faith in Winnie's capacity for love and goodness.

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