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The Kitchen God's Wife

Amy Tan

Chapters 22–24

Chapters 19–21

Chapters 25–26

Summary

Chapter 22: One Season Left

Winnie and Jimmy Louie made a plan in which she would call him the night before and say, "open the door, you can already see the mountain" when it was time for her to run away. Before she left, however, she began to think of her father and that if she left, Wen Fu would use him as a weapon and have him killed. She chose her life, however, above her father's and decided to escape anyway. Nevertheless, she felt guilty and decided to tell her father that she was leaving her miserable marriage. Her father never spoke anymore and was more or less catatonic because of his stroke. And yet, when she told him this, he opened the rod to the one scroll that was left—the spring season painting he had thrown tea on (Wen Fu had sold the rest of the scrolls)—and he took out three gold ingots which he then gave to his daughter in a moment of clarity. Winnie left them in the rod and told her father she would collect them before leaving.

Chapter 23: Sincerely Yours Truly

This chapter is framed through the action of looking through a scrapbook. Winnie shows her daughter the pictures that Jimmy Louie had taken and collected of her, and as she shows the pictures, Winnie tells Pearl what had been going on in her life when each of the pictures were taken. Winnie had escaped to Jimmy Louie and had lived with him happily and in love, but not without the fear that Wen Fu would find her and Danru. After hearing that two men had come looking for her and Danru, Winnie decides to send Danru to Harbin to stay with Auntie Du, Helen, and Jiaguo. But while there, Danru dies because diseases that infected rats had been spreading after the war.

A while after Danru's death, for which Winnie blames herself, Winnie is taken to jail. Wen Fu was suing her for taking their son, for stealing valuables from the house, and for deserting her Chinese husband in order to run away with a foreigner. Winnie protested and said that she was already divorced from this man but that he had destroyed the papers when he had ravaged her lawyer's office. Auntie Du testified to having been there for the divorce but because the papers were unavailable, Winnie was sentenced to two years in prison. The case reached the newspapers and became a scandal, making Winnie a kind of beautiful celebrity among young girls in Shanghai.

While Winnie was in jail, Wen Fu had tried to make Jimmy's life miserable and had succeeded in having the American Consulate force him to go back to the United States. Jimmy wrote Winnie love letters from America and told everyone that he was married, considering Winnie his wife. Also, while in jail Winnie finds out that Peanut and Little Yu's mother had run away from the house they had been living in. And, Winnie also receives news of her father's death.

Chapter 24: Favor

One day Auntie Du brings Winnie a surprise during one of her many visits to the jail. The surprise is a pregnant Helen, who has remarried a man named Kuang An, who is the Uncle Henry that Pearl knows. Kuang An was so in love with Helen that he would do anything for her, and, thus, he agreed to use his connections in the government to help Winnie out of jail. Two months later, Winnie is released as a result of a "court error."

When Winnie arrives at Helen and Kuang An's house she sees that there is no money, and so she finally brings out the silver chopsticks she had been hiding for such a long time. Also while there, she finds out that unbeknownst to Helen, it was not really Kuang An who had managed to have Winnie released from jail, it was actually Auntie Du. Auntie Du tells Winnie that she had gone to the authorities and told them that Winnie was having a relationship with a communist leader whose name was very secret and that if the communists found out that Winnie was in jail there would be serious trouble.

A day after having been released from jail, Winnie sends a telegram to Jimmy in America, and while she is sending it she meets again with "Beautiful Betty," the telegraph operator who had not died in Nanking, but who had used the money, which Winnie had sent for and forgotten, to escape. Winnie is happy to see her and agrees to have Betty deliver Jimmy's response to her house, whenever it arrives. Two days later, the response arrives that all the papers are in order and that she should leave immediately.

Before leaving, however, Winnie wants to have secured a divorce from Wen Fu, in writing. She and Betty scheme and create a plan that forces Wen Fu to sign divorce papers in front of the woman he is currently with, whom Winnie uses to pressure him into the divorce. But, before she leaves, Wen Fu shows up at her house while she is alone. He puts a gun to her head, rapes her, and is about to steal her tickets. Winnie manages to get possession of the gun while Wen Fu is in the bathroom, however, and Helen enters in the midst of all of this. With Helen's help, Winnie gets the tickets back from Wen Fu. She had bought three so that she would have a better chance of escaping.

Finally, Winnie leaves. Five days after she arrives in America, the communists took over and no one was allowed to leave the country. She had escaped in the nick of time. It is at this point in the story that Winnie tells Pearl that she is Wen Fu's child.

Analysis

These chapters provide the climax for he novel. Not only are they filled with action, but they are filled with literary know-how of an adventure writer. Tan keeps us on the edge of our seats as Winnie tries to escape and is held back again and again. Winnie tries to leave, and, when she finally does, her son dies, and she is placed in prison. The climax comes in both the final escape from Wen Fu and in the fact that it is in this chapter that Winnie tells her daughter that she is Wen Fu's child. The past and present collide here, and there are climaxes in both worlds—one that has already happened and one that is occurring as the narration happens. Winnie already experienced the escape but Pearl is experiencing, for the first time, the effects of this new knowledge, especially the knowledge of who her true father is. Pearl had not even known about this man until now, and, all of a sudden, she discovers that he is her father. And so there is a sense of release in the last sentence of the chapter when Winnie says, "So, I never told him [Jimmy Louie]. I never told anyone. And nine months later … I had you." Along with this release, however, is the tension and the questions that arise within the reader: "How will Pearl react?"

These chapters also do a great deal for character development. For example, the character of Auntie Du is developed by her actions. She stands up for Winnie in the courtroom, saying that she had seen the divorce papers and had been a witness to the divorce. She is a strong woman and a good woman. This strength shows itself again when she is brave enough to confront the officials about Winnie's prison sentence, lying to them in order to save Winnie. Her goodness also shows itself in the fact that Auntie Du never told Helen that it was not her husband who had helped Winnie out of jail because she wanted Helen to continue to be proud of her new husband. This act, however, also shows Uncle Henry's character. Uncle Henry is a character of whom we know very little, but by the mere fact that he accepts credit for something he did not do and yet shows embarrassment as a result of Winnie's gratitude, illustrates a great deal about his personality.

Also, Winnie herself is shown to be more stubborn than ever in these chapters. Winnie is always claiming that Helen is stubborn, but Winnie is just as stubborn, which is why they have so many fights. And although Winnie shows them to be very different people, they are similar in their stubbornness. Instead of leaving for America as soon as everything is in order, Winnie decides that she wants her divorce from Wen Fu in writing before she leaves. This is a stubborn act that causes suffering, and, yet, it was also an act that led to bringing Pearl into the world.

As for Helen, she believes that she did Winnie a favor a long time ago by helping her out of prison, which is a "favor" that, in fact, had nothing to do with her. And yet, perhaps, in the end, she did help her out of prison by showing up at the right time and in the right place, when Winnie might have killed Wen Fu and, subsequently, have never been able to escape.

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