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The Bonesetter’s Daughter

Amy Tan
Characters

Precious Auntie

Characters Precious Auntie

Precious Auntie is resilient and strong, but her strength is a liability for her. Precious Auntie receives an unconventional upbringing where she is treated more like a son than a daughter. While the novel generally focuses on the bond between mothers and daughters, Precious Auntie grows up motherless and identifies with her father instead. She thinks of herself as “the bonesetter’s daughter.” Because of her childhood, Precious Auntie mistakenly believes that she can make her own decisions about her future. She does not understand the depth of the consequences of rejecting Chang’s marriage proposal until it is too late. Precious Auntie’s first suicide attempt is a reaction to the loss of Baby Uncle and her father, but her terrible grief also represents a moment in which she confronts what it means to be a woman. She would rather die than live with the powerlessness of the female experience. Precious Auntie’s terrible scars symbolize her transition from being outspoken and independent to being literally silenced. To cover up the scandal of having a baby with Baby Uncle out of wedlock, Precious Auntie now must live as a household servant and lose any status or respect she might previously have held.

Precious Auntie can withstand anything except her daughter’s rejection. She is willing to live a humble life of secrets because, within this life, she can still find joy in her daughter’s company, even if LuLing does not know her true identity. With LuLing’s wedding to Chang’s son imminent, Precious Auntie takes a desperate gamble. Because of her own loyalty to family, she assumes that once LuLing knows the truth about their relationship, she will obey Precious Auntie. Precious Auntie mistakenly believes that LuLing does learn the truth and still rejects her, and she cannot bear this knowledge. Precious Auntie’s suicide appears to be at odds with her otherwise resilient character, but it reflects just how much she longs to be truly seen and beloved. She finally offers honesty about herself and cannot bear to be rejected by the one person she has left. Still, even Precious Auntie’s death reflects her need to protect her child. By killing herself, she believes she gains a superstitious power to scare off the Chang family and protect LuLing, even at the ultimate cost to herself.