Rose Hsu Jordan finds herself unable to assert her opinion, to stand up for herself, or to make decisions. Although she once displayed a certain strength, illustrated by her insistence on marrying her husband, Ted, despite her mother’s objections and her mother-in-law’s poorly concealed racism, she has allowed herself to become the “victim” to Ted’s “hero,” letting him make all of the decisions in their life together. She finally needs her mother’s intervention in order to realize that to refuse to make decisions is in fact itself a decision: a decision to continue in a state of subservience, inferiority, and ultimate unhappiness.

Rose’s youngest brother, Bing, died when he was four years old. Because Bing drowned at the beach while Rose was supposed to be watching him, Rose feels responsible for his death, despite the fact that the rest of the family does not hold Rose accountable. Her refusal to take on future responsibilities may stem from her fear of future blame should misfortunes occur.