The Kitchen God's Wife

Amy Tan
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Characters

Helen

Characters Helen

Winnie talks about Helen in her story almost as much as she talks about herself. Helen is Winnie's best friend, and even though they fight they will be forever linked by bonds of the heart. In fact, it is Helen who brings Winnie and her daughter together by using the pretext of a fictive malignant tumor. Helen wants to see her friend unite with her daughter and does not want to keep anymore secrets. The act of bringing mother and daughter together, and how she goes about doing it, says a great deal about her personality: it says that although she can be sneaky and stubborn, Helen is always trying to make the best of situations, always looking on the brighter side of things, always willing to take a risk. Winnie attributes Helen's happiness in life to luck, but really it may be more a product of her positive outlook.

When Helen and Winnie first meet, Helen has much to learn in the way of manners, and yet Helen possesses a world savvy that evades Winnie. She comes from a poor background where she has learned how to survive and how to make the best of what she has. It is because of their different backgrounds that the two have so much to learn from each other. Helen can be jealous, and she is often wrong, just as she had been jealous of Winnie's servants and wrong about leading Wen Fu to Winnie after having helped her escape. And yet, Helen never means to harm her good friend.

Helen may believe that she is always right, at least in Winnie's opinion of her, but the truth is that Helen is right, many of the times. She can even be called the "wise fool" of the novel. Helen does not seem like much on the surface, but it is because of her that the wheels for the entire novel begin to turn; it is through her that truth is released and understanding reached.