The Kitchen God's Wife

Amy Tan
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Characters

Winnie Louie

Characters Winnie Louie

The character of Winnie Louie is the fullest character in the novel since the novel encompasses her entire life from childhood to present. More importantly, she tells her own story, and, in addition, we are privy to not only her own view of the story, but also the vision of how her own daughter sees her. It is because of all of this that Winnie becomes the most multi-dimensional character in the book. Also significant, she is a character that goes through a great many names, symbolically illustrating the changes that occur within her as her life progresses.

Winnie's life begins as the innocent Jiang Weili. To her mother she is Syin ke (heart liver), which is much like saying "my love;" to Auntie Du she is Syuaning, or "little person." To others, like Peanut, she is Weiwei, and still to others she is Jiang Weili or Weili. Later, she is to become Winnie and then Winnie Louie. With every change of name there is a change within her. Winnie begins as a young woman who is optimistic and hopeful, despite the loss of her mother and the hardships she had to endure as a child. She then becomes the wife of Wen Fu, a plight she is too weak to leave behind and yet one in which she is always strong. This contradiction of being "weak and strong" at the same time is exemplified in the book through a chapter titled "Weak and Strong."

When she gets married Winnie knows nothing about sex and is quitenaïve—she has had no one to teach her, and so it is Helen that takes on the motherly role, in this respect. At the same time, Winnie is something of a snob and is not without her faults, being, at times, quite arrogant herself. Having been born to a rich and powerful father, she has status and was raised with manners and a sense of decorum. She has much to learn from others, but she also feels that she has much to teach since she has been educated and can read and write. This is exchange of teaching and learning is illustrated through her relationships with Min and Hulan (Helen).

As the story progresses, Winnie's innocence begins to fade away, and she becomes cynical of the world. And yet, she seems always to be the "little person" that Auntie Du had called her with affection, not at all because of weakness but because she seems to have retained a certain amount of her optimism. Like her own mother, Winnie is always strong-willed, even if, at times, she had failed to stand up to her cruel husband. And, in the end, she is the mother that wants to take away her daughter's suffering and who is optimistic that she will be able to help her and that there will be some way to cure her.

In short, Winnie is like The Kitchen God's Wife who had to endure a great deal of suffering. But Winnie is never a "victim," in fact she is a giving "creator," as is seen at the end through her creation of a new deity, which she gives to her daughter, symbolically offering Pearl her own open ears and heart.