full title The Kitchen God's Wife
author Amy Tan
type of work Novel
genre immigrant novel; novel of multiculturalism; Asian-American novel; Chinese- American novel;
time and place written 1991; California
date of first publication 1992
publisher Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
narrator The novel has two narrators. The narration begins with Pearl Louie Brandt, but the bulk of the novel is narrated by Pearl's mother, Winnie Louie.
point of view The narration is always in the first person but the narrator changes from Pearl to Winnie Louie.
tone The author's tone is both educational and optimistic
tense The novel fluctuates between past and present tense.
setting (time) 1920s-199's
setting (place) Various cities, country towns, and islands in and off the coast of China as well as California, U.S.A.
protagonist Winnie Louie
major conflict The tense and distant relationship between Winnie and her daughter Pearl; the major conflict of the story within the story is the abusive relationship between Winnie and Wen Fu
rising action The rising action that causes Winnie to become closer with her daughter is the invitation to Bao-Bao's wedding; Helen pulling Winnie and Pearl aside separately and telling them that they must reveal their secrets; and Winnie deciding to tell Pearl her life story. The rising action that causes Winnie to leave Wen fu is that Winnie is abused by him—she grows, learns and suffers through her relationship with him and through the war
climax The climax of the novel comes when Winnie tells Pearl that Wen Fu is her father. The climax of the story within the story comes when Winnie is finally able to escape Wen Fu, after she is raped by him for the last time.
falling action Pearl tells her mother about her multiple sclerosis; Winnie gives her daughter the statue that she created for her of Lady Sorrowfree, a version of the Kitchen God's Wife.
themes The difficulties of bicultural life; the female struggle in a patriarchal society; and the tension between fate and self-determination
motifs Cleaning; naming; and luck
symbols The greenhouse; My Secret Treasures box; the statue of Lady Sorrowfree.
foreshadowing When Winnie tells the story of "The Kitchen God's Wife," it is a foreshadowing of the fact that she will soon tell her own story which is, in many ways, similar to that of The Kitchen God's Wife as a novel.