Perhaps the greatest symbolic representation of the gulf between Pearl and her Asian heritage is the distance she feels between herself and her mother. This distance is one that she mentions more than once and one that is also symbolized by the physical distance between their homes—from San Jose to San Francisco. Figuratively speaking, the distance is not very far, but the ride can seem long. The distance between Pearl and her background is brought to the foreground, but alongside it comes the idea that this rift can be, in many ways, sealed. There are hints at Pearl's desire to be closer to her past, just as she wonders at the distance between her and her mother. For example, when Pearl begins to cry at the funeral, there is a silent connection and understanding between mother and daughter. Also, when Phil criticizes the altar that Auntie Du had left her in her will, Pearl does not join in this criticism but merely says "Umm," as if she has not yet decided what to think or does not know yet how to think about this gift. The connections and links exist; it is only that she has ignored them for so long.

Another element that arises out of these chapters is that the distance between mother and daughter seems to be filled with secrets. Pearl has not told her daughter about her multiple sclerosis, and Winnie has many secrets of her own, as Helen suggests and as is evidenced in the third chapter. In the third chapter, Winnie points to anecdotes that are heavy with implications. This chapter is full of literary device and technique because it is here that Tan gives us the pieces that will unfold before our eyes as mother and daughter unfold before each other. It is in this chapter that the narrator changes and the point of view shifts to Pearl's, who will be the listener and the one who takes in the story that her mother will tell her.