The Kitchen God's Wife

Amy Tan
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Chapters 7–9

Summary Chapters 7–9

After their wedding, Winnie and her husband stayed for one month in his family's home, and the true character of Wen Fu began to unfold. He was sexually abusive towards her, forcing her to do things she did not want to do. Later, however, the couple moved to Hangchow for five months while her husband finished training as a pilot at an American-style air force school.

It was in Hangchow that Winnie met Helen. Winnie tells her daughter that Helen was not her sister-in-law but in fact just a friend. The story of how they came to know each other well is the story of the bathhouse of the monastery where they were staying in Hangchow. The men, the unmarried pilots in training, had brought in a prostitute that had infected the whole bathhouse with lice, so the women (the few wives that were there with their husbands) refused to use it after that point. Instead, they found a room that had once been used as a tealeaf storage room, and they converted that into their own bathing room. Helen (named Hulan back then) and Winnie carried buckets of water to the bathhouse together.

Helen was about eighteen years old and the wife of the vice-captain (WenFu's boss), Long Jiaguo. Helen and Winnie become good friends, they go on walks, and sit by the spring during the most beautiful time of the year to eat and talk. By the end of the chapter, we also discover that Winnie has become pregnant.


The character of Winnie is beginning to unfold. Whereas, in the beginning, there are other characters that see her as pessimistic or difficult, these chapters shed light on the fact that Winnie was not always so. Winnie had once been an optimistic young girl who had been changed only by her suffering and her circumstances. The story of the woman with too much Yin is told in order to serve as a juxtaposition to Winnie's innocence. She was young and unknowing, unaware of the fact that she did not have to accept her husband's sexual abuse mostly because she knew nothing of sex and the way it was supposed to be.

Winnie was also innocent about the intentions of those that surrounded her. There are certain stories in this book that remain enshrouded in secrecy, even after they are told. For instance, we are never quite sure (just as Winnie is never quite sure) whether her father had known he was submitting his daughter to such a horrible family in marriage or whether he thought he was doing the right thing. Winnie feels lucky to be given the dowry she is given because she is being given the attention she had never been given before, not since her mother had left. And yet, it is not until later that she discovers that San Ma had bought her father's other daughters much larger dowries. And in many ways it can be said that Winnie had passed on this idea of secrecy to her own daughter. She had, as described in an earlier chapter, given her daughter a box in which to keep her secrets, as if passing down a custom of secret keeping. This custom would later cause her daughter to keep her feelings about her father's death from Winnie as well as her multiple sclerosis.

To return to Winnie's early innocence, however, it is important to realize that even after her in-laws take apart her dowry in order to sell it abroad—even then—Winnie keeps her faith that things will be better one day. And it is a combination of innocence and ignorance that keep Winnie hopeful in the early days of her marriage.