Gan is a foil for Wen Fu in that Gan is the "good man," while Wen Fu is the "bad man." Amy Tan has been criticized for her lack of male character development, and it is true that her male characters are very one-dimensional. Wen Fu is villainized, while Gan is sanctified, and there seems to be no in-between. Whereas, the women in the novel are full characters capable of a range of emotions, as illustrated by Winnie's confession about wanting Wen Fu to die in battle. And, as is also evidenced by the relationship between Helen and Winnie, women can develop a relationship that is true to life and far from perfect. They have an almost familial tie that binds, so much so that their lie (that Helen is her sister/sister-in-law) is almost true. And yet, there are constant tensions between the two, which are difficult to reconcile.

Another element that Gan brings to the book is that of prophecy and luck. Gan believes that the ghost he has seen has told him the truth, which is that he will die before reaching the age of twenty-four and that he will suffer nine bad fates before that death. This prophecy does in fact come true and this "spiritualism," for lack of a better word, permeates throughout the novel. In fact, Pearl remembers a time when she had thought she saw a ghost and instead of her mother comforting her, her mother said: "Where?" Again, Tan is bringing her Chinese culture and background into the novel and mixing it with her American experiences and her English language.

To continue on the thread of language, there are many words in the book that seem untranslatable, such as the world taonan.Taonan means that a great danger is coming for many people and is a word that Winnie cannot find an equivalent for in the English language. This inability to translate is illustrative of the language/cultural barrier that Pearl and her mother experienced. It is not until these words, figuratively speaking, can be explained that there can be understanding. In other words, it is not until mother and daughter sit down and give each other time and space in which to tell their stories and reveal their secrets that their worlds can be "translated."

The subject of food, which exists throughout the novel, also surfaces in this section. Winnie uses her own dowry money to feed her husband and his pilot friends, and she chooses the foods she will serve them with care—she chooses "lucky" foods. Many of the moments in which food is shared are happy moments in the lives of the characters. In fact, Gan's friendship with Winnie develops as a result of these dinners. Food unties and brings love. And yet, at every dinner there are less and less soldiers sharing this food. And, many of them eat as if it may be their last meal. And so this joy is mixed with fear, and the nutrients and pleasure that food brings are mixed with the anxiety of loss.