The Kitchen God's Wife

Amy Tan
  • Study Guide

Chapters 13–15

Summary Chapters 13–15

In 1939, a year after Wen Fu's accident, Winnie has another baby: a baby girl whom Wen Fu does not come visit until two days after Winnie has given birth. Winnie names the girl Yiku, which means "pleasure over bitterness." After Wen Fu creates a massive disruption in the hospital, Winnie calms her baby down, telling her that she will have a good life, which she believed was a lie.

Six months after having given birth, Winnie's servant girl approaches her and tells her she is going to leave. When Winnie forces her to tell her why, the servant girl reveals that Wen Fu has raped her. Winnie does not say anything initially but sends the servant girl off with three months worth of wages and a good recommendation. But when Winnie hears of the girl's death, she confronts Wen Fu. The girl had tried to give herself an abortion when she heard she was pregnant with Wen Fu's child and had died in the process. Wen Fu becomes enraged when Winnie stands up to him, and Winnie continues to stand up to him until he begins to take his anger out on Yiku. When he begins to slap her hard, over and over, Winnie begs forgiveness so that he would leave their child alone. Yiku becomes a strange child after that: pulling out her own hair, not crying, never looking people in the eye. By the time Winnie is six or seven months pregnant with another baby, she sees that Yiku is beginning to look ill. One day when the child is very sick Winnie goes to where Wen Fu is playing mah jong with a doctor and other men, but Wen Fu ignores her and tells her he does not care if the child dies. He then tells the doctor not to go because his wife is hysterical. Winnie returns to the house, not knowing what to do, but when Yiku begins to shake she takes the baby to where the doctor and Wen Fu are. When Wen Fu sees the baby, he blames Winnie for not having told him. Yiku dies at the hospital.


Wen Fu becomes more and more of a monster as the story evolves: he kills a pig on the road to Kunming for no reason, he beats his child, he calls his wife a whore, he rapes and rages. In these chapters Wen Fu's physical self becomes a reflection of his inner cruelty. He literally begins to look like a monster, acquiring his deformity of one bad eye. This idea of having a bad eye is symbolic and illustrates Wen Fu's ability to "see." He does not see or care to see the harm that he is doing to others.

As a result of Wen Fu's behavior and of the war that is going on during all of this, Winnie is changing. She is no longer the naïve girl who cannot go to the bathroom in front of others, and she is no longer the girl that hopes and dreams. Now she believes that when she promises her daughter a good life, she is lying. Now she believes that when Yiku dies it is "good for [her]" because she has escaped. Also, she had named her first stillborn child "sorrowfree" because it did not have a chance to suffer since life, as Winnie has come to learn, brings suffering with it.

Winnie explains that she cannot forgive. Winnie, as an introduction to the last chapter of this section, had told the story of one of Jimmy Louie's sermons. She said he had given a sermon called "Jesus Forgives, Can You?" She tells Pearl that she liked this sermon very much and that it had given her a certain amount of peace and that she had tried to forgive. She had tried to use the ideas behind it in her daily life, and she had tried to release her anger. But, in the end, she could not. By the time the chapter ends, Winnie asks her daughter that had she seen her own child die the way she did of her own children, would she be able to forgive?

Amy Tan often uses stories such as the one illustrated above about the sermon to frame her chapters. By beginning with a story that Pearl would be able to relate to and by ending with a reference to that same story, Tan is using this framing device to tie two lives together. Bringing Winnie's distant life in China into Pearl's life in America constructs a life both Winnie and Pearl share—a life they had once shared with Jimmy Louie as well.