A Tale of Time

The idea of time is portrayed greatly throughout this chapter, through its generational differences among Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid. From the very beginning we see how different the actions among each of them are and how the sisters act in a sophisticated and old-fashioned ways yet also act in ways that shows their new world and old world differences.  For example, in today’s times we usually don’t refer to our mother’s as Mama anymore. However, at the beginning of the chapter Moon Orchid’s children revert to their mother’s only way she is known to be addressed and calls out Mama.

“She [Brave Orchid’s niece] called out, Mama! Mama!’ until the crack in the sliding doors became too small to let in her voice. Many people turned to see what adult was calling, ‘Mama!’ like a child” (117).

Through this quote we see how those that are acclimated to this generation in time, finds the fact that an adult who addresses one’s mother as Mama, is odd.  The simple action of strangers turning their heads in reaction to the children calling out “Mama” shows this generational gap. When Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid were young they were taught the ways of the traditional Chinese women, they were to refer to their mother in the most polite and respectful way and this was that they refer to her as “Mama”. And so this generational method carried on and they taught their children this as well.  Even though the children were now being raised in America, the respectful and traditional ways they were taught came back and were shown in the way they greeted their mother.

This generational gap also was shown when Brave Orchid insisted that Moon Orchid fight back for her husband and claim his children with his new partner as hers. Brave Orchid drills the notion into Moon Orchid’s mind that it is her right and duty to live with her husband no matter what wrong doings he has done. Such as moving to America, and completely cutting her off from communicating with him and not insisting that she move their as well.  

However, although Brave Orchid’s position on the situation between Moon Orchid and her husband shows this traditional way of life. In which, she insists that she chases after her husband despite what he has put her through. The fact that she says if she was in her sisters position, she would stand up for herself and fight for him, shows a more modern approach.  Brave Orchid shares how she would react if she was in her sister’s position,

“Walk right into his house with your suitcases and boxes. Move right into the bedroom. Throw her stuff out of the drawers and put yours in. Say, ‘I am the first wife, and she is our servant” (126).

After this quote by Brave Orchid, Moon Orchid quickly rebuttals and says,

“Oh, no, I can’t do that. I can’t do that at all. That’s terrible” (126).

By this short but powerful dialogue between the two sisters we see a difference in opinions and how different their takes on this situation is.  Brave Orchid shows the side of the future and how women are beginning to stand up for themselves rather than succumb to the man and cave in. And this is quite a change in character for her, all throughout the novel she is shown to depict the traditional women but compared to her isolated and conventional sister she shows characteristics of the new world.  Overall, this chapter really shows how the different environments and types of isolation really shaped each of the sisters and how their childhood combined with their new found experiences made them similar but also very different.

What significance do you think the specific names, Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid, have on each of them as characters? And what do they mean?

All throughout the first chapters of the book, the Brave Orchid (the mother) is fascinated by ghosts and references them non-stop. Even during the whole third chapter the main topic was the different types of ghosts and what they meant. Do you think Brave Orchid somehow “contaminated” Moon Orchid into going crazy and thinking Mexican “ghosts” were trying to kill her?

7 thoughts on “A Tale of Time”

  1. Hi Grace! Your post is super interesting and all throughout reading this book, I never once questioned on why their mom is addressed as “Mama”. To answer your question and after doing a little research, Brave Orchid is a woman that is proud of her intelligence and power. So going off of this and killing two birds with one stone, I believe that these “ghosts” are a form of regret. In the story, they mention how successful she is as a person and from what we can see, she is a pretty good mother with some hiccups along the way. These “ghosts” are, in her mind, people that seems like she has no connections with anymore. Maybe something that happened in the past that she is now being “haunted” by. As for Moon Orchid, it symbolizes humility. Throughout the story, it seems like Moon Orchid is constantly relying on people in order to “fit in” to what she is doing.

  2. Hi Grace! I thought the points you made were very agreeable. You bought light to certain aspects that might not be clear to most. I truly didn’t even pay attention to the fact that the characters referred to her as mama and not mother or mom. You don’t hear children addressing their mother by “mama” anymore… I believe it has to do with the judgmental society we live in. Kids are too worried about what other kids think and just follow what everyone else does. To answer one of your questions, I think the characters names do have some significance behind them. For Brave Orchid, I think her name is kind of backwards. To me, she really isn’t brave but living her life revolving around these ghosts and spirits and obsessing over them. I feel as if this was the authors way of bringing some humor to the reading.

  3. Hey grace! Nice Post! I agree with a lot of the points you made. There are a lot of differences between the sisters that are interesting to point out. The sisters had disagreed on many different things Brave Orchid had talked about. Like you had pointed out Brave Orchid had wanted Moon Orchid to see her husband while Moon Orchid was against it. “Maybe you should dye your hair black, so he wont think your old. Or I have a wig you can borrow. On the other hand he should see how you’ve suffered. Yes, let his see how he’s made your hair turn white.” (128). Brave Orchid insists on Moon Orchid seeing the husband even though Moon Orchid hasn’t even really thought about seeing her husband. The twos point of views on the subject of Moon Orchids marriage have drifted to different directions. I think the twos names have different meanings that fit in on their perspectives. Brave Orchid is more outspooked and well brave- wanting to Moon Orchid to stand up for herself. Moon orchid is more quiet and to herself. She only really comes out of her shell when she is pushed too (by Brave orchid).

    1. Hey, Grace, thank you for the thought provoking post! Like you, I followed a vein of cultural and generational differences between Moon Orchid and her nieces and nephews. One instance that stood out to me was when she was saying good morning to her nieces and nephews, and they talked to her while maintaining eye contact: “They looked directly into her eyes as if they were looking for lies. Rude. Accusing. They never lowered their gaze; they hardly blinked” (133). For me, this shows a distinct contrast between Chinese politeness and American politeness. In China, the aunt is used to avoiding eye contact in idle conversation, but her nieces and nephews now that it is polite to maintain eye contact with someone while talking. I think this can also be applied to the rest of the chapter. Moon Orchid often takes a passive role regarding things and doesn’t look at anything head on while Brave Orchid and her children do look at things head on and confront them.

  4. Hey Grace, this post was really intelligent and thoughtful! I agree with the notion that Brave Orchid is-as you said- drilling into Moon Orchid’s mind idea’s that don’t coincide with Moon’s opinions at all. I believe that their name definitely holds significance to their personalities and lives. Brave’s name is very self-explanatory in that she is always determined and says what she wants. She isn’t afraid of repercussions. Although, Moon’s is very suiting as well. Moon was a “tiny, tiny lady…with fluttering hands” (117) which illustrates that she’s this gentle woman who would only make herself seem seen when the time is right. The moon is out all day long but is only seen when it wants to be and is a suitable time. Again, I agree that Brave Orchid is impressing upon Moon Orchid these ideas that weren’t previously there and impacting her beliefs that result in new actions.

  5. Nice post Grace, I really enjoy the idea of Brave Orchid ‘contaminating’ Moon Orchid into madness.

    She did not treat Moon Orchid any different than she treated her own children- may be even slightly kinder- yet the talk-story and constant pushing of Brave Orchid made a lasting impression on her sister, permeating into her psychosis. We all know Brave Orchid has an affinity for ghosts, she was a ghost vanquisher in her medical school- but we do not know that back story of Moon Orchid. Was she sheltered? Did she see the same thing Brave Orchid saw during World War Two?

    Brave Orchid is used to surviving. When her sister comes to America, she tells Moon Orchid how to avoid Skid Row while grocery shopping by being mentally and physically tough by only going through the market on her strong days implying that “on weak days you notice bodies on the sidewalk, and you are visible to Panhandler Ghosts and Mugger Ghosts” (139). I believe that this particular piece of imagery is the reason for the concerns of the Mexican Ghosts following her.

    Another important thing to note, is that Brave Orchid took away medicine prescribed by doctors, one being Thorazine, used for the treatment of schizophrenia. By taking away those pills so quickly without weaning, it is no surprise she did not get better and ended up in a mental asylum.

    Brave Orchid seems to be everything her sister is not: mentally and physically strong, gruff, and dramatic (as well as the obvious- brave). The ‘brave’ part of her name is pretty self-explanatory. Orchid in Chinese symbolism is to represent scholarly pursuit, nobility and friendship. All around it seems Brave Orchid has lived up to her name.

    Moon Orchid, however, at first seems that she may not have lived up to her name. She did not pursue education, she came from the village just like her sister, and we cannot speak for friendship. Without research, a moon may mean a mysterious, beautiful thing- which Moon Orchid was not.

    A Moon in Chinese symbolism is feminine, darkness and cool. In Western culture, it is also related to menstrual cycles (typically the mood swings that happen). Moon Orchid is feminine- Brave Orchid describes her as a “delicate sister.. long fingers and thin, soft hands…her dainty sister would just have to toughen up”(127). The darkness and sudden change in mood can be linked to the psychotic break and schizophrenia diagnosis

  6. Hi Grace! What a wonderful and insightful blog post! I definitely agree and do feel as though the names Moon Orchid and Brave Orchid have a strong significance. Firstly, Brave Orchid is reflective of the fact that she was courageous enough to change her life around and become Americanized while keeping a portion of her sense of traditional self. I also feel her name reflects her personality on the surface, but when you get to the details of the chapter we can realize she has a strong sense of false bravery. She demands Moon Orchid to take her rightful place back with her husband being that she is his first wife, but she is only saying this do to her customary beliefs. If she was as brave as they depict her to be, she wouldn’t be imposing old customs upon Moon Orchid. Brave Orchid also still acts as a second class citizen to her husband by making snippy remarks to Moon Orchid to get her to stop snooping and being inquisitive of Brave’s husbands actions. On page 123 it reads, “‘If you want to poke around’ said Brave Orchid, ‘why don’t you find out what’s in the kitchen drawers so you can help me cook?'”. Brave Orchid is still wanting Moon Orchid to act as she expects her to, rather than how she wants to. Moon Orchid’s name is reflective of her lack of a settled home. Moon feels extremely displaced and out of her ordinary ways of life which makes her feel inferior to Brave. It’s no wonder why she was put in an asylum because she had no one to confidently confide in being that Brave was big on pressing her motives on Moon. The moon is always out, but we only see it for part of the day. This is equal to Moon Orchid because she’s around often, but her views and opinions are often hindered by her new surroundings which is very unfortunate.

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