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?