Family Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Family Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

A bamboo flute (symbol)

A flute is Big Brother’s musical instrument, which becomes a symbol of his unfortunate love. Being unable to resist his family pressure, he agrees to marry a girl whom he has never met before. Indeed, his father and grandfather manage to find him a good wife, but Big Brother’s love proves to be stronger than anyone could predict. When sadness, grief and a burden of responsibilities overcomes him, Chueh-hsin starts playing his bamboo flute. Although he plays wonderfully, the sound could only be described as “mournful”. “Flute’s mournful tears” are tears of Big Brother, which he doesn’t dare to weep out in front of the members of the Kao family.

The tree and the monkeys (allegory)

The Kao family is rich and influential, but money and power don’t save it from slow but steady destruction. Numerous disagreements, misunderstandings, lies ,and even mutual resentment ruin it every day. When the young generation gathers together in order to celebrate New Year, they can’t help but discuss the future of their family. Chueh-hui says that “when the tree falls, the monkeys each go their own way”. The clan is the tree and they are all monkeys, which are ready to flee, when the tree starts falling.

Oppression (motif)

Oppression is a leading motif of this story. Injustice and cruelty seem to be a part of everyday routines. The protagonist writes that “there is nothing but oppression for me here”. The oppression could also be of a different kind. For instance, the characters of the story often suffer from “the oppression of loneliness”. Feelings of injustice, loneliness, fear, or anger often make the oppression be “unbearable” and even “crushing”.

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