Chinese Cinderella

Chinese Cinderella Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What makes the events that occurred during her childhood so poignant to Ms. Yen Mah at the point of her life when she relates the story?

    A complete answer to this question would look at a it from a variety of perspectives. While one can talk about the deep psychological trauma that events cause during a decisively absorbent age, it is also important to mention the imperfectness of memory. The thoughts of a child can be distorted with time, augmenting some wrongs and forgetting some rights. The most important aspect of an effective response is the ability to understand different perspectives.

  2. 2

    How might Adeline’s relatives describe themselves if given the chance to tell their own life stories?

    An effective answer to this question would look to address the incredibly static nature of the characters within Adeline's story. None of the characters within the novel, besides perhaps Adeline herself, have any changes in personality, either positive or negative. They are, at the end of the novel, the same people as they were at the beginning. The writer would first look to answer the question of why the characters are so static. Then, they would look to find the deeper conflicts that may have affected the development of these periphery characters.

  3. 3

    Why does Niang behave towards Adeline, and her other stepchildren, as she does?

    A difficult but central question, the nature of Niang's conflict with Joseph's natural born children can be difficult to ascertain. The matter of Niang's youth is a particularly interesting aspect for the writer to pursue, although it will not serve as a satisfactory answer on its own. The successful essay will also look at the dynamic between Niang and her husband, perhaps trying to answer why he deferred to her so easily. Father's pride of his French wife may perhaps be the root of this development. Finally, the matter of inheritance may be considered as in play.

  4. 4

    At one point, Adeline feels close to her third brother. However, the bond is constantly broken and rebuilt throughout the story. Why is this relationship difficult and changeable?

    As the least confrontational of the siblings, Third Brother is naturally the one who Adeline can build the greatest connection with. However, the flippant nature of his alliances can also brig about a rapid end to any comradeship. While Third Brother may perhaps like his younger sister, he does not have a strong enough personality to stand up to his other siblings. An above average essay will try to explain the origins of this dynamic and try to explain how the distinct prerequisites under which those moments of friendship arise.

  5. 5

    Why doesn't Aunt Baba do more to ‘rescue’ Adeline?

    A prickly issue to address, the answer to this question would probably characterize Aunt Baba as a very passive sort of hero, a benevolent human rather than a game changing force. Although this would go against the role of protagonist she takes in the novel, it is by far the most realistic. A successful essay will look at Aunt Baba as someone forced into the hero role since she was the only one who would help Adeline, but unable to complete the prerequisites of the elevated position. Aunt Baba does what her personality has dictated she could do: she writes encouraging letters and prays for her niece, not charging into a boarding school and flying her out to America.

  6. 6

    How does the financial state of Adeline's family influence the dynamics of the story?

    An observant reader would try to visualize a life in which Adeline's family was unable to obtain the resources it had, closer to the beggars mentioned throughout the book. A particularly interesting position would say that even though Adeline had an incredibly difficult childhood, she had access to opportunities that millions of Chinese children did not. If things had been different and the Yen family could not afford mansions and American cars, Adeline may not have even been born. This is an interesting essay topic because it challenges the writer to think that maybe the term of "Chinese Cinderella" may fit others better than Adeline Yen Mah.

  7. 7

    How does Chinese culture play a role in Adeline's life?

    The important distinction to take note of here is the difference between the dynamic of Adeline's family and a more traditional Chinese family. Although there is the customary nod to major public holidays, the Yen family is distinctly anglicized. The writer can perhaps engage with the question of whether this is a shift throughout Chinese society or if it is an issue particular to the Yens. While the role of Chinese culture is not direct, the successful essay would note that it's influence is pervasive all the way until it is stated outright in Ye Ye's last monologue.

  8. 8

    Nai Nai has had her feet bound as a child. This ‘custom’ is part of an older time. Culturally, the world of Adeline and that of her grandparents are very different. From Adeline’s story, what can you see that has changed and what has stayed the same over time?

    The successful essay writer would note the similarities in terms of what is expected from each of the sexes but the differences in the process. While women in Adeline's time have more opportunities than before, they are expected to play a role similar to that in the times of footbinding. It will be important to note the specific aspects of Adeline's story that tie back, like the arranged marriages and the ability of her to study abroad. However, it will be crucial to note counterexamples within the novel.

  9. 9

    How does the political climate of the time affect the development of Adeline's story?

    Adeline lives in the midst of major changes in Chinese society, with the upcoming victory of the People's Liberation Army bringing about massive governmental evolution. However, it seems like the primary impact that this has on Adeline is on her location, not her personality. There are two ways the writer may take this. For one, he can say that national politics have little effect on the day to day lives of the people, particularly in a family as affluent as the Yens. On the other hand, the writer may question the reliability of the narrator, since Adeline may not be able to grasp how the rise of the Communist party affected her parent's personal development and thus the growth of their children.

  10. 10

    Does the title of 'Chinese Cinderella' truly fit Adeline Yah, or is this an inaccurate view of her life?

    There are many dimensions to a question of this magnitude, which must be made to fit under the banners of "yes" and "no". The argument on the side of "yes" would point to the cruelty of her adopted stepmother and the self-reliance that created the opportunities that she had today. The stereotypical "no" side would point to the wealth of the Yen family and the opportunities this afforded her, which would arguably outweigh the personal difficulties that she had to overcome. However, a exceptional "no" essay would not focus on the wealth aspect but rather on how the self-reliant aspect of Adeline's story makes her very different from Cinderella, both Chinese and Western.