Chinese Cinderella

Chinese Cinderella Summary and Analysis of Chapter 17-20


The day that the Schillings leave, Niang is quick to scoop up Adeline with all of her belongings and taking her away. Fourth Brother is also in the car and treating her angrily, due to the fact that Adeline spoiled his nefarious prank to hurt Ye Ye earlier in the day, getting him in trouble with Father. After that, Ye Ye and Adeline sat together, with the former looking resigned to his fate. After going to a fancy tea with Fourth Brother and Niang, they pull up to Sacred Heart School and Orphanage. After the initial fear of being given away, Adeline is pleased to hear that will be joining the school as a boarder.

The following chapter is also short, picking the story up two years after we dropped Adeline off at Sacred Heart. She has received one of the eggs that parents usually send to the children at the school; she knows this must be a fluke considering that she has not received an egg in the two years she has attended Sacred Heart. This serves as a way to catch us with her life, as she continues to excel at school while being excluded from family life. We are reminded of her dreadful dress condition in comparison to her more affluent classmates, who were not exactly sympathetic to her troubles.

Since Sunday is visiting day, Adeline spends them in the library, engrossed in her books. One of her classmates and her mother walk in on Adeline reading King Lear and are duly impressed. Adeline uses this opportunity to express her sorrow of Ye Ye's living conditions under the thumb of Niang, as well as expressing her love of reading. The chapter ends with an overheard conversation, showing that her classmates find her an interesting personality with an inability to dress appropriately.

On the last day of term, Adeline hangs out with the last couple of friends that need to get taken home. While they are teasing each other, the girls are reminded of some interesting conversations they had in class about serendipity and galvanism. The punch line of said discussion is her chubby friend's love of frog legs and that the serendipitous event in the eighteenth century resulted in the discovery of galvanism. After others started to leave, Adeline's two closest friends (Rachel and Mary) stayed with her. Together, they made a pact to explore the world and be there for each other.

Shortly after term finished, Adeline was overwhelmed by a sickness, which turned out to be pneumonia. Her friend Mary would visit her constantly, until father’s chauffeur picked her up. This, combined with Father's occasional presence, served to end the rumors around boarding school that Adeline was an orphan. Adeline was taken home and allowed to rest there for a week until she recovered from her pneumonia. There, she hangs out with Third Brother and Ye Ye. Third Brother updates Adeline on all the going ons within the family, with all the brothers heading to England for school and Big Sister staying inside of Communist China. Ye Ye speaks of how proud he is of Adeline's achievements and reprimands her when she speaks of her inability to find a way out, saying that she will create her own destiny. This bolsters her spirit, encouraging her to continue succeeding in school.


History plays a large role in the development of the current environment that surrounds the Yen family, with the victories of the Communist Party pushing the family south. The Chinese Civil War was an ongoing struggle that was briefly supplanted by the invasion of the Japanese, pitting the Communist forces led by Mao Zedong with the Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek. The affluent nature of the Yen family would probably align them more with the latter, which was losing the war. This forced their move to Hong Kong.

Although these three chapters are brutally short, they serve to highlight the most admirable aspects of Adeline's character while again bringing forth the challenges she faces. Her departure from her home may have been sudden but it was not entirely unwelcome; Adeline understands that life at a boarding school is much better than having to live with Niang for any period of time. The irony of year-round school being considered heavenly is not lost on the reader.

Adeline's years at Sacred Heart have allowed her to flourish academically, pushing her up grades faster than anyone else. Though this brings out the contempt of some of her peers, she has also gained the admiration of a good number of others. While not outwardly admired, she has gained a place in her school. At the same time, Adeline is still considered an outcast because of her lack of family and the poor state of her clothes and hair. The mood at Sacred Heart, although still a bit gloomy from Adeline's perspective, is much brighter than that of the earlier chapters. Perhaps we are meant to see that, as she grows more independent, life becomes better for Adeline.

Chapter 19 does not have much purpose besides establishing some sense of friendship between Adeline and her peers at Sacred Heart. All the friendly back and forth serves to reestablish school as the main form of escape for Adeline, an arena under which she can excel and stand out. The promise that she and her fiends will support each other till the end is endearing. It promises a way out for this long-suffering girl.

The following chapter serves a purpose as means to update us on the progress of family affairs. The reader learns of the possibility of school in England from Third Brother, an opportunity that seems perfect for a student like Adeline seeking escape. At the same time, we see that Ye Ye is nearing the end of is battle. The introduction of diabetes, combined with the defeated way that he carries himself, foreshadows the tragic events of the next chapter.