Chinese Cinderella

Chinese Cinderella Summary and Analysis of Chapter 21-22


Since the holidays were not yet over, Adeline had to spend a lot of time by herself at Sacred Heart. Suddenly, she is smitten by the idea of taking part in a playwriting competition that is open to students from around the world. Although she is afraid, Mother Louisa encourages her to take the shot. She receives her first piece of mail, the instructions on how to take part, soon after. Although she continuously writes to Niang and her Father on the topic of attending school in England, it seems like they have forgotten about her even more. Meanwhile, she continues to wait for an answer from the playwriting competition.

As she is playing basketball later on in the year, Adeline is called over by one of the nuns. Though at first she thinks she is going home, she is instead told she is being taken to her Ye Ye's funeral. Adeline sobs throughout, while the rest of her family looks on stoically. Niang loudly proclaims that Adeline is looking ever more ugly as she grows older, hurting Adeline at a moment of great weakness. Niang then tells her that she needs to find a job, since Father could not support her fourteen-year-old self forever. In a turn of events, Adeline returns to school to find out that her friends have found her to be the most likely to succeed.

However, the combination of Ye Ye's death and Niang's proclamation that she must leave school and find a job had left Adeline in a state of depression. Avoiding her classmates and dinner, the only thing she had to look forward to were the results of the playwriting competition. One Saturday, eight weeks away from the end of school, Adeline is called back to her house. Brought directly to father, Adeline is afraid that she will be married off. Instead, Father expresses his great pride in her victory in the International Playwriting Competition, an award pointed out to her by his work acquaintance. In his state of pride and jubilance, Father agrees to allow her to go to school in England to become an obstetrician. Adeline is overjoyed.

The final chapter is a letter from Aunt Baba, expressing her love and admiration of Adeline's success. She wants Adeline to know that she loves her very much and that she will always hold her "precious in my heart." Afterwards, she shares the Chinese folk tale that is similar to that of Cinderella. She hopes that his story will serve as a talisman against despair. She ends by telling Adeline that her future is limitless and that she will always be proud of her, her Chinese Cinderella.


The final chapters of Chinese Cinderella serve as the climax, the falling action, and the conclusion all in one. The tragic death of Ye Ye has long been in the cards, yet it does not provide the sort of repercussions that one would expect from the death of such a monumental character. This perhaps serves to reflect the lack of impact that Ye Ye was able to have on the development of his granddaughter, the final harsh truth of the Yen patriarch.

Niang's ultimatum in regards to Adeline needing to find a job install a sense of urgency in these last few chapters. However, the response from the playwriting competition seems imminent, a Chekov's gun poised to go off. At the same time, the dark nature of the novel so far has let doubt creep into the mind of the reader. The positive resolution is at once expected, yet seems too much like the fairytale ending that this story tends away from.

The ride to her new house, one that she only learned existed in passing, is tense. Neither her nor any of the characters that she interacts with on the way seem to be aware of her fate. Yen Mah creates a setting that contradicts the tense mood, the sound of splashing water and peaceful streams of light described by father being the prominent images in the reader's mind.

Father's decision to allow Adeline to attend school in England may seem at first to be the work of a finally enlightened man. However, the astute reader will see that this is just a continuation of Father's banal pride, a happiness that comes only when his peers are impressed. Regardless, the end result is the same: Adeline gets to make a name for herself.

Aunt Baba's letter is a nice not for the book to end with. One of Adeline's protectors can finally be heard from, yet she expresses the same support that she has before. While support continues to be nice, it is not the tangible change that Adeline needed throughout her life. The letter remains a touching notion, as well as the sharing of the story of the Chinese Cinderella, passed down from Adeline's mysterious mother to Aunt Baba and now to her. Although there are many questions that remain to be asked in terms of the motives of some of our characters, the fact that justice finally befalls Adeline is satisfaction enough.