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Honor and heritage are complex issues.
Because families are made of humans, and because humans often make serious mistakes, Adeline ends up with the short end of the stick. Mistreated by her stepmother, and neglected by her own father, Adeline must face the question of her heritage and find what honor means in a situation where she has been mistreated by the people she should feel honor toward.
Love is a remedy for the suffering of life.
At the end of the novel, shell-shocked by the drastic paradigm shifts of the new Chinese Communism, no doubt upset by the death of her father and step-mother, Adeline decides to visit her aunt on her death bed. Perhaps this represents a reciprocation of Aunt Baba's tender affection for Adeline. Naturally, the two have discovered that their love is a good response to suffering, even to death.
Mistreatment is often hard to see.
Even abusive parents usually have a strong ethical code, meaning that in order to take out their suffering on their children, they must sometimes hide their vicious intends. This is shown by Adeline's father and step mother. The step mother treats the daughter with a quiet rejection. The father treats Adeline as if she died with her mother, his first wife. And yet, neither parent physically assaults the daughter, and perhaps the family even feels as though everything is fine on the surface, but her father's decision to leave her out of the will is obvious. They did not love Adeline, and the question she is left with is what to do with that knowledge. Her choice is to practice love where she can, and to hope for peace and restoration.
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