When describing Wu's older brother, the narrator compares his status to that of the Chinese action hero Bruce Lee. While Older Brother is mythical, Bruce Lee is legendary, "a living, breathing video game boss-level." In this metaphor, Yu emphasizes Bruce Lee's inhuman prominence as a fighter and unattainable status as a movie star by likening him to the boss level of a video game.
Lay It On a Little Thicker (Metaphor)
When Turner reprimands Wu for playing a stereotype, claiming that he makes himself generic as a form of protection, he says, "Keep yourself inside this costume, this role. You lay it on a little thicker with the accent, break up your grammar a bit more." In this metaphorical use of the idiom "lay it on thick," Turner suggests that Wu overemphasizes his accent, as though he is hiding behind a facade like a thick layer of icing covers a cake or plaster covers a wall.
Like the Phoenix (Simile)
The book ends with a quote lifted from an external source reporting on the consequences of the fires which broke out across the city of San Francisco in response to the devastating earthquake of 1906. Chinatown had not been a tourist destination at the time; it was, in fact, considered a blot upon the city that many whites felt the city would be better off without. Upon rebuilding, "Chinatown, like the phoenix, rose from the ashes with a new facade, dreamed up by an American-born Chinese man, built by white architects, looking like a stage-set China that does not exist." In this simile, Chinatown is likened to the immortal phoenix bird of Greek mythology to emphasize how it collapses in ashes only to resurrect itself, emerging from disaster even stronger.
Slow Like a Turtle (Simile)
While playing Special Guest Star, Wu insults Turner during a dialogue scene. Although Turner has muscles, Wu suggests that he "move[s] slow, like a turtle." In this simile, Wu's character uses the cliché of turtles being slow to belittle and antagonize the macho, hot-headed Turner.
Soft Like a Fruit (Simile)
After Fatty Choy finds Old Fong in the shower, he explains that he saw the old man lying on the floor while water pooled around him. He says he must have hit his head on the sink, and that his head was "getting soft like a fruit." In this simile, Yu illustrates the delicate state of the elderly man's injured head by comparing it to fruits, which tend to soften as they over-ripen.
Interior Chinatown Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Interior Chinatown is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.