The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy is a short story about love, a family, the loss of a loved one, assimilation, disagreements and life as it is. It is filled with kindness, warmth, and compassion for everyone who knows how painful it is to say goodbye and put up with an idea of being unable to meet with a deceased person. The Jade Peony is about people’s need for consolation.
Sek-Lung could be a rather lonely child. He is the youngest in the family, his weak health prevents him from going to school, so he has to wait a year longer to be able to start, his siblings are older than him, thus have no interest in him at all, his parents are busy. However, Seek-Lung is happy and that is all because of his Grandmama, his spiritual playmate and the best friend. They find consolation in a company of each other. They play and – what is more – they talk. Grandmama finds someone who is genuinely interested in her past, Sek-Lung finds someone who treats him as an equal. The boy learns more about history of his family and his homeland. It is important to Grandmama to be able to talk about it, for she doesn’t feel at home in Canada. Unlike her other grandchildren, she feels like a stranger. Everything is so different, so unusual, so strange, that she fails to adjust. The woman is too old to be flexible. Jung, Kiam and Liang don’t understand her anymore. They change so quickly, they are Chinese-Canadians now, she is a Chinese. It is Sek-Lung who is just like her. The boy is too young to be ashamed by his Grandmama who likes peering into garbage cans. On the contrary, he is always ready to help her.
Grandmama is not just an eccentric old woman. She is a person with fascinating story. Years ago, when she was young, she met a beautiful actor who stayed in her village with the rest of the troupe. They fell in love to be parted forever. In spite of the fact that he had promised her to come back, he didn’t keep his word. There were many different explanations, but one of the most believable stories was his death because of great famine. Grandmama doesn’t feel bitter about him. Her love awakes in the end of her life and the image of his pale figure keeps returning to her. She realizes that her earthly life comes to its end. The woman seems to be happy about it. The only one thing she is really worried about is Sek-Lung’s broken heart. She finds a way to reassure him that he is not going to be left alone, that she is going to be with him until the very end.
The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy is also about unselfishness. To be able to comfort someone when your own soul is filled with sadness is one of the most impressive skills of a human heart.