Minli's mother and father represent very different characters. Compare and contrast the two and analzye their impact on Minli.
Minli’s mother takes on an adversarial role. She is strict, pessimistic, and harsh. Her body language, like her audible sighs, often express impatience or disapproval. She frowns upon the stories Minli's father tells believing they are nonsense. Minli's mother places the burden of poverty and responsibility squarely on Minli's shoulders and makes her feel the true weight of their situation. Minli's father provides the balance to her dark persona. He seems gentle, patient, and kind. His stories provided a needed distraction to their intense poverty and serves as the source of hope for Minli. Those stories also keep her from becoming "dull and brown" like the rest of the village.
Describe the character Magistrate Tiger and analyze his role in the novel.
Magistrate Tiger rules a village. A ruthless, greedy leader, he cares nothing for his subjects and only acts on his own behalf. His means of securing what he wants are often violent or evil. For example, when he discovers his commissioned painted dragon has no eyes, he seeks to punish the entire village with double taxes. Magistrate Tiger is very much the villain of the story. He appears in several of the smaller vignettes, and it's his evil spirit that Minli's compassion counteracts.
Explain the nature of the relationship between the King and the Magistrate Tiger. How does this relationship impact the King's decision about the "borrowed line?"
The King’s father was the Magistrate Tiger’s son, the one who married the grocer’s daughter. This makes Magistrate Tiger the King's grandfather.The "borrowed line" came to the King down through his ancestors as part of his familair heritage. The paper on which the borrowed line is written is known as the Paper of Happiness. During the King's reign, the line on the paper changes; it provides wisdom and instruction for the King as he encouters difficult situations. In Chapter 23 the line reads: “You only lose what you cling to.” At this point, the King realizes he must part with the borrowed line. Because of his grandfather's dark reputation, this action redeems the family name. Perhaps it even makes it easier for the King to part with the treasured object.
Explain the meaning and significance behind the tale of Wu Kang. Relate the theme of the tale to the larger story in the novel.
Wu Kang was a man filled with discontent, always wanting more. His biggest desire was to be immortal, so he approached the Old Man of the Moon with his request. Despite the Old Man's teaching, Wu Kang's greed remained until the Old Man shared his final lesson: one of patience and contentment. As a result, he is forced to chop the same tree every night on the Never-Ending Mountain until he learns his lesson or until the end of time. This same tree he chops provides the “Moon Rain” for Da-A-Fu’s village. This focus on contentment mirrors the quest of Minli. In essence, she is not content with her life. Pushed by her mother, she wants more: more riches, more security, more status. The author uses this tale to foreshadow the decision Minli will face.
What did Minli (and her family) actually gain through her selfless act of asking the Old Man in the Moon Dragon's question?
Minli and her family greatly benefited immensely from her choice to put Dragon's needs before her own. Because the Dragon learned to fly, he could take Minli home to join her family again. The ball Minli removed from his head turned out to be a very valuable Dragon Pearl. This pearl brought wealth and prosperity to the whole village. Additionally, Dragon came “home” when he brought Minli back, and the curse on Fruitless Mountain was lifted. Now that the land was green and alive again, everyone in the village – including Minli’s family – benefited. By thinking of Dragon first, Minli actually got everything she wanted and more.
Examine the common thread connecting the buffalo boy, the King of the City of Bright Moonlight, and Da-A-Fu.
Genuine contentment serves as the common thread connecting these characters. Each has learned to be happy in the midst of their own circumstances, regardless of the nature of the situation. The buffalo boy feels happiness in his life even though he is poor and destitute with no one to look after him The King is able to part with his most prized possession for the sake of another person, demonstrating the depth of his selflessness. The twins, when given the opportunity to ask the Old Man of the Moon a question to change their fortunes, answer by implying they would never want to change their fortunes – they are happy as they are. Finding satisfaction in one's circumstances also remains a central theme in the novel at large, as evidenced by Minli's change of heart when she approaches the Old Man of the Moon.
Based on the novel's themes, characters, and imbedded stories, explain the theme of contentment running throughout the book and explain the author's stance on the subject.
Throughout this novel, the author puts the desire for riches, power, and status against that of being content. Many of the vignettes, as well as Minli's own quest, represent the discovery of contentment through seeing the way that others live and by reflecting objectively on one's own situation. being happy with what you have and feeling grateful for your circumstances. In the novel, those experiencing contentment focus on the blessings and gifts in their lives instead of the trials. They may even view challenges as blessings in themselves. According to the book, the most important things in life are health, family, love, peace, and joy. These are things that many people showed to Minli on her journey and tbrought happiness to other characters (including Minli and her parents). The adversarial characters– like the Magistrate Tiger and Wu Yang – only showed greed, anger, hatred, and selfishness. These emotions led those characters to death, destruction, or eternal misery. In all, the book urges its readers to find contentment in life, regardless of your situation.
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