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Lindo Jong - The Red Candle
Lindo Jong’s story is about familial obligations and honor. Following ancient Chinese custom, Lindo’s parents promised their daughter, when she was only two years old, to eventually marry a boy named Tyan-yu. Though most people in China had adopted more modern concepts of marriage, Lindo’s parents were from the old school. When her parents were forced to leave their home because of a flood, they had to leave Lindo behind. Even though she was only twelve years old, Lindo belonged to the family of her betrothed.
The Huangs, the family of Tyan-yu, were very wealthy and took little interest in Lindo. They made her stay in their servants’ quarters and perform manual tasks, such as cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, and embroidering clothes. She was never accepted as a member of the family even though she would eventually become Tyan-yu’s bride. When Lindo turned sixteen, the wedding took place. Lindo never thought of disobeying the course set for her by her parents. She knew that the honor of her family depended on her obedience.
Lindo’s marriage was miserable, for there was no love in it. Tyan-yu, feeling no emotion for his wife, would not touch Lindo. Matters were made worse when everyone wondered why Lindo did not become pregnant. Her mother-in-law even forced her to stay in bed for a period of time, hoping she would become pregnant. Finally, when a servant girl in the house became pregnant by her own boyfriend, Lindo came up with a plan that would save her family’s honor and free her from Tyan-yu. She told her mother-in-law that she had had a dream in which she discovered the servant girl was of imperial birth and was pregnant by Tyan-yu. Lindo also claimed that if she remained married to Tyan-yu, he would die. Huang Tai Tai believed her daughter-in-law and released her from the bond of marriage with no repercussions. After they were divorced, Tyan-yu married the servant girl, and Lindo left for Peking. She later traveled to America, where she married Tin Jong. They had three children. After the birth of each child, her husband gave her a gold bracelet, made of twenty-four carat gold. Also, when she has extra money, Lindo buys herself bracelets made of pure twenty-four-carat gold. To her they are a symbol of her own purity - her refusal to be untrue to herself.
In the midst her story, Lindo interrupts herself to complain about her own daughter. She has so little sense of duty that she does not even come to dinner as promised. Lindo cannot understand her daughter’s dishonorable behavior, for she sacrificed everything to honor her parents and keep their word. She sees herself as twenty-four carat gold; her daughter, who does not understand honor and sacrifice, is only fourteen-carat.
Lindo Jong’s story is the story of sacrifice and survival in an old-fashioned world. Because her parents had promised her as a wife to Tyan-yu, Lindo was left with his family when she was only twelve years old. Since Lindo was an obedient child, she never rebelled even though the Huangs treated her poorly and even though she was forced to marry Tyan-yu when she was only sixteen years old. Lindo had been taught that family honor was extremely important, and she was willing to sacrifice her own happiness to uphold the family name.
Lindo’s marriage was miserable, because there was no emotion in it. Tyan-yu refused to touch his wife; but it was Lindo that was criticized for not producing children. Unable to bear her unhappiness, Lindo tricks her mother-in-law, saying that a servant girl is pregnant by Tyan-yu and that if he remains married to Lindo, he will die. Lindo’s ability to fabricate this tale and convince Huang Tai Tai of its truth proves her creativity and determination. Also the fact that she manufactured an escape from the marriage without dishonoring her family name reveals that she is sensitive and intelligent.
After escaping from the Huangs, Lindo traveled to America and married Tin Jong. They have three children, who are very Americanized. Much to Lindo’s sadness, her own daughter does not have the same sense of honor and family loyalty that she had. The daughter often breaks her promises to her mother without showing real remorse. Lindo knows that her daughter is only fourteen-carat gold, while she herself is twenty-four carat gold, like the bracelets that she wears. Each of the bracelets was a present from her husband when she delivered his baby.
The red candle of the chapter heading refers to the marriage candle, which is traditionally lighted at both ends and blown out by the bride and groom once their marriage is consummated. Lindo blows out both ends of her candle, since her marriage is a failure. The candle, therefore, becomes a symbol of her self-sufficiency and ultimate independence.