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MonkeyNotes-The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
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From Chapter 3 onwards, Pearl’s mother Winnie narrates the events. These two chapters - 3 and 4 - serve as a foundation on which Winnie builds the complex, but true story of her life. Various thoughts, that have no unified structure, come to her mind. This reveals her confused state of mind and towards the end of these two chapters she finally makes a decision - to confess all her deeper secrets to her daughter Pearl.

Luck has always played cruel games with Winnie as compared to her friend Helen who always has good luck. Winnie then expounds the concept of luck by distinguishing between ‘having luck’ and ‘making luck.’ In the case of Helen, she is endowed with good luck throughout her life, whether in the form of a loving husband, Jiaguo, or the stale fish, which turned out to be very tasty at the dinner. For Winnie on the other hand, no matter what efforts she takes to be happy, it seems as though she has yet to go a long way before she is really happy. Winnie knows that it is not good to feel jealous of her friend Helen. Instead of harboring such thoughts about her friend, she tries to rationalize and makes deliberate efforts to look only at the greener side of her life. Now that she has a good husband and children, she feels that she has got everything that a woman could wish for.

But her mind continues to contemplate. It is never at peace, never at rest. Winnie feels that if she had got married to Lin, now a successful doctor, who had earlier proposed to her when she used to stay at her uncle’s house, then she could have very well avoided all the misfortunes in her life. She would not have had to bear the long years of tyranny meted out by Wen Fu her first husband and her innocent children would also not have to die. But then again, she would not have had Jimmy Louie as her husband. However, she still wonders whether she deserved all the atrocities that she has had to endure in her life.


Such myriad thoughts have led to Winnie becoming an indecisive and introspective type of a person. Now, for every simple unfavorable event that happens, Winnie is constantly under pressure, thinking whether it would have been possible to avert it from happening and if so, how could it have been possible. Be it Winnie’s own life or that of others, her viewpoint is divided-"the way it happened, the way it did not."

Helen’s relation with Winnie is shrouded in mystery. In fact, Helen is not related to Winnie at all. She is not her half-sister nor is she Winnie’s sister-in-law. It was only to help Helen to migrate to the U.S., that Winnie had to lie to the authorities that Helen was related to her. But she had not divulged the truth even to Pearl because if she did that then she would have to tell Pearl about her past life. But the friendship between Helen and Winnie goes much deeper than the bonds of blood relation. Most of the time, they have been true to each and have been custodians of each other’s secrets. But now Helen was going against her word and was compelling Winnie to reveal all the secrets to Pearl.

Deep within her heart, Winnie knows that it is wrong on her part to keep important events of her life a secret from her daughter. Winnie is also hopeful that telling her daughter everything will break the ice between them and improve their relationship. So far the only thing Pearl knows about her mother is that she is Jimmy Louie’s wife and a fussy mother.

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