A Mother’s Love and a Daughter’s Growth
Many times love is thought of in terms of relationships with someone of the opposite sex. It often times includes emotional as well as physical attraction. Amy Tan’s novel, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, examines the love that takes another form: the love between a parent and child. In a heartfelt examination of the relationship between mother and daughter, Amy Tan brings to life the feeling of love a daughter often takes for granted in the relationship with her mother.
In order to express the development of the characters in her novel, Tan uses time in a most useful manner. She draws upon the present in her portrayal of Ruth Young, daughter of LuLing Young. She uses the past to create a background for Ruth’s understanding of love when she uses a manuscript written by LuLing Young and a manuscript written by Precious Auntie.
As the story begins, time is set in modern day San Francisco where Ruth Young lives and where she finds an old pile of papers in the bottom of her desk drawer. Ruth struggles with the text since it is in her mother’s beautifully written Chinese calligraphy, of which she understands only a few characters. At first, Ruth’s mother constantly pestered her to read the pages of her past, but Ruth never took the time and now feels the guilt rise over her disregard for something so important to her mother. She must have the papers translated soon, as she realizes time with her mother may soon be drastically altered by LuLing’s confusion as a result of the toll Alzheimer’s has begun to inflict.
As Ruth’s mind flashes back to events in her childhood, she begins to understand her mother’s actions were designed to protect her, encourage her, and give her the best in life. As children do, Ruth saw only the immediate affects of such actions and interpreted them as overprotective, nosy, and old-fashioned characteristics of a woman who couldn’t possibly know what it was like to be a child, a teenager, a young adult. Misunderstandings begin to surface between the daughter born in America and the mother raised in a very different culture. At a young age, Ruth sees her mother’s ideas, practices, and motivations, as ancient in nature and resistant to modern times. LuLing struggles with her daughter’s independent qualities and stubbornness. The miscommunication between young daughter and mother are ever clear in the brief exchange of these words: “‘Why I have daughter like you? Why I live? Why I don’t die long time ‘go? You want I die?’ Ruth was shaking but shrugged as nonchalantly as she could. ‘I really don’t care’” (Tan 146).
In adulthood, Ruth understands her frustrations as a child were just that, childish. Her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis has shown Ruth how precious and important the family connection is:
“As the years go on, I see how much family means. It reminds us of what’s important. That connection to the past. The same jokes about being Young yet getting old. The traditions....