Chinese Cinderella By Adeline Yen Mah

933 words - 4 pages

Chinese Cinderella is a compelling autobiography by Adeline Yen Mah, a struggling child, yearning for acceptance and love in her dysfunctional family. In this novel of “a ‘secret story of an unwanted daughter”, Adeline presents her stepmother Niang, as a violent, impatient, biased, domineering and manipulative demon. Analysing the language used by the author, we can discover how effectively she does this.

Although Niang explicitly demonstrates her blatant favouritism towards her actual birth kids, shunning the likes of her stepchildren, some of her nasty traits cannot be avoided by even the most loved of her children. In this case, her violence and impatience. Little Sister, being only a baby and having not seen her actual mother Niang, was understandably uneasy when meeting her for the first time. Not even thinking of letting Little Sister adapt to her new environment, Niang’s impatience at her less than warm welcome from her favourite daughter led her to slap the poor child. She began “beating her daughter in earnest”, with her blows landing “indiscriminately on Little Sister’s ears, cheeks, neck and head”. Such brutality demonstrated by a mother to her daughter shows vividly how Niang couldn’t control her destructive nature, choosing instead to let her exasperation take over.

Immediately after moving into their new Shanghai house, Niang adopts an even more domineering, superior tone than ever before, not even bothering to disguise her biased feelings against her stepchildren, Ye Ye and Aunt Baba. This is elucidated in the Chapter 5, where she informs her stepchildren about the new living arrangements. It is visible to the reader how unfairly Niang treats her stepchildren, Ye Ye and Aunt Baba, having given separate rooms to Father, Fourth Brother, Little Sister and herself, while dismissing the rest of her family to the second floor, where there is sharing of rooms. She then goes on to ban them from setting foot into the rooms on the first floor, saying that they were“not allowed to enter any of the rooms” there. Her favouritism towards her birth children is only further exemplified in Chapter 9, where the family is getting ready to celebrate Chinese New Year. While her birth children, Fourth Brother and Little Sister get stylish and fashionable outfits, whereas the clothes of her stepchildren are old-fashioned and boring. Adeline gets the worst of it all; her supposedly new clothes being reduced to “a basic brown smock” made from mere leftover material from “one of Big Sister’s garments”. Perhaps the person she mistreats the harshest in the entire family is Adeline, as illustrated when Niang brings her sister’s family for a picnic, not even acknowledging Adeline, let alone giving her permission to tag along. When her brave nephew asks why Adeline was never included in family outings and was always forced to stay at home, an...

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