The Bonesetter's Daughter

Ghosts are prevalent throughout many novels and are used to create certain affects on the reader. The writers’ purpose in incorporating these ghosts into their novels constitute to various reasons, some that may be quite obvious, while others remain underlying for the readers to interpret and discover on their own. In the novels The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Yo! , and The Antelope Wife, ghosts and supernatural occurrences are all used by the characters in order to retain their authenticity.

Amy Tan uses ghosts in her novel The Bonesetter’s Daughter a medium or withholding the values of the characters’ culture of origin, such as prudence and sacrifice, and how these qualities make a person strong and able to withstand whatever obstacles life has for them.

The Bonesetter’s Daughter is laid out into three different parts: Part One begins with a narration through Ruth’s eyes, Part Two is narrated by LuLing, and Part Three is finished once again by Ruth. Throughout part one, Ruth talks about how unhappy LuLing is, for example on page sixteen Tan writes, “Her mother was permanently unhappy with everything and everybody.

In the novel, LuLings life is portrayed as a ne of dyer struggle and surmised of many misfortunes. Yet, it seems that the main cause of this unhappiness stems from Precious Auntie’s ghost that LuLing claims to be haunted by throughout the novel. The pain (i. e. the ghost) that Luling must deal with is representative of the suppression of her secrets, feelings, and grief that she holds within herself.

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LuLing has many secrets that she keeps to herself, and refrains from telling anyone (even her own daughter-Ruth). At first glance, a reader might question, “Why does LuLing withhold so many secrets?

The Bonesetter’s Daughter

Why doesn’t LuLing tell Ruth hat has happened in her life? What is the point of withholding these secrets that seem to be leading LuLing to an unhappy life? ” In order to answer these questions there is a need for outside sources to bring in, in order to better understand the underlying reasons for withholding secrets and in turn discover the reasons for the presence of Precious Auntie’s ghost. First, in the context of the Chinese culture that LuLing was brought up in, Confucianism plays a significant role throughout the novel.

Some of the ideals of Confucianism include respect of elders and tradition, obedience to authority and overnment, and most importantly the promotion of collective wellbeing over that of the individual (cite? ). The retention of these values from LuLings upbringing may have been a determining fact in her decision to keep the things that have happened in her life as secrets. For instance, throughout her life LuLing does not tell her daughter Ruth the truth about Precious Auntie and how in actuality Precious Auntie is Ruth’s grandmother.

In part three of the novel, once Ruth finds out the truth that Precious Auntie was her grandmother, Ruth begins to question why her mother ould hold something like this from her own daughter, Tan writes, “Why did she feel she could never tell Ruth that Precious Auntie was her mother? Did she fear that her own daughter would be ashamed that LuLing was illegitimate? ” From this, it may be secret, is that LuLing is aiming to protect Ruth from the reality that her mother is an illegitimate child. The pain of this reality is withheld within LuLing in order to protect others (Ruth) from sharing in the pain; it is in a sense a form of sacrifice.

Further analysis into the novel reveals the clashing of generations that is made xplicit through conflicting ideals and philosophies. In an article titled, miou Don’t Need Their Approval: The Decline of Social Rules” author Jean M. Twenge argues that my generation (“Generation Me”) takes for granted their philosophy of “do what makes you happy, and don’t worry about what other people think. ” She believes that this has had an overall negative effect on society and has caused for the downfall of social rules and deterioration of “manners and politeness”.

The clashes of generations in the novel reveal these opposing philosophies. (i. e. Confucianism vs. GenMe’s philosophy). This clashing of generations shows through in part one chapter four during the Full Moon Festival. In this scene, the youngest generation in the family implement the exact GenMe philosophy that Twenge writes about. When Ruth arrives at the restaurant she finds out that Fia and Dory have gone to the store and end up showing up to the dinner after LuLing has arrived.

This shows how as the generations progress they begin to disregard manners and care for only themselves. Furthermore, an incident takes place where Nicky (of the youngest generation) is messing around and ends up knocking over a water glass causing LuLing to Jump up and chastise the boy. Again we see the values that LuLing cherishes begin to diminish through subsequent generations. In the novel the characters respond and interpret ghosts in different ways that expose the losing of values from their culture of origin.

The interaction between the ghosts and characters, which also brings into play the theme of silence, can potentially provide a measurement of the strength of that person due to their ability to hold in their pain. In the novel there are several incidences where decisions are made by the characters based on GenMe’s philosophy of “do what makes you happy’ here they either decide to stay silent or voice themselves with ignorant disregard for the affects of their communication/non-communication on the wellbeing of others.

This is made extremely important in the novel because of the characters’ reliance on each other for their voice to be heard. In part two of the novel LuLing narrates the story of her life as well as the life of Precious Auntie and the bond that they shared together. Precious Auntie is unable to speak and can only communicate through LuLing since she is the only one that can understand her.

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The Bonesetter's Daughter. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from

The Bonesetter's Daughter
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