In the Jade Peony of Wayson Choy, poh-poh or the grandmama seems to be the most intriguing character. Her character is complex for her grandchildren who are the narrators of the novel and therefore complicated for the reader of the novel; but not so complicated for their neighbour Mrs. Lim or even Father and stepmother who are from the generation in between. Even though Poh-poh’s character is not the narrator, she is present throughout the story even after her death. In each of the three stories, she Is mentioned, described, or quoted by the narrators. She has a huge Impact on all narrators.
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Poh-poh Ilke any other grandparent Ilkes to teach her culture, traditions, and language to her grandchildren. The only difference is that her grandchildren are born and growing up in a different country than hers. In the hierarchy of the home she has the highest ranking, and is the most respected at home. She is consistent, kind, fair, tough, loyal, and traditional. Poh-poh is consistent about her traditions and culture. She really has faith in her superstitions and In signs of the universe that even after her death everyone In the family Inclines to believe Seklung’s stories of seeing Pohpoh’s ghost.
Or at least everyone doubts that he might be right. In the end, father had no choice but to hold a formal ceremony for the old one’s death, to make sure that her ghost is gone, and will not wonder around their house anymore. Poh-poh is consistent throughout the story. For example, she would not give up her “die soon nonsense” as father calls it. She keeps trying to fool gods and convince them to go away, to not bother killing her since she will die soon anyway. In another Instance. she keeps calling Llang a “useless girl” to the extent that it seems like a training tool for her.
As if she uses this phrase not to hurt her granddaughter but to make her stronger. Make her to face what she eventually will face in the society; even if she is going to live in a
Page 2 The most intriguing character in The Jade Peony Essay
relatively modern society like Canada, She should know that she will not be treated exactly equal as men. Or maybe Poh-poh uses this phrase to make Liang work more on her tasks, dancing for example; as Llang indeed tries hard to prove her Grandmother that she Is wrong; that Llang Is a talented, and not a useless girl.
Even though It seems that Poh-poh discriminates between girls and boys, there are factors that can make this Judgment rong. Beside Kiam whose childhood is not so much mentioned in the book, there are three children that are raised in the family and between them only Liang had a normal life. Jung, the second brother, was adopted from a home where the father used to hit him with a belt and the mother either committed suicide or was murdered. He had enough of hardship In his first four years of life that could make Pho-poh decide not to be anymore harsh on him.
And the other brother, Sekky, was weak and sick from the beginning of his life. Again, this may be another factor that could stop Poh-poh from being tough on him as well. Another reason that makes life for Liang harder is that she as a girl should spend more time at home while other boys might have more chance to get more freedom outside the house while helping person. She obviously differs and distinguishes between boys and girls. For example, Liang should help Poh-poh in cleaning and taking care of the new born baby, Sekky, while boys are playing.
On the other hand, boys, like Kiam and Jung, should help their father in collecting the rent and outside-the-house Jobs. But this does not make Poh- poh a discriminator. When she nags, she complains about all of them. For example he said “This useless only-granddaughter wants to be Shir-lee Tem-polah; the useless Second Grandson wants to be cow-boy-lah. The First Grandson wants to be Charlie Chan. All stupid foolish! “(Wayson 37) Poh-poh, being an appraiser, watches all of the children closely.
She is the only one who knew about Jung’s sexual orientation but she probably acted more open-minded than anyone else would do at that time in Canada. These are other factors that show she would not discriminate but she would treat every one according to one’s situation. In the hierarchy of the house Poh-poh sits on top, at lease at home. For example she decided to keep things simple by ordering everyone to call Father’s wife stepmother, even though she was the actual mother of two out of four children. Father does not protest to this decision neither does the “stepmother”.
Also when Poh-poh says a discussion is over, it is over. For an instance, when children are trying to convince their father to exclude the mandarin language from their studies and their father does not have a reasonable answer for them, she closes the conversation by saying “we are all Chinese”. Meaning no one is merely Canadian. Everyone respect her and give up the argument. Poh-poh was wned by a rich family in her childhood where having a status and a class would determine a person’s worth. Growing up with those kinds of values, she has adopted the same type of morals in her unconsciousness.
She applied the same principles to her own family unconsciously even though she has been trying to control those behaviours. For instance, once when Poh-poh tries to teach Liang how to make a type of knot and Liang fails to do it at age six, Poh-poh almost slaps Liangs face. And then she says “no more teach! ” (31). To control herself she tries to stop doing those thing that brings back the bad memories to her. But she cannot stop everything, she cannot stop living and bad memories still exist in her mind. The difficult and sad life that Poh-poh had is reflected in her behaviours and Judgments.
The stepmother was brought to their house as Poh-poh’s caregiver and also father’s concubine. Because of that, even after she became father’s wife and mothered two of his children, she did not earned as much respect as the first wife or the status of mother. She was called Stepmother “to keep things simple”, as it was Justified and ordered by Poh-poh. In another instance, when the Wong-suk comes to the house for the first time, Poh-poh tays in the kitchen and makes noises to show that she has prepared the food and she should earn all the credits.
The stepmother’s efforts and work is ignored since she is not important. In conclusion, Poh-poh has the most impact on the children’s and stepmother’s life that even can be seen after her death. She has the major responsibility to raise the children since she is the one who can spend the most time with them before they go to school. And her beliefs, however wrong and superstitious, makes their childhood fool of mystery. She is consistent and loyal to her traditions and believes that her grandchildren should as well know their anguage, culture, and traditions.See More on Family