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Chinese Cinderella

Shanghai at Dusk







1: How Adeline is treated by adults

  • Ma-mien Valentino speaks to Adeline quite strictly, and in orders, telling her what to do without any context. This introduces the fact that adults have little respect for Adeline or care for what she is thinking.' 'Hurry up downstairs! Your chauffeur is waiting to take you home' - shows that her parents don't have time for her, and also juxtaposes her life of riches with the emotional poverty of her family.

  • Even the chauffeur treats Adeline with little respect, which is ironic as he is the chauffeur and so should be respectful to her. 'Don't you know anything?' this is aggressive as well as disrespectful. The fact that she doesn't even know where her house is shows how they don't even bother informing her when they have moved house, symbolising her displacement. She reacts by saying she had forgotten showing how she doesn't want to admit how her family are treating her - she doesn't want to admit this to the chauffeur, but also perhaps her friends and herself. The amount of dialogue here adds to the sense of vividness in the passage, accurately portraying how lost she finds herself in this moment.

  • When she arrives, her family are all elsewhere and even though her father wants to see her, he hasn't come to greet her, showing how he doesn't care about her that much.

  • Strangely, Adeline's father is 'looking relaxed in his slippers and bathroom, reading a newspaper'. This confounds our expectations of a strict businessman, making Adeline relieved that he is in a good mood. The reader is meant to be worried and concerned that Adeline wonders if he is trying to trick her, 'Dare I let my guard down?', showing the unusual relationship they have, where she might be being tested at any moment.  It is interesting that he says to her 'Don't look so scared', implying that he isn't concerned that she is often scared, - she simply doesn't need to be at the moment.

  • It transpires that her father is so proud of her because she has won an 'international literary prize' that no Chinese student has won before. 'He looked radiant' is quickly replaced with the real reason he is proud, 'In front of his revered colleague [...] I had given him face.' 'Revered' here shows how much he respects this man, and also is meant to make the reader quite sad for Adeline, as he isn't actually proud of her, simply her use for him.

  • Her father 'scoffs' at her plans to be a writer, showing how little he considers her ideas as valid, and isn't afraid of crushing her ambitions. Instead of simply suggesting something else he says 'you will go to medical school', leaving her with no options. He furthermore wants her to go into obstetrics as it is a 'foolproof profession', as women always want female doctors when they have children. Thus, he has as an old fashioned view of women as inferior and a very calculated vision of her future without any thought about what she actually feels.


2: Adeline's hopes for the future

  • 'My whole being vibrated with all the joy in the world. I only had to stretch out my hand to reach the stars.' This hyperbolic metaphor shows that she only wants to be loved and to be valued by her parents. As we see, all her other goals are subsumed by this one.

  • As this has happened, Adeline develops the courage ('thinking it was now or never') to ask whether she can go to university in England. We feel the emotional tension in Adeline in the phrase 'My heart gave a giant lurch.' This is added to by use of short sentences which creates drama and excitement, together with questions and exclamations. Hyperbole shows her love of the idea, 'Going to England is like entering heaven', using simile to show how unreal this possibility is to her, as well as how much she wants to go there. 'Does it matter what you do after you get to heaven' shows that she might not have thought it through as the possibility seemed so unlikely. Shows that all her goals are related to this destination, rather than anything else. Therefore, when her father asks what she wants to do, he scoffs at her plans to be a writer.

  • Adeline agrees with her father's plans without fighting back - 'I would study anything he wished'. The fact that she quotes Wordsworth emphasizes her passion and ability for English, even though she's happily ignoring it for the chance to go to England.


3: How Adeline feels about her family

  • 'Time went by relentlessly and it was Saturday again. Eight weeks more and it would be the end of term' - this shows how she has a poor relationship with her family. 'Relentlessly' expresses that time moves too fast, and 'Saturday' is unusual as people usually look forward to Saturdays. We can see she is already counting down the end of term, the ellipsis after term makes it more suspenseful and dramatic, as though she is dreading it.

  • Second paragraph shows how she cannot even think about having fun with her friends as she is so focused on going home. Short sentences create a sense of the frantic atmosphere. Powerful use of simile in the thought of 'leaving school throbbed at the back of my mind like a persistent toothache', shows the almost physical pain which she feels when she thinks of leaving school.

  • Adeline is extremely nervous (full of foreboding) when she 'ran downstairs as in a nightmare', fearing that someone has died. This shows that her family doesn't usually contact her, but also shows that she loves them nevertheless.

  • Description of her father's room as the 'Holy of Holies' uses a strange hyperbole, juxtaposing our expectation that a child should be able to go anywhere in their home without an 'invitation'. This shows her fright, respect and awe towards her family, added to in the next paragraph by adverbs such as 'timidly'. We are meant to feel her confusion in the short question 'Why' followed by an ellipsis, which also creates suspense.

  • Might look at the difference between what Adeline says and what she is thinking, showing the insincere and formal relationship between her and her parents.

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