Annie is presented as an extraordinarily bright and talented girl, but also as a series of contradictions that make her seem quite typical in many ways. For example, as a young girl, Annie cannot bear to think of her mother disapproving of her; at the same time, however, she has a strong independent streak that leads her to act up when she is sent first to deportment lessons and later to piano lessons, so that she is dismissed from both. Similarly, when Annie’s mother discovers she has been playing marbles, Annie both lies and hides the marbles to protect the secret, even though her secret has been exposed and her mother does not believe her.
Annie’s mother is a central character who is viewed differently as Annie grows up. The young Annie worships her mother and wants to be exactly like her. As Annie begins to grow up, her mother appears to Annie to be overbearing, dominant, and a bit contradictory in her assertions that Annie has to become her own person but also has to follow her mother’s rules. Cumulatively, though, a portrait of Annie’s mother emerges as a woman who separated herself from her own mother by adopting specifically Western habits. She wants to inculcate Annie into that culture, although she herself is not completely certain of her place within it.
Ma Chess is one of the most engaging figures in the novel, although readers do not see very much of her. Annie’s maternal grandmother, Ma Chess is presented as a powerful...
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