Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Themes

Lisa See


Even as a young girl, Lily has many ideas about the meaning of love and what she can expect of love. Throughout her life, Lily’s ideas will be challenged.

The first type of love Lily contemplates is the love of her mother. As a very young girl, Lily seeks affectionate love from her mother, who more often than not ignores her. Later, during the foot-binding years, Lily recognizes that a mother must display only “tough” love in order to prepare her children for life’s many trials. In the end, Lily realizes that the only true feelings her mother had for her were selfish; everything Lily feared to be true about her mother but made excuses for turned out indeed to be true.

For most of her life, Lily sees love as more of a formal relationship than an affectionate or emotional connection. When she marries, Lily believes she can learn to love her husband and she finds his attention “tolerable.” It is not until Lily thinks that she might never see him again that she realizes that she actually feels true love for him and he for her.

Lily knows she and Snow Flower will share a loving relationship as laotong; in fact, she believes their love will be the one constant in her life. Circumstances, however, challenge her commitment, and Lily learns that love is not always enough to overcome problems. In the end though, Lily’s love for Snow Flower triumphs, and she spends the rest of her life honoring their relationship.

Status and Role of Women
Lily and Snow Flower spend their lives trying to conform to the roles their culture has established for them. Daughters were considered “useless”; they were married off young and went to live with their in-laws. Second daughters were considered especially useless because they stood little chance of marrying into a higher status family. Lily understands from a young age that as a daughter, she is not appreciated as much as her brothers. She tries to come to terms...

(The entire section is 788 words.)