The Bonesetter's Daughter Questions and Answers
by Amy Tan

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What significance do names and their nuances have in The Bonesetter’s Daughter? Why is it so important that Ruth discover her family’s true name? When Ruth discovers what her own name means, how does that realization change her relationship with LuLing?   

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Names take on significance in Amy Tan’s novels. In The Bonesetter’s Daughter, one important name is that of Precious Auntie. She is referred to as both Bao Mu and Bao Bomu. Each name carries a very different connotation which connects to Precious Auntie’s relationship with her daughter, Lu Ling. Bao can mean “precious” or “protect.” Mu by itself means “mother.” Yet, when the two words are placed together, Bao Mu signifies a nursemaid or babysitter. Gao Ling tells Ruth that everyone called Precious Auntie Bao Mu. She was indeed a protective mother, one who was precious only to Lu Ling, even before her daughter discovered her true identity. Yet, sadly her station was not of mother but of nursemaid to her own daughter. However, Lu Ling called her mother Bao Bomu. The word bomu means “auntie” so it also represents the family’s deception in designating Lu Ling’s real mother to be her aunt or nursemaid. Thus, Precious Auntie’s names are tragically ironic.

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