What are the symbols in "The Eve of the Spirit Festival" and what do they stand for?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The story opens as the girls’ mother, who has died from an unspecified illness, has been cremated as part of a Buddhist ceremony.  The older daughter is furious at what she sees as her father's tardiness in turning to Western medical treatment and blames him for the death of their mother. As her father enters, Emily ridicules his Chinese customs of mourning the dead by burning paper money for their ghosts and makes him go away.

The fact that her mother's ghost does not appear to her as foretold by her parents’ beliefs serves as a ready proof for the superiority of her seemingly more rational attitude of rejecting religion. 

The story implies that Emily subconsciously tests the powers of the old beliefs when she continues to defy their rules. Nothing happens to her when she goes out during Gujie. Once she turns eighteen, she can leave home against her father's wishes, and nothing disastrous comes of it. Even cutting her hair does not bring forth ancestral retribution. Only at the end does the story reveal how much Emily is still a child of her parents’ culture and religion. It is her, and not the dutiful Claudia, who is visited by her father's ghost. In Chinese custom, ghosts appear to those with whom they have some unfinished business.

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dsizz | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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  1. All of us, at some moment, have had a vision of our existence as something unique, untransferable, and very precious. This revelation almost always takes place during adolescence. Self-discovery is above all the realization that we are alone: it is the opening of an impalpable, transparent wall—that of our consciousness—between the world and ourselves."—Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude
  2. Following in the footsteps of the highly successful Coming of Age in America and Coming of Age Around the World, this new anthology of fiction and memoir explores coming of age in the new millennium.






























































































  1. Twenty-one stories by noted authors including Sherman Alexie, Mary F. Chen, Junot Diaz, Louise Erdrich, Seth Kantner, and ZZ Packer explore the trials and tribulations of growing up in our increasingly fragmented world. Issues of identity, sexuality, solitude, and conflict are beautifully presented through the voices of writers of all ages and ethnicities, from Lan Samantha Chang tackling absent or dead parents in "The Eve of the Spirit Festival" to Emily Rabateau addressing race in "Mrs. Turner's Lawn Jockeys."
  2. With a preface and introductions to each piece by Mary Frosch providing cultural context, this collection is a stunning literary tribute to a new generation of global citizens that provides a distinctively American sense of hope. 

 

dsizz's profile pic

dsizz | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

  1. All of us, at some moment, have had a vision of our existence as something unique, untransferable, and very precious. This revelation almost always takes place during adolescence. Self-discovery is above all the realization that we are alone: it is the opening of an impalpable, transparent wall—that of our consciousness—between the world and ourselves."—Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude
  2. Following in the footsteps of the highly successful Coming of Age in America and Coming of Age Around the World, this new anthology of fiction and memoir explores coming of age in the new millennium.






























































































  1. Twenty-one stories by noted authors including Sherman Alexie, Mary F. Chen, Junot Diaz, Louise Erdrich, Seth Kantner, and ZZ Packer explore the trials and tribulations of growing up in our increasingly fragmented world. Issues of identity, sexuality, solitude, and conflict are beautifully presented through the voices of writers of all ages and ethnicities, from Lan Samantha Chang tackling absent or dead parents in "The Eve of the Spirit Festival" to Emily Rabateau addressing race in "Mrs. Turner's Lawn Jockeys."
  2. With a preface and introductions to each piece by Mary Frosch providing cultural context, this collection is a stunning literary tribute to a new generation of global citizens that provides a distinctively American sense of hope. 

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