Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 769
Early one morning in New York’s Chinatown, two newlyweds awake to the sound of their doorbell. Wang Ben Loy, the young husband, opens their door to find an undesirable figure, a prostitute, from his past. The woman does not believe he is married and only becomes convinced when shown a pair of his wife’s underwear on a clothesline. Ben Loy returns to bed with his beautiful wife, Mei Oi, but not to rest. Instead, thoughts of his recent impotence torment him.
Ben Loy is a young, hardworking Chinese American waiter in Stanton, Connecticut. Dominated by a stern Confucian father, Ben Loy finds his only freedom from patriarchal strictures in surreptitiously meeting prostitutes in nearby New York City during his days off work. He and a fellow waiter even expressly rent a hideout in New York, the apartment now tenanted by Ben Loy and his bride.
Ben Loy’s father, Wah Gay, had migrated from China several decades before to make his fortune in America, but he eventually ended up running a Chinatown gaming establishment. During his thirty years in America, Wah Gay returned to China once to marry and father a son, returning to New York to work. At age seventeen, Ben Loy joined his father. After Ben Loy reached his twenties and served in the U.S. Army in World War II, his mother wrote his father suggesting that their son marry.
Lee Gong, an old friend and mah-jongg partner of Wah Gay, who led a life similar to Wah Gay’s, also wants to marry off his daughter, Mei Oi, who still lives in China. These two elders tacitly arrange a marriage between their children. Ben Loy is then sent to their ancestral village, where he meets Mei Oi; fortunately, the intended couple are attracted to each other. After a happy wedding, followed by a blissful few weeks, the couple leave for Hong Kong, then New York. Much to the newlyweds’ dismay, Ben Loy loses his potency once he leaves China. Blaming his previous licentiousness, Ben Loy feels guilty and incompetent; Mei Oi feels undesirable and neglected.
On the couple’s arrival in New York, their fathers throw a huge wedding banquet. Many guests hint that the couple is expected to have a child in the next year. Mei Oi becomes depressed and frustrated as time passes and her hopes of conceiving a child dim. It is then that Ah Song, a regular at Wah Gay’s establishment, seizes his opportunity. Ah Song is a notorious philanderer who preys on credulous women with tales of exaggerated wealth and protestations of love. He quickly seduces the vulnerable Mei Oi, who soon becomes pregnant. Ben Loy, pleased to save face by his wife’s pregnancy, avoids thinking about how their child was conceived.
The secret is exposed, however, when Ah Song is spied leaving Mei Oi’s apartment. Gossip spreads rapidly and reaches Lee Gong, who chides his daughter. Then Wang Chuck Ting, the...
(The entire section contains 769 words.)
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Eat a Bowl of Tea study guide. You'll get access to all of the Eat a Bowl of Tea content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.
- Critical Essays