Double Face Summary and Analysis
Lindo’s helper in Peking: never named, she gives Lindo advice about coming to America
Lindo’s helper in San Francisco: never named, she helps Lindo get an apartment and job
Lindo narrates this story, set in the present. Waverly has second thoughts about going to China on her honeymoon with Rich. Lindo assures her that everyone in China will know she is not Chinese by the look on her face.
Lindo wanted her children to have “the best combination: American circumstances and Chinese character.” She did not realize that the two don’t mix. She was able to teach Waverly the American part about opportunity but not the Chinese part about personal integrity.
Lindo and Waverly are at Mr. Rory’s, having Lindo’s hair styled. When Mr. Rory mentions that Lindo and Waverly look alike, Lindo tells Waverly a person can see someone’s character and future in their facial features.
Lindo recalls coming to America. She had paid a woman to advise her on how to deal with American immigration officials and how to complete paperwork. The woman had also given her the address of someone in San Francisco’s Chinatown who would help her after she arrived. The woman in Chinatown charged Lindo $3.00 for a hastily jotted list of addresses. Lindo used the list to find an apartment and a job in a fortune cookie factory, where she made a friend, An-mei Hsu.
An-mei introduced Lindo to Tin Jong. At first Lindo objected to An-mei’s introducing her to someone from a different region of China, but An-mei pointed out that, in America, “everybody is now from the same village even if they come from different parts of China.” Because Lindo and Tin spoke different dialects of Chinese, they couldn’t really speak to each other. They attended English class together, and sometimes wrote in Chinese. Lindo was sure Tin really liked her, though, because he would act out what he was trying to say. Lindo used a carefully planted fortune cookie to let Tin know she wanted to marry him. Nine months after their marriage their first child, Winston, was born.
When Waverly was born, Lindo started thinking about things differently. She wanted everything to be better for her daughter. She named her after the street they lived on because she wanted Waverly to know she belonged somewhere. She also realized that one day her daughter would move away “and take a piece of me with [her].”
The story returns to the present, as Mr. Rory puts the finishing touches on Lindo’s hair. Lindo compares her reflection to her daughter’s and notices Waverly’s nose is crooked. Waverly says it has always been this way, just like Lindo’s; and she likes it. It makes them both look devious.
Lindo remembers that when she returned to China last year, everyone could tell she was a foreigner. She wonders what she has lost and gained, and decides she will ask Waverly’s opinion.
The title “Double Face” returns the reader to the motif of yin and yang, which dominates the novel. In this story, however, more attention is placed on the search for balance between the two. The title works on several levels, suggesting the duality of Lindo and Waverly, of American circumstances and Chinese character, of Lindo’s “American face,” which hides her thoughts, and her “Chinese face,” which is sincere, and even the duality of a straight nose and a crooked one.
One of the important images in this story is the reflection in the hairdresser’s mirror. Waverly is a reflection of Lindo, and Lindo is proud of her. Lindo, on the other hand, will reflect on Waverly at the wedding; and Waverly is not proud of her. Lindo is disappointed. Reflection also serves as a metaphor as Lindo thinks about the events of her life before Waverly’s birth.
When Mr. Rory remarks...
(The entire section is 1,000 words.)