Sample Essay Outlines
One of the unifying images of the novel relates to the Daoist concept of yin and yang and seeking balance between the two. In what ways does the author make use of these images?
I. Thesis Statement: Author Amy Tan uses images of yin and yang to underscore the characters’ search for balance.
II. Rose in “Half and Half” and “Without Wood” must learn to speak for herself.
III. Ying-ying in “Waiting Between the Trees” must face her pain to help her daughter.
IV. Waverly sees An-mei as “protective ally” and as opponent before accepting her as she is in “Four Directions.”
V. Jing-mei in “A Pair of Tickets” embraces both her American and Chinese heritage.
VI. Conclusion: The pursuit of balance teaches, as the grandmother tells her granddaughter in the final vignette, “how to lose your innocence but not your hope. How to laugh forever.”
One of the unusual features of this novel is its narrative technique. Tan uses 10 different narrators in 20 stories and vignettes spanning 2 continents and at least 73 years. The result, however, is a coherent
whole. What devices make this possible?
I. Thesis Statement: Author Amy Tan uses vignettes, allusions among stories, and ongoing conflicts to add unity to the novel.
II. The vignettes add unity.
A. Each vignette defines the basis for the next four stories.
B. Together the vignettes describe the life cycle.
C. The final vignette suggests a theme for the entire novel.
III. Allusions among stories add unity.
A. An-mei’s sapphire ring
B. Ying-ying’s first son
C. Lindo’s chang
D. Suyuan’s twins
IV. Ongoing conflicts add unity.
A. Suyuan and Lindo’s friendly rivalry
B. Ying-ying’s traumas
C. Lindo and Waverly’s chess maneuvers
D. Jing-mei’s understanding of who she is
(The entire section is 453 words.)