Feathers from a Thousand Li Away, Vignette Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Where had the woman purchased the swan?

2. According to the market vendor, what was the swan originally?

3. What is a li?

4. How was a woman’s value determined in China?

5. What are three hopes the woman has for the daughter she dreams of?

6. Why doesn’t the woman have the swan any more?

7. Why has the woman forgotten “why she had come and what she had left behind”?

8. What symbol represents the woman’s good intentions?

9. To whom does the woman wish to give this symbol?

10. Why hasn’t she done so?

Answers
1. She purchased it in the market in Shanghai.

2. The swan was a duck that tried to become a goose and became a swan instead, “too beautiful to eat.”

3. A li is about one-third of a mile.

4. If her husband belched loudly, it meant he had eaten a great deal, presumably because his wife was a good cook. Her ability to meet his needs determined her value.

5. First, her daughter will be valued for who she is. Second, she will speak perfect English, suggesting a good education, and no one will look down on her. Third, she will be happy, “too full to swallow any sorrow!”

6. The immigration officials took it away.

7. She had to fill out too many forms; she was caught up in routine activities.

8. The swan feather symbolizes her good intentions.

9. She wants to give it to her daughter.

10. The mother wants to be able to explain herself “in perfect American English.”