The Price of Eggs in China Characters
by Don Lee

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The Price of Eggs in China Characters

(Short Stories for Students)

Marcella Ahn
Marcella is introduced into the story as “Oriental Hair Poet No. 2,” a designation that identifies her in relation to Caroline Yip. The two women have a long history together. They were inseparable friends in their twenties, when they were both young writers. When they had books of poetry published at the same time, Marcella’s was the one that was favored by the critics. Her book, Speak to Desire, was considered to be filled with serious poems of quiet observations. She was offered teaching jobs, awards, and residencies, taking all of the honors that Caroline applied for and was refused.

Marcella comes from a wealthy family: her father was a shipping tycoon, and she lives off the millions of dollars in her trust fund. She is Korean, wears heavy makeup, exercises regularly, and wears clothes that resemble lingerie.

Although Marcella is paying thousands of dollars for a desk chair to use when she writes, after the events of the story she never writes another collection of poetry.

At the end of the story, when the trouble with Marcella is over, Dean and Caroline have a baby named Anna, who cements their previously shaky relationship with each other.

Gene Becklund
Gene Becklund is a sergeant at the Rosarita Bay police department. He questions Dean about the threatening messages that have been left on Caroline’s answering machine. He feels that, since the couple has been broken up, Dean is a prime suspect, even though Caroline herself thinks it is Marcella Ahn who is stalking her. When Dean’s shed has been burned, he calls on Sergeant Becklund to investigate, intending Becklund to find the evidence he has planted against Marcella: Sergeant Becklund does a cursory examination of the scene and pronounces it arson but does nothing to find out who did it.

Dean Kaneshiro
Thirty-eight-year-old Dean Kaneshiro is a carpenter of Japanese descent. He is an exacting artisan. In order to make custom chairs, he measures the buyers in detail; if possible, he watches how they sit at their desk; if not, he gets the measurements from their tailor and watches a video of them at work if the buyers live far away. He is so good at what he does that his chairs are included in museum collections and are compared to works by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He is modest about his fame, though. He lives in a little house in a small town on the California coast, where even his girlfriend, Caroline Yip, is not aware of the fact that the Kaneshiro chair is so highly regarded in the art world.

Dean is devoted to Caroline, even though she is his opposite in many ways: sloppy where he is neat, loud where he is quiet, vulgar while he is polite, and insecure while he is confident. When she breaks up with him after finding out that he is not just a simple carpenter but is an internationally celebrated artist, he pursues her passively, going to the diner where she works until she eventually talks to him. Though he does not initially believe her assertion that Marcella Ahn is in Rosarita Bay to do her harm, his fear for her convinces him. His plan against Marcella includes breaking into her house to steal items that he can plant as evidence against her and starting a fire in his supply of zelkova wood, even though it is extremely expensive and increasingly rare.

Although he blames Marcella Ahn for threatening Caroline, he does finish her chair and deliver it to her, as a matter of honor. When Marcella tells him that Caroline made up the stalking incidents, his faith in Caroline is only shaken for a second. For the rest of his life, he suppresses his suspicion that Caroline fabricated the entire problem with Marcella Ahn, staying true to his woman despite his creeping doubts.

Hayashi Kota
Hayashi Kota is one of only three traditional master woodcutters in Japan who can cut the zelkova tree to Dean’s specifications. His eye for choosing the right trees and cutting along the right part of the grain with the correct saw is irreplaceable, but he is...

(The entire section is 1,113 words.)