The Price of Eggs in China Themes
The relationship between Dean Kaneshiro and Caroline Yip does not seem to have the ingredients of true, lasting love. Dean and Caroline are opposites in many ways: she is outspoken and he is quiet; she is messy and he is fastidious; she is hot tempered and he is unemotional. Still, at the end of the story, they are together, committed to one another and to their child, despite any suspicions each holds about the secrets the other might be hiding.
To some extent, their opposite personalities help them have a well-rounded relationship because they compliment one another. Caroline is clearly the decision maker in the relationship, holding back her declaration of love until weeks after Dean has left himself exposed by announcing that he loves her. She mocks and challenges him for his timidity and his lack of verbal skills. The equilibrium they have established is upset when she realizes that Dean is not simply a local carpenter who is impressed by her skill as a poet but is actually a renowned artist. At that point, with her dominant position threatened, she leaves him. They come back together after he humbles himself by coming to her place of work day after day with no encouragement from her. When he burns the rare wood that he needs for his chairs, he shows that Caroline is more precious to him than his art.
The story raises the question of whether the relationship between Caroline and Dean is one of true love or is just a case of psychological codependence between a needy person and a person who needs to be needed. In the end, Don Lee implies that true love is not really different than codependence.
Dean Kaneshiro lives for his art. The story’s first scene, in which he measures Marcella Ahn for a chair, shows the seriousness with which he takes his work: he follows strict rules, obeying his self-imposed standards, barely allowing conversation with his subject. When he won hundreds of thousands of dollars from an important grant, he used the money to buy more zelkova wood because it is the right wood for the kind of carving he does. He drives a ten-year-old truck and lives in a little house with cheap furniture. He does not pay attention to the circumstances of his life, engrossed in his work as he is.
Still, when he feels that Caroline is being threatened by Marcella, he is willing to sacrifice his irreplaceable zelkova wood to protect her. His scheme of burning the wood to implicate Marcella in a crime falls flat—the small-town police are not talented enough to find the evidence that he left against her, and a failed sprinkler system means more of the wood is burned than he anticipated. Dean is willing to sacrifice the art that he holds so dear for Caroline’s safety, which places her above everything else in his life.
Caroline is portrayed as very...
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