Lily is the narrator and main character of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. She is one of five children, born the second daughter, a status considered to be low in the family. Lily craves love and attention from her mother, but soon recognizes that the only love she will receive from her is “mother love” or “tough love.” She works hard and tries to please. During the foot-binding procedure, Lily accepts the pain and always follows her mother’s demands. When paired with a girl she believes to be of higher status, Lily feels unworthy. She recognizes that her mother is conniving and selfish, which Lily attributes to the fact that she was born in the year of the monkey.
As Lily’s relationship with her laotong deepens, Lily learns that she is lovable and quite capable of being a good wife and daughter-in-law. She accepts her fate stoically and without question, knowing that she is living the life intended for her.
When Lily’s status in the village improves, she rises to the challenge and becomes a woman the villagers can trust and depend on. Lily loses herself in the process of becoming Lady Lu, listening to convention and social norms more than her own feelings.
Snow Flower is Lily’s laotong friend. She visits Lily’s family often and is always a polite guest. She gets along well with all of Lily’s family. Snow Flower was born to a wealthy family, but her father’s drug addiction and gambling debts caused them to lose their fortune. Snow Flower worried most about her mother, who seemed unable to adapt to a new lifestyle. Snow Flower was always kind and generous with her time and knowledge.
Lily’s mother is tough on her, but for her own reasons. She sees the value of a daughter who can marry into a wealthy family. She worked hard to train Lily, but what Lily saw as “mother love” was really only self-serving. Lily’s mother appears selfish and seems only...
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