Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah Essay

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah Essay

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Chinese Cinderella is a compelling autobiography by Adeline Yen Mah, a struggling child, yearning for acceptance and love in her dysfunctional family. In this novel of “a ‘secret story of an unwanted daughter”, Adeline presents her stepmother Niang, as a violent, impatient, biased, domineering and manipulative demon. Analysing the language used by the author, we can discover how effectively she does this.

Although Niang explicitly demonstrates her blatant favouritism towards her actual birth kids, shunning the likes of her stepchildren, some of her nasty traits cannot be avoided by even the most loved of her children. In this case, her violence and impatience. Little Sister, being only a baby and having not seen her actual mother Niang, was understandably uneasy when meeting her for the first time. Not even thinking of letting Little Sister adapt to her new environment, Niang’s impatience at her less than warm welcome from her favourite daughter led her to slap the poor child. She began “beating her daughter in earnest”, with her blows landing “indiscriminately on Little Sister’s ears, cheeks, neck and head”. Such brutality demonstrated by a mother to her daughter shows vividly how Niang couldn’t control her destructive nature, choosing instead to let her exasperation take over.

Immediately after moving into their new Shanghai house, Niang adopts an even more domineering, superior tone than ever before, not even bothering to disguise her biased feelings against her stepchildren, Ye Ye and Aunt Baba. This is elucidated in the Chapter 5, where she informs her stepchildren about the new living arrangements. It is visible to the reader how unfairly Niang treats her stepchildren, Ye Ye and Aunt Baba, having given separate rooms t...


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...She could move into a bedroom “on the first floor, their floor”. With Big Sister out of the picture, no one would be able to unmask Niang’s discrimination. With Big Sister having “allegiance to Niang written all over her face”, Niang managed to disband the cooperative step-siblings. This incident was one that displayed her scheming and conniving ways in full view. Niang is a professional in manipulating, and knows how to make things work in her favour.

Adeline Yen Mah’s literary skills explain comprehensively how Niang’s flawed personality cause great agony for Adeline. However, it is being mistreated by Niang that ultimately fuels her to undertake the seemingly impossible task of trying to succeed in life. Adeline’s great accomplishments in life were the result of her unfaltering determination in the face of injustice. Niang inadvertently helped her achieve that.

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