The Relationship Between Katherine and Zebra in Anchee Min's Novel, Katherine
Anchee Min, a Chinese novelist, has written many books about life in China revolving around the Cultural Revolution, including her autobiography Red Azalea. In her novel Katherine (1995), readers are exposed to life after the Cultural Revolution. The story focuses on two bold characters—Katherine and Zebra. Katherine, an American schoolteacher, comes to China to teach English to the younger generation. Her western ideology—free spirit, free will, and her stylish appearance--influences her students to think differently about the ways they live. Zebra, a student, has aspiring goals to be like Katherine in every way possible. Min portrays these two characters as very close friends, lost souls with only each other to turn to and rely on.
During the Cultural Revolution, Zebra was sent to work in a mine where she used dynamite. She was raped by her party boss and became pregnant. Zebra confides in Katherine that she took a drug to kill the baby and at work she felt a stream of blood run down her leg (101). Zebra has never before told anybody what has happened to her in this mine. After Katherine hears the story, Zebra cries in her arms. The only reason she tells Katherine this horrible story is because she trusts her. But before Zebra actually tells Katherine what happens she comments: “I don’t know how it happened, but all at that moment, my heart felt a sudden tenderness” (97).
Katherine also confides in Zebra when telling her about her childhood. Katherine’s biological mother was mute, and it was very hard for the two to communicate. Katherine says that she struggled to have a normal childhood. “Because my biological mother was deaf and blind I thought that I might become deaf and blind at any moment” (102). Zebra is there for her and can relate, Zebra having a rough family life as well. Her mother is not blind and deaf, but the communication between the two is not there. Zebra spends little time with any of her family members, and hardly ever speaks to them. Zebra and Katherine’s lives merge because of the things they share in common—similar ages, having rough pasts, and having nobody to rely and confide in.
Zebra also turns to Katherine when she has a relationship with Lion Head, a classmate of Zebra’s.