Adeline Yen Mah's "Falling Leaves" Essay

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Adeline Yen Mah's "Falling Leaves"
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For years, the world has been oblivious to the painful, degrading traditions toward women that take place behind the “Bamboo Curtain” of China. Falling Leaves , by Adeline Yen Mah, unveils the darker side of Chinese culture through her eyes as an unwanted Chinese daughter. Shocking mistreatment, of not only the author, but also the females in her extended family keep suspense alive throughout the book. My heart sobs at each account of Adeline’s tortured life, but through it all, there was a flicker of her spirit that could not be put out.

In China, girls are seen as a possession or a “cheap commodity” (Yen Mah 100). Sons, especially the eldest, are given far more
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These girls often become maids, waitresses, or prostitutes. Street girls play a vital role in the “three vices common to Chinese men: opium, gambling, and brothels” (Yen Mah 7). In my opinion, the treatment of women is the greatest difference between Eastern and Western culture. As Western culture has advanced to bring more rights to women, the traditional ways of China have become a sore thumb on the hand of the world.

Even as an Eastern girl ages, she still has little hope for her own independence. Adeline’s grandmother was told by her father these words of shuttering reality: “Your duty is to please him and your in-laws. Bear them many sons. Subliminate your own desires. Become the willing piss-pot and spittoon of the Yens and we will be proud of you.” (Yen Mah 10) Though women give up their entire lives to their husband and children, it is still widely accepted by their culture to have multiple concubines (mistresses). In the book, Adeline’s grandfather was defiant to pressure to have a concubine “serve him” (Yen Man 14), and this disapproval of the “social norm” was not to be believed by others. Confucius had professed that “only ignorant women were virtuous,” and it is by this ideal that many families in China think. Throughout the book, Adeline defies tradition by going to college (out of the country) and then moving on to medical school. Her self- will to try to please her father is mainly a need to be more like her brothers who were adored

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