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The Jade Peony- Wayson Choy

Group Project for Vancouver Short Stories
by

Amrita Manhas

on 17 October 2012

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Transcript of The Jade Peony- Wayson Choy

The Jade Peony Wayson Choy Summary Amrita, Erika, Flordeliz, Jenny, Rosemary and Tuan Characters Symbolism Point of View Vancouver's Identity Our Responses This specific chapter of “The Jade Peony” by Wayson Choy takes place in Vancouver during the 1930’s to 1940’s time frame. The chapter is in the youngest brother, Sek-Lung’s perspective. The chapter starts off with a dramatic sentence that tells the reader the grandma has died. The grandmother had been coughing and refused to go to the hospital saying she had just a cold and that natural herbal medicines would work instead. When all the home remedies failed she told the family “the only cure for old age is to die.” In the story after the background information of the grandmother’s illness is explained, Sek-Lung recalls numerous flashbacks that reveal the type of character the grandmother was when she was alive. When Sek-Lung was young he believed him and his grandmother would never be parted. As she is leaving for the hospital she tells Sek-Lung she will never leave him no matter what happens. While she is holding his hand, he remembers how she taught him to juggle the same way a juggler had taught her. She describes the juggler very fondly as a magician, acrobat and actor who was tall and pale. The juggler gave the grandmother a wind chime made from bits of string, scraps and in the center a precious jade peony. Ever since she received that present she has always taken interest in the making of wind chimes. Grandmother and Sek-Lung bonded while they scavenged in alleys and garbage cans. His flashbacks bring a memory of how his siblings fought over how embarrassed they were of their grandmother and Sek-Lung for scavenging through alleys and garbage cans to collect certain pieces for their wind chimes. Sek-Lung and his grandmother no longer openly discussed with the family about their expeditions instead disguised it as “shopping.” The grandmother knows she is dying and teaches Sek-Lung how to make wind chimes. They work on a wind chime for her death. They pick out special cloth to match her jade carving. She tells him to only hang it when she passes away because her spirit will hear the sound and return to say goodbye and she will not walk the foreign land forever. After many months the grandmother saw a white cat with pink eyes and ran outside to chase it, she knew this was a sign because the magician had pale skin and pink eyes. A few days after the grandmother died from pneumonia. Immediately following her death Sek-Lung’s father says nothing as he lifts the wind chime to the window. As Sek-Lung begins to cry he feels the jade peony in his pocket. In Sek-Lung’s mind he sees his grandmother smile. The main characters in this short story are the grandma and her beloved grandson, Sek-Lung. The grandma is very old fashion and has an extremely strong belief in spirits. She is always persistent in teaching her family Chinese traditions. Sek-Lung is the youngest family member and gets along with his grandma very well. They share a special bond with each other because he loves listening to his grandma tell him stories about her life in China. Aside from those two main characters there are many minor characters as well. Sek-Lung’s father is a very caring man and is concerned about his children’s adjustments to a new country but is a bit skeptical because his children are rebelling against their homeland. Sek-Lung’s sister, Liang, his oldest brother, Kiam, and his stepmother are also minor characters and not very much is known about them. The last character mentions in this story is “the juggler” and he is linked by being the grandmother’s lover.
The white cat can arguably be the most significant symbol in the story. When the white cat with pink eyes appears outside the house it symbolizes death and fate. The grandmother knew her time has come and she must move on to the next life. The white cat is also important because it reminds her of the “juggler,” her lover. The story is told in first person by Sek-Lung’s point of view. By the story being written in first person, it lets the reader know how Sek-Lung is feeling and how all the events that take place affect him. What makes the way this short story was written so powerful is at the end of the story when the grandmother dies and you can’t help but sympathize for Sek-Lung. He not only lost a family member, he lost his best friend. The flashbacks of all his treasurable memories allow you to see how strong of a bond they shared with each other. The jade peony’s symbolism stood for the grandmother’s home. Since the grandma lived in China for most of her life, she treasures the jade amulet. Jade is very valuable in the root of Chinese culture, it could also be a symbolic reminder of her Chinese heritage. There were a couple different aspects of symbolism portrayed in this particular short story for instance the jade peony, wind chimes and the cat. The story "Jade Peony" expresses Vancouver identity by bringing up an immigrant experience. In order to start a new, and have a better life for both yourself and your kids, people immigrated in hopes to achieve this. It brings us into the location of Vancouver Chinatown describing the neighborhood, which is a place that was similar to a China village to Suk-Lung's family. Wayson Choy’s central structure of the story is the binary opposition of old vs new. The old traditional ways may be a burden, but it is a necessity to learn the new way as well. In Jade Peony the kids are reluctant to learn the new ways because they feel as a Canadian, they shouldn't be following their parents old ways and traditions. They are a bit confused on their identities. Even though they are Chinese Canadians, they do not know whether or not to show the Canadian or Chinese side. Jung, Kiam, and Liang were embarrassed by their parents. They were embarrassed on how people would look at them, and what people would think of them. Even though they were Chinese Canadians, their parents still followed the old traditional ways, but the kids felt like they needed to follow the modern way.
Sek-Lung loves and treasures his Grandmama. Since his parents went to work, and his siblings went to school, he spent a majority of his time with his Grandmama. Sek-Lung’s grandma was a big part of his life. Although his siblings were embarrassed with him and his Grandmama going around exploring stranger and more distant neighbourhoods, and searching for junk. These were the things that brought great excitement for him. Although he was taught by each member of the family on Sunday, but he learnt much more from the time he spends with his Grandmama. Psychological Our Responses Wayson Choy was the author of one of the famous short stories and novel called the Jade Peony. He was born in Vancouver in 1939. He also attended Gladstone Secondary, and took creative writing in UBC. He taught writers in Humber College, Ontario from 1967 to 2004. Besides the ‘Jade Peony’, Choy also wrote his last novel called ‘All That Matters’, the sequel to his first novel the Jade Peony. His book the ‘Jade Peony’ won the Vancouver Book Award, the Trillium Award and was also nominated for the Giller Prize. Biography of Wayson Choy The wind chime’s main symbolic aspect is culture. While the grandma teaches Sek-Lung how to build wind chimes she is also educating him on Chinese culture.
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