Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-6 (2023)


The author of the book, Chinese Cinderella: The true story of an unwanted daughter, Adeline Yen Mah wrote an autobiography about her nostalgic and at the same time forlorn childhood between her ages of four to fourteen. She described her experiences of growing up in China as a four year old kindergartener and the various hardships she had suffer through from her careless family. All her family members except her Aunt Baba, Ye Ye, and Nai Nai had been isolating her from them and ignoring her existence in the family. However, she suffered the most and the worst from her stepmother, Niang, who her Father remarried with.

Chapter 1: Top of the Class (全班考第一)


In 1941, Adeline went home from school with a silver medal with a certificate with it for leading her class for the week. Her Aunt Baba was proud of her and stored her certificate inside the safe-deposit box as if it were “some precious jewel impossible to replace”. As Aunt Baba closed the lid for the safe-deposit box, Adeline saw an old photograph of her grandparents’ wedding fell out and asked for a photograph of her deceased mother. But Aunt Baba was hesitating and changed the topic nervously. Adeline also mentioned her Big Sister had blamed her for causing the death of their mother because of giving birth to her.

Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-6 (1)


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Mah conveyed the appeal of pathos through the use of plain language and simple sentences to wallow in nostalgia for the past, allowing the readers to think back of their own childhood. She characterized herself as an innocent and curious girl when she was little, always being eager and pleased to learn. The way she described how shehad beentreated by Aunt Babathrough being called “precious little treasure” creates an illusion ofthey had camefrom a loving family. However,Adeline’s Big Sister’s reprobate tone carried with sarcasm had shattered the illusion when she called her a “bad luck”.

Chapter 2: A Tianjin Family (天津家庭)


A year after the death of Adeline’s mother, her father married “a seventeen-year-old Eurasian beauty fourteen years his junior” whose half French and half Chinese. Soon after, they had two children which resulted in a total of seven children in the family. Niang, the Chinese term for mother, had treated her own children and the stepchildren differently in a negative way which caused Adeline’s four siblings to blame her for causing the death of their mother and they would never forgave her. This makes Adeline difficult to advance her place within the family.

Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-6 (2)


Mah conveyed a helplessness and loneliness emotion to her readers through the despaired tone of “blamed me for causing Mama’s death” and “never forgave me”. Later in the chapter,she detailed historical comparisoncontrasted the difficulties Adeline had faced within her familyto the hardship of all Chinese natives in the cities such as Tianjin. In which shecompared herhardship ofbeing blamed “for causing Mama’s death”tothe war lost in China “known as the Opium War”. Also, shecompared her “stepmother, whom we called Niang” to China being “occupied by foreign soldiers”.

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Chapter 3: Nai Nai’s Bound Feet (奶奶的小脚)


Adeline had being curious about her Nai Nai’s bounded feet of the reason why it is so small and why they needed to be bounded. Later, she recollected a story of his Big Brother’s mischief until her Third Brother congratulates her for the silver medal. But her Second Brother had punished her for showing off her medal and called her “ugly little squirt”. The dinner had started but everyone had ignored Adelinebut her father had surprised everyone when he commenting on her silver medal, ” ‘Is this medal for leading your class?’ he asked.” This is the first time the Father had ever talk to Adeline from everyone’s memory. The siblings stole Adeline’s dessert after dinner because of their jealousy.


Mah’s detailed and symbolized comparison between the traditional values of Nai Nai and Niang through the structure of Adeline’s family reflects the societal standards and values. In which her Ye Ye, Nai Nai, and Aunt Baba had represented traditional Chinese people. Aunt Babatold Adeline to “run quickly” to “pull out GrandmaNai Nai’s chair for her”before she got to her chair showingher respect toward the elders.For her grandparents, eating dinner with the whole family is more important than other things such as “fetchmy English-Chinese dictionary” Big Sister ordered Adeline so she could translate for Niang. On the other hand, her Niang and youngest siblings had represented the Eurasian population when “Niang was speaking to Big Sister in English”and the youngest siblings “were already ‘special’ from the moment of their birth”.They were consideredbetter-looking and smarter than the stepchildren because they wereNiang’s “real” children. Showing how the children in the family were separated and treated unequally.

Chapter 4: Life in Tianjin (天津生活)


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A few months later, Adeline was attending the same missionary school as her Big Sister. Because of the constant complaints from her Big Sister about walking to school, they’d been taken to school everyday by the rickshawpulled by Ah-Mao, the rickshaw puller. Everyday after school, Adeline and Ah-Mao were forced to wait for the Big Sister who was proud of having Adeline and Ah-Mao to wait for her. When Big Sister talks, she alwaysquizzes Adeline questions about the topics she hasn’t learn from the school and scolds and slaps Adeline for unable to answer her questions and screaming about she doesn’t deservethe medal she has been wearing weekafter week. At this time, Tianjin was under the control of Japanese occupation, everyone had been frightened about this. When the soldier approach to Father with business proposal, the Father had chose the best time to escape Tianjin and brought Niang and Fourth Brother with him, leaving the others with blissful freedom. But their paradise hasn’t last very long, it was interrupted by the death of Nai Nai.

Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-6 (3)


The volatile relationship between Adeline and her Big Sister and the negative image she carries with the family was further emphasized through the lack of support from her family members during the presentation of school awards. Big Sister’s action toward Adeline developed antagonism and sympathies in readers’ emotions through theuse of verbs, “jerked” and “slapped”. Mah developeda forlorn tone when she was “the only one unaccompanied by anyone” from her family, “not evenmy Aunt Baba”. Adeline was the most forgotten and ridiculed child out of all the siblings.

Mah sets off a historical comparisonand contrastthroughthe events in her family to the overall situation in China. The intimidating Japanese presence was comparable to the forceful presence of Niang in the Yen household. Even though Father could escape from the presence of Japanese, the children could only escape from the terror of Niang for a short period of time when she is not home. Also, Mah created a sympathetic situation trough the use of pathos appeal of Nai Nai’s death. After the death of Nai Nai reflected to the reader that there wouldn’t be anyblissful period in the futurefor Adeline. Her tough life had just began.

Chapter 5: Arrival in Shanghai (到达上海)


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Instead of going for a short outing with Ye Ye as expected, Adeline, her Big Sister, Big Brother, and Second Brother had been taken away by their Father on a train to Shanghai with no time to say good-bye to Tianjin and others still at the house of Tianjin. Ye Ye and Aunt Baba had stayed behind to observe the hundred day mourning periodof Nai Nai while taking care of young Little Sister and sicklyThird Brother.Four of them arrived to Shanghai with their Father,still living under the French concession in a three-story French mansion. Their blissful freedom was over, their Niang declared that her stepchildren were “not to invite any of friend home, or visit them in their houses” and they were only allowed to be on the third floor. Now, they are ceased to be individuals and “have become one single unit known as all of you.”


There’s a new social structure for theolder siblingsafter they arrived Shanghai. Niang’simperativecommands, “You are not allowed to enter any of the rooms on our floor without our permission.” and “All of you will live on the third floor.”had addressed the siblings straightforward which means there would be no questionings toward her orders and desires. At this time, she no longer view the stepchildren as individuals, instead refers them as “all of you” which means she doesn’t care about any of them, the children she refused to think about. Niang had done everything to make the stepchildren to disappear from the sight of their father and pretended that Father’s first wife had never existed.

Chapter 6: First Day at School (第一天上学)


Even though Adeline was excited to return to school, this time was attending the Sacred Heart Missionary School, but she was almost late for school because her family had once again forgot about her. She had made to school just in time when she’s able to catch a ride from the reluctant cook. Afterschool, she was still left there lonely without anyone taking her home, she struggled to find her way home in a new surrounding. Late in the evening, she is totally lost in the new surrounding when a shopkeeper noticed the lost Adeline, she invited her in the restaurant until Adeline could phone her Father to come to pick her up. Her family had truly forgotten the existence of her and the only advice her Father gave her was to learn how to read a map.

Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-6 (4)

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Through Adeline’s family in Shanghai, which all the family members had forgotten about the existence of Adeline.Mah allowed the readers to feeldepressedand at thesame timehaving compassion for Adeline about being forgotten by her family but wasbeing strong enough to be independentthrough the use ofpathos and abstract diction. Some ofthe words and phrases she included to express her emotions of embarrassment and fearfulnesswere “embarrassed”, “cautiously” ,“terrified” and “trembling with fear”. No matter how tough the situations were, Adeline stillremainsherpositive thought and getting tougher each time when she went through her obstacles. Always had the thought of her goal in mind about getting good grades to be noticed by her Father and aim for her goal.


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