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Re: Rain Music --- still some difficult points

Posted by Sphinx on January 05, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Rain Music --- still some difficult points posted by Smokey Stover on January 03, 2004

: : : : : : : Hi folks,
: : : : : : : Here is a piece of reading material for you to help me with. As New Year is around the corner and the task is a bit too huge, you may well not hurry in working them out.
: : : : : : : I'll sincerely appreciate any help you come up with!

: : : : : : : Here are the difficult sentences I'm confused with:
: : : : : : : 1.She is the red rose of the family and I am the green thorn.
: : : : : : : (Why she say so?
: : : : : : : How would you describe the relationship between the two sisters?)

: : : : : : : 2.There is something about it, a wistful, dandelion, orchidlike kind of beauty that feels like notes in a chord being played separately, finger by finger, harmonizing back and forth.
: : : : : : : (What kind of "beauty" it is when it is connected with dandelion and orchid?)

: : : : : : : 3.It always felt like cool satin when I yanked it, her head jerking backward, mimicking the motion of my arm.
: : : : : : : (Could you explain Linh's actions in plain English? Jerking? Mimicking?)

: : : : : : : 4....his breath whistles through the evenness of his teeth as the cover grazes the dark honey of his skin.
: : : : : : : (What does the "cover" refer to here?
: : : : : : : And could you explain "dark honey"? What about honey-color skin?)

: : : : : : : 5...I want to spend quality time with you, my darling sister. Get up, you piece of mutton.
: : : : : : : (Quality time?
: : : : : : : and what does "you piece of mutton" mean?)

: : : : : : : 6."...He can't give me anything, just himself. And he doesn't even know that I'm using him. Damn it!..."
: : : : : : : (Why Linh was "using him"?)

: : : : : : : 7."He's so perfect for me, just perfect. It's like he stepped out of my story and came to life. We speak the same language and share the same past. Everything. "
: : : : : : : (How to explain "It's like he stepped out of my story and came to life."?
: : : : : : : Does Linh really love Thanh? )

: : : : : : : 7."...And Mom and Dad, they've done so much for us. Now they think they've won the lottery from God for being good all their life."
: : : : : : : (What was Mom and Dad's attitude towards Linh's marriage according to this sentence? Who the chose should be Linh's husband?)

: : : : : : : 8.What is Rain music? What is significant about the use of rain in the title, as well as at the end of the story?

: : : : : : : MAny thanks!

: : : : : : : BTW, now another year is coming near, and I'd say to all your kind folks here that, I've really learned a awful lot in English language on this forum since I struck this gold mine! Thank you for your help! I wish I'd continue to have the pleasure of enjoying your generous help here next year!

: : : : : : : May your New Year begin with joy!

: : : : : : 1. She is the red rose of the family and I am the green thorn. (Why she say so? How would you describe the relationship between the two sisters?)

: : : : : : She is saying that her sister is their parents' favorite - their perfect daughter. They expect great things from her sister. Her sister is the rose and she is just a thorn. (ESC)

: : : : : : 2.There is something about it, a wistful, dandelion, orchidlike kind of beauty that feels like notes in a chord being played separately, finger by finger, harmonizing back and forth.
: : : : : : (What kind of "beauty" it is when it is connected with dandelion and orchid?)

: : : : : : I don't know what this sentence means. (ESC)

: : : : : : 3.It always felt like cool satin when I yanked it, her head jerking backward, mimicking the motion of my arm. (Could you explain Linh's actions in plain English? Jerking? Mimicking?)

: : : : : : When she pulled her sister's hair, the hair felt like cool satin. (ESC)

: : : : : : 4....his breath whistles through the evenness of his teeth as the cover grazes the dark honey of his skin. (What does the "cover" refer to here?
: : : : : : And could you explain "dark honey"? What about honey-color skin?)

: : : : : : Cover means bed cover, quilt, coverlet. Honey-colored skin is tanned a warm, golden shade. (ESC)

: : : : : : 5...I want to spend quality time with you, my darling sister. Get up, you piece of mutton.
: : : : : : (Quality time? and what does "you piece of mutton" mean?)

: : : : : : Quality time - a relatively short period of time (quality not quantity) when she is going to focus her attention on being with her sister and enjoying her company. Piece of mutton - maybe meaning her sister is older, mutton and not a young lamb? She is teasing her sister. (ESC)

: : : : : : 6."...He can't give me anything, just himself. And he doesn't even know that I'm using him. Damn it!..." (Why Linh was "using him"?)

: : : : : : As near as I can tell, Linh planned to marry another man but she continued to see David. She was enjoying David's company, etc., even though she knows they have no future. (ESC)

: : : : : : 7."He's so perfect for me, just perfect. It's like he stepped out of my story and came to life. We speak the same language and share the same past. Everything. " (How to explain "It's like he stepped out of my story and came to life."?
: : : : : : Does Linh really love Thanh? )

: : : : : : She says Thanh "stepped out of my story" and at first I thought maybe she means he was her Prince, straight out of a fairytale or a young girl's daydream of romance. But after reading this passage and the conflict between her feelings for David and Thanh, I think it means that if someone were to look at her life (her story) that Thanh would be exactly the kind of husband she should have - same race, same culture, etc. Thanh fits the pattern of her life. Does she love Thanh? Maybe. But she has these romantic feelings for the outsider - David. (ESC)

: : : : : : 7."...And Mom and Dad, they've done so much for us. Now they think they've won the lottery from God for being good all their life."
: : : : : : (What was Mom and Dad's attitude towards Linh's marriage according to this sentence? Who the chose should be Linh's husband?)

: : : : : : I would think her parents would expect her to marry Thanh - a man from the same culture, etc., who would be a good father. Thanh is someone dependable and safe. (ESC)

: : : : : : 8. What is Rain music? What is significant about the use of rain in the title, as well as at the end of the story?

: : : : : : I don't know. I'm not too good on symbolism. David played music that he called rain music. Maybe it relates to the fact that rain on the roof can be soothing if you're safe inside a house. But rain also can mean danger, it's storming, etc. (ESC)

: : : : : : http://www.globaled.org/vietnamandcambodia/lessons/v_lesson_03_reading.php

: : : : ESC's comments are by and large on the button. But may I add a few comments of my own?
: : : : The novice author describes a very common dilemma for young Asian-American women. Their parents see their children as extensions of their own culture, preserved in a new land. The children, especially the females, are endlessly taught to be obedient and respectful of their parents, who clearly wish the daughters to marry young men of the same culture. In this case, Linh has not told her parents about David. This was probably wise, but may have made it harder to buck their wishes when it comes to Thanh, the Prince Charming straight out of the parents' fairy tale.
: : : : I believe it is the younger sister, the story-teller or author, who sees herself as the thorn while Linh is the rose. She loves Linh, brushing her hair as one act of love among many. Calling your sister a piece of mutton is doubtless, as ESC says, a form of teasing. Mutton is not the first thing any American would think of, as it is not often eaten in the U.S.
: : : : I suspect that the side-by-side images of dandelions and orchids may have its origin in the author's small acquaintance with American flowers and their names. Dandelions are a ubiquitous and mostly despised North American flower; and while most orchids are native to only a few places in the U.S., some varieties are fairly common in Vietnam.
: : : : Rain music. David is a pianist, and so characterizes what may have been some moody improvisation. The author sees that as a motif in the story. Sun and joy have been dimmed out for Linh by the rain of necessity, her need to please her parents. She does not need to be coerced, of course. The parents long ago planted the seeds for a rich harvest of guilt. The rain on the windshield forces the rhythm of the windshield wiper, and provides its own music-of a gloomy sort. Or so I read it. (SS)
: : : :
: : : :

: : : 3.Could you explain "her head jerking backward, mimicking the motion of my arm. "? What was she doing?
: : As she was jerking her sister's hair, her hair-pulling arm went backward and the sister's head jerked backward also.
: :
: : : 4.And could you explain "dark honey"?
: : From Merriam-Webster online:
: : Main Entry: 1hon·ey
: : Pronunciation: 'h&-nE
: : Function: noun
: : Inflected Form(s): plural honeys
: : Etymology: Middle English hony, from Old English hunig; akin to Old High German honag honey, Latin canicae bran
: : Date: before 12th century
: : 1 a : a sweet viscid material elaborated out of the nectar of flowers in the honey sac of various bees b : a sweet fluid resembling honey that is collected or elaborated by various insects
: : 2 a : a loved one : SWEETHEART, DEAR b : a superlative example
: : 3 : the quality or state of being sweet : SWEETNESS

: : His skin color was like or the same shade as dark honey.

: : : 6."...He can't give me anything, just himself. And he doesn't even know that I'm using him. Damn it!..."
: : : (I don't understand why Linh was "using him"?)

: : She is using him because she doesn't intend to continue with the romance. He doesn't know that there is another man that she plans to marry.

: : : And what is the main idea of the story? Can we say that, we cannot have everything you want? Why?

: : I am not good at this either. The narrator is torn between pleasing her parents and marrying Thanh and pleasing herself and continuing the romance with David. She must choose between her happiness and her parents' happiness.

: : Will she be the "good daughter" (like her sister) and choose the man her parents want her to marry?

: SS here, again. I don't know exactly what Sphinx brings to this story by way of lnaguage experience and ethnic or cultural background, but I think I can say that the author is not trying to write a "morality play," or a fable with a moral, a la Aesop. She is presumably presenting a memoir of her sister's encounter with romantic reality. Before proceeding in that vein, we must not get sidetracked by little sister's self-characterization as a thorn complared to her sister's rose. What she means is that her sister, Linh, is very pretty, while she, the narrator, is not. She does not suggest that this is an any way an important theme. The novice narrator wishes to be a bit poetic, to use some figurative language like dark honey. It suggests attractive skin contrasting in color with that of her sister--she insists on emphasizing David's non-Vietnamese qualities. Linh may very well think she is "using" David. This very reserved and shy girl has been seeing David for five years, enjoying the pleasure and comfort of being with him and being entertained by him without inviting him to get improper, or letting him get anywhere near the honey. When she finally lets him kiss her she reports that to her sister as a major, and somewhat traumatic, event, for it has forced the issue. (Remember when Buffy slept with Angel?) Little sister does not know what else went on, only what Linh chooses to tell. And these are two very reserved girls. As for Linh's apparent choice of Thanh, neither little sister nor Linh paints this as something necessarily regrettable, but certainly belonging to a poignant moment. The phrase "rain music" is a bit short on the music end, but plainly suggests a very somber, if impersonal, atmosphere surrounding the end of their picnic. I don't think that the "main idea" of the story is how or what Linh chooses, but rather the fact that there is a profound choice being made almost casually. I think the point, for the narrator, is also how she and Linh interact in this delicate situation. One more comment: combing or brushing your sister's full head of thick Vienamese hair is going to result in a certain amount of jerking the head around, in synchronicity with the motion of the stroking arm. If there are still difficulties of interpretation, remember that the author is a somewhat inexperienced writer. And even with a skilled writer, a few opaque passages are not necessarily the kiss of death. (SS)

1."My mother and father have polished her until she shines. She graduated summa cum laude from the College of Chemistry at Cal and double majored in Ethnic Studies. However, my parents don't count the latter. "

What does "polished her until she shines" mean?
And why the parents "don't count the latter"?

2.And could you explain it clearer that how did Linh's desire conflict with patents' wishes?
Why did she say "And Mom and Dad, they've done so much for us. Now they think they've won the lottery from God for being good all their life."?
Was she going to obey his parents?