Mrs Spring Fragrance Summary

Sui Sin Far

Mrs Spring Fragrance

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Mrs Spring Fragrance Summary

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Mrs. Spring Fragrance is the title story in the only short story collection by Sui Sin Far. The 1912 publication is divided into two parts: “Mrs. Spring Fragrance” for adults and “Tales of Chinese Children” for children. Overall, the book’s pieces deal thematically with assimilation, prejudice, and the plight of Chinese Americans in North America. Mrs. Spring Fragrance tells, in the third person voice, of a woman who has assimilated into the customs of America relatively quickly and who has a tendency of getting involved in the lives of her neighbors. The story looks at the attitude of the United States, both citizens and government, towards Chinese immigrants. Other stories in the collection further examine the oppressive environment faced by the Chinese shown largely from the female perspective. The author, whose real name was Edith Maude Eaton, was the daughter of a Chinese mother and British father who came to the United States at an early age.

Mrs. Spring Fragrance has been living in Seattle for about five years. She learned English very quickly as well as the customs of her new country. To her husband, she has become so adept at the language, it seems there are no words left for her to learn. Mrs. Spring Fragrance has befriended Laura, the eighteen-year-old daughter of the Chinese immigrants who live next door. The Chin Yuens, Laura’s parents, intend to follow the Chinese tradition of arranging a marriage for her to a man she has never met. Laura tells Mrs. Spring Fragrance that she does not want to marry the man to whom she has been promised. The man is the son of a Chinese teacher, but Laura is in love with Kai Tzu, an American fan of popular music and baseball.

Mrs. Spring Fragrance gives Laura advice in the form of the Tennyson quote, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Mr. Spring Fragrance, who overhears this, does not understand the point and turns to a Caucasian neighbor to get an interpretation. The neighbor, a student at the University of Washington, leaves the man even more confused with an unclear interpretation. He determines that logic in America is filled with what he calls “unwisdom.” Later, Mrs. Spring Fragrance goes to San Francisco to visit a cousin. While she is there, she attempts to thwart Laura’s pending marriage by finding her fiancé. Once she does, she introduces him to a woman named Ah Oi who is considered to be the most beautiful girl in San Francisco. As Mrs. Spring Fragrance planned, Laura’s fiancé and Ah Oi fall in love and get married. Mrs. Spring Fragrance sends a letter to Laura telling her what has transpired and letting her know that she is free to marry Kai Tzu.

After playing matchmaker for Laura’s fiancé, Mrs. Spring Fragrance writes to Mr. Spring Fragrance telling him that she plans to stay in San Francisco for an extra week to make fudge for an upcoming festival. She tells him about a lecture she attended called America—the Protector of China. With sarcasm, she tells her husband to ignore the fact that the barber only charges Americans fifteen cents for the same thing Chinese pay one dollar for. She adds with the same attitude that the government detained his brother instead of allowing him to stay with the Spring Fragrances. Mr. Spring Fragrance is still unclear about the Tennyson poetry, and he is worried about his wife having decided to stay away longer. He had received a letter from a friend in San Francisco saying his wife is spending time with Man You, the teacher’s attractive son. The friend did not know that Man You was Laura’s former fiancé. Mr. Spring Fragrance assumes his wife is involved in an affair.

Once again he turns to the college student for an explanation of the lines of poetry and it leads him to believe that his wife has gone to San Francisco to seek lost love. He plans a party to take his mind off of the situation. When Mrs. Spring Fragrance finally returns, she gets a cold reception from her husband. This surprises her but she says nothing. Laura happily greets Mrs. Spring Fragrance and thanks her for her help. While they are speaking to each other, Mr. Spring Fragrance begins to see that he was wrong about his wife being unfaithful. Once Laura departs Mr. Spring Fragrance tells his wife that he is pleased for Laura and Kai Tzu. This surprises her because he generally focuses on business, not romance. She says that he must have been reading her poetry books, but he replies that he thinks American poetry is terrible. This leaves Mrs. Spring Fragrance confused, but rather than explaining the reason he dislikes American poetry, he gives her an anniversary gift of a jade pendant he had seen her admire at a jewelry store.