Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Chapters 12-13 Summary & Analysis

Lisa See

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Chapters 12-13 Summary & Analysis

Part Three: Rice-and-Salt Days

Chapter 12: Sons

Snow Flower and Lily both give birth to sons, who are born one month apart. With the birth of her baby, Lily becomes first daughter-in-law in the Lu household. Lily’s mother-in-law forbids her from visiting with Snow Flower, saying, “Your son’s mother cannot associate with a butcher’s wife” (153). Snow Flower informs Lily that, after her marriage, her parents sold the last of their belongings, became beggars, and have run away to avoid their debts.

The correspondence between the two lautongs has become somewhat generic, but Lily observes that this is understandable, as they are both busy with their lives and obligations as new wives. Furthermore, Lily realizes that her nu shu correspondence is not as secret as she had imagined it would be, as the other women in the family know it, and even the men have some understanding of it, even if it the sentiments expressed in the women’s writing is irrelevant to them. Snow Flower’s letters become less formal and more desperate as her unhappiness grow.

Covertly, Lily arranges for Snow Flower to come to her natal home for the “Expel Birds” Festival. When they meet, they see each other’s sons for the first time. Lily observes that Snow Flower’s son, although older than her own, is much thinner and sickly looking. When Snow Flower tells Lily that she’s already pregnant again, Lily is troubled because the timing indicates that Snow Flower and her husband did not observe the laws about celibacy during the “childbearing pollution days” (149). In their quiet times in the upstairs chamber, Snow Flower tells Lily that she enjoys sexual relations with her husband, explaining that it is the only pleasure she has in her married life. Lily chastises her for breaking the rules regarding chastity after childbirth. Inwardly, Lily finds she cannot relate to Snow Flower’s pleasure, saying of her husband, “by night, when he ascended the bed, I was happy for his enjoyment but relieved when he was finished with me” (165). Lily expects bad luck for Snow Flower, because “you cannot break the pollution laws without…

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