Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Major Character Analysis

Lisa See

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Major Character Analysis


Lily is one of the pair of characters central to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and she is also the narrator of the entire story. As the narrator, she becomes the filter through which we must read all other characters in the novel, including Lily herself. As an old woman, she is proud of her accomplishments in moving from a daughter in a poor household to the revered Lady Lu. Alongside this pride and sense of dignity, however, is the regret she feels for her behavior towards her dearest friend, Snow Flower, and this regret is the central reason for the entire narrative.

In her earliest days in her home, Lily longs for affection from her parents, but she is aware that as a female child she is considered a burden on the family. Coming from humble beginnings, Lily sees herself as someone in need of training and attention to make her worthy of the life for which she is intended. In Snow Flower, Lily sees the possibility for both of these desires—the desire to be loved and the desire to be acceptable in cultured society—to be met. Lily says of Snow Flower, “Lying next to her, looking at her face in the moonlight, feeling the delicate weight of her small hand on my cheek, listening to her breathing deepen, I wondered how I could make her love me the way I longed to be loved” (57). Her sense of insecurity, while making her humble in one way, makes her blind to the needs of Snow Flower, who she sees as having everything already. It is this insecurity, the desire to be loved, that leads her to misread Snow Flower’s message to her about the three sworn sisters. Because Lily fears rejection more than she feels compassion for the needs of her friend, she jumps to the wrong conclusion.

Snow Flower

Lily as narrator describes the young Snow Flower as buoyant, able to rise above the negative circumstances of life. The child Lily is not yet aware of how difficult Snow Flower’s own circumstances are, so she views that buoyancy as…

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