Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

When a daughter turns to a moth

Raaaachel Wang's picture

The father-daughter relationship between Yumi and her father, Lloyd, is an interesting clue which went through the whole novel. When Yumi was a small girl, their relationship (a lovely daughter and a caring father) was just as normal as a father-daughter relationship could be. And the conflict between them began when Yumi started to “dressed like a begger”. (p.20) Then Yumi act far and far from her father’s expectation. And when Lloyd found the affair of bYumi and the history teacher, Yumi made the decision to run away.

Yumi did make effort to fixed their relationship. In her letter to her mother, she said “I know there is a lot we don’t agree upon, but you are my father, and I would like to have a relationship with you again. I know you think what I did was wrong, and I won’t ask you to forgive me, but won’t you even talk to me?”(p.40) But she didn’t get good response. She felt too much disappointed but still, she decided to try again. “Why do we have such a difficult relationship? Why can’t we just love each other like a normal family? I’m trying to understand why I’m so scared of having kids of my own, and I realized it’s because I’m afraid of screwing them up. My friend thinks it’s important for me to share my feelings about this with you, so that’s what I’m doing.”

But it seems all these efforts she made didn’t receive much positive feedback. Clearly, Lloyd was still mad at her even after Yumi had come back. “’Fine. Look at the way they dress, then. You would never have let me out of the house dressed like that.’ ‘Didn’t seem to stop you. You left anyway.’ ‘I left because you couldn’t tolerate my lifestyle,’ she said. ‘You left because you couldn’t face your mother and me after what you’d done.’”  (p.147)

In response to the question I raised in the first draft, after finish reading this novel, I think the reason that their relationship stayed broken for so long time is not because Lloyd hadn’t forgiven his daughter but because he didn’t felt like to express his feelings directly to Yumi. Neither did Yumi. In other words, there was no resentment in their feelings to each other---they loved each other, and they both knew it, but they both refused to express it. But things changed gradually in the development of the plot in the last half of the novel.

One night, when her father said good night to her, she responded spontaneously, “ There were none of the usual currents in her voice, no hesitations or resentments or feelings withheld. Just the words themselves, sweetly said.” To Yumi, loving her father and being her daughter is an instinct, no matter what had happened.

To Lloyd, he realized that talking with her daughter in a normal father-daughter way made him feel good. “His eyes filled with tears then, and this surprised him, but he didn’t mind. He was just happy he’d expressed his feeling.” (p.298)

When Lloyd told Yumi he had a dream where everyone he loved was there, Yumi asked so eagerly, “Am I there? Am I in your dream?” (p.367)

And, finally, after so many years, Lloyd gave Yumi the answer she had longed for. “’Why Yumi’, he said at last, as though it were so apparent to him, the most obvious thing in the world. ‘Of course you are.’” …… “I crumpled then, bending and gripping his cold wrist. ‘I love you, Daddy,’ I sobbed into his palm.’ You’re with me, too.’” (p.367)

It was the first time when Yumi and Lloyd truly express their feelings to each other. Was this too late? Maybe. There were so many chances they could tell each other their feelings before Lloyd was dying.

Or maybe not. In my view, the conversation happened just on time because it made Yumi realized the importance of communication, made her stay rational and calm when Phoenix told her “I’m going to Seattle with the Seeds.” (p.404)

As a mother, she was so unwilling to see her son to be too close with the Seeds. “’What my mother and father chose to get behind is their business. But I swear, if you get Phoenix or Ocean involved in any illegal shit…’ I turned away and left the thought hanging---there was nowhere for it to go.” (p.282) But she knew she had to act to her son differently with her father did to her.

 “I stared at him, my sullen boy, as he shaped-shifted before my eyes.” She knew she had to communicate with her son instead of just being pissed off, because she knew Phoenix “wasn’t a baby anymore”. “’Okay, well, the you part of it is up to you. I can’t do anything about that. But the me part—just hear me out, and you can think it over’……’I’ve never been very good at doing the mom thing, and I’m sorry about that’” (p. 405) Yumi treated and talked to her son in an equal and open way, though ”it brought tears” to her eyes. (p.406)

Fortunately, it turned out this open communication did get a good outcome. To her “every lasting amazement”, Phoenix refused Lilith’s offer to go with the Seeds at last, “’I can’t leave my mom’, he said. ‘She needs me.’” (p.412)

Maybe two individuals who hold different, or, even opposite belief can hardly have smooth communication with each other, but it’s always a different story when it comes to parents and children, to people who always love each other no matter how differently they view the world.



Anne Dalke's picture

You really took up directly the question I asked you last week, whether the “broken relationship” between Lloyd and his daughter is because they “lack communication,” as you claimed then, or whether it is the result of their profoundly different (perhaps incommunicable) views of the world. Your very answer, which you support very well by calling attention to some moving scenes in which they do connect, is the former: father and daughter were both unaccustomed to expressing their feelings directly, but they learned to do so, over the course of the novel. Turns out it wasn’t “too late” after all, and that it had some wonderful consequences for Yumi’s open conversation—and thus her relationship--with her son.

I’m not sure I buy your final generalization—that “it’s always a different story when it comes to parents and children, to people who always love each other.” Not convinced that family members do always love each other, that the story always turns out the way this one did. (Consider, for example, Cass’s relationship with her father, Frank’s with his birth family….)

I’m curious, too, about your title, which I don’t quite understand: can you explain it to me? (This will also be an opportunity for us to talk about some grammatical issues :)

We’ll also need to think together, in our writing conference this week, about your next paper: does this draft have an emergent third one in it (one that you really can “grow”?). Or  might you be ready to start drafting a new paper about The Collapse of Civilization?