Period 4‎ > ‎

Parker, S.

If you were to talk to the author, what would you want to know?

posted Jun 12, 2010, 10:31 AM by   [ updated Jun 13, 2010, 6:57 PM ]

If I could talk to Anchee Min, the author of “Becoming Madame Mao”, I would want to know how she decided to write this in the first place. I'd want to know about her unique and creative writing style. How she came to the decision that she would switch between first person and third between paragraphs. I'd want to know who inspired her to become an author in the first place. I'd want to know if she was confident in this choice, or if she worried that no one would be able to understand it. I'd want to know what she thinks of Madame Mao as a person, and whether she thinks that she is the “white boned demon”, or if there is any justification for why she wrote the book. I'd want to know where she first heard of Mao and Madame Mao and their story. I'd want to know if she researched it, or if the stories were passed along in her family. I'd want to know where she went to school. I'd want to know if writing was something she always wanted to pursue, and if not, when and where she was when she realized it was what she wanted to do. I want to know how she came up with context for the real events she was writing about. I'd want to know why she wrote it from Madame Mao's point of view, and not Mao's. These are all thing that intrigue me about this book.

How do you feel when reading this book? Why do you feel this way?

posted Jun 12, 2010, 10:19 AM by

    Madame Mao is part narrator in the story “Becoming Madame Mao” by Anchee Min. This allows the reader to see what she is actually feeling, as well as we're able to see the outsiders opinions when the point of view switches. This makes me feel for Madame Mao. It allows me to see her view on what is going on and how it affects her. I feel sad for her mostly; that she is so power hungry and is willing to go to extreme lengths to secure her spot in society as a leader. That she is so desperate for the affection of a man. That her childhood difficulties ultimately led to her want in the world for an important person. Every play she tries to be in, I feel sorrow for her that it's not quite what she wants. Every husband she acquires, I feel embarrassed for her that they do not meet her expectations of what a husband should be. I feel betrayed for her when someone does her wrong. The authors writing style and use of metaphor in the book allow me to feel this way. The book overall is very emotional. It has different parts where you will feel sad and anger for her, but it also has parts where you wonder, “What is wrong with this lady?”. I think many people could relate to this book though because while Madame Mao is an extremist in almost everything, the little people can relate to her for her desire to be somebody in this crazy world.

# What was the funniest/saddest/strangest thing that happened? Why?

posted Jun 12, 2010, 10:07 AM by

    The beginning of the “Becoming Madame Mao” book by Anchee Min deals with Madame Mao's childhood, which foreshadows why she is the way she is in the later parts of the book. The strangest thing to me was the fact that the Chinese bind feet for the sake of being looked upon as beautiful. As we discussed in class, this is primarily this culture, and we as Americans also have weird traditions and medical things that people do to themselves such as botox to look younger, and calf implants to look more muscular. However, this Chinese feet bindingtraditions struck me as very disturbing. The parent of young girl make their daughters endure such pain, as well as risking infection, in order to be wed one day by a man who wants a woman with such tiny feet. I tried to imagine myself being put in that situation; having no control as a young girl to whether or not my feet will ever grow. It then dawned upon me that this is why Madame Mao later in the book wants power and control; because she lacked it as a young girl. This struck me as interesting; that those who do no have something as a child yearn for it so much in their later years. It's a relief that it is banned and illegal there and here, but I'm sure people do it regardless. This was also the saddest thing to me from the beginning. That one thing could affect someone so deeply throughout their whole lives.

What kind of things does the main character like/dislike? What from the book supports this?

posted Jun 12, 2010, 9:55 AM by   [ updated Jun 12, 2010, 10:49 AM ]

In reading “Becoming Madame Mao” by Anchee Min, I noticed that the main character as well as narrator, Madame Mao, seems to like the idea of love. Throughout the whole book it deals with her infatuations and delusions of love itself. Her need for a man is demonstrated through the first four husbands she possesses, which she is using as a mechanism to climb to the top of the social ladder. Her relationships are described in detail, going on and on about how husband X is her one true love, then going on about how she hates him, then on to husband Y, and so on and so forth. In addition for her like for love, she seems to love power. She's obsessed with reaching the top of China, he like for love was just an excuse to get there. She would use her husbands hoping that each one had some internal connection she could use to her advantage. She wants the satisfaction of having the title of the empress of China. When she meets Mao, her desires have been met, but yet again she wants more. Her hopes are to one day rise above Mao, her husband, her one true love. This demonstrates that Madame Mao is out for the win. Willing to step on anything, and anyone who threatens her title. That goes along with what Madame Mao dislikes. She dislikes traitors. Anyone who gets in her way. She dislikes a threat to her, or her power.

What motivates a given characters actions? Do you think those actions are justifiable or ethical?

posted Jun 12, 2010, 9:40 AM by

    Madame Mao is motivated by her desire for power. She's wiling to go to great lengths, with anyone, to get to the spot in society that she has wanted her whole life. She wants power, as well as the feeling of self satisfaction which comes along with it. She feels that if she has the support of the many, she will fill the void in her life which her mother opened when she was young. By having so many admirers who want to be like her, and have what she has, she will have the power to control mainstream society and how the people think. When she ends up in control in the media, it is yet another factor that leads to her power high. By marrying Mao, the most powerful man in China, Madame Mao has everything she ever wished for; a husband, along with the power he entitles. However, things do not go quite as planned. Mao is said to like virgins, a quality Madame Mao lacks from her previous four marriages. However, by luck for Madame Mao, Mao needs his wife in order to destroy his enemies. But this turn her into even more power hungry. She began doing anything to satisfy her husband so she could still have her position as Madame Mao. She would hurt the innocent, in order to be accepted as a powerful leader. Her actions were not justifiable because what she was doing was for her and her alone. She had no consideration for those around her, and what they cared about.


What motivates a given character’s actions? Do you think those actions are justified or ethical?

posted May 12, 2010, 9:43 PM by

    Ram's actions throughout the story are often planned. His decisions to take the time and rationalize out weigh those to act on impulse. Part of his actions however are based on impulse. The first situation he encountered is where he plans to kill Mr Shantaram. He despised him from the beginning when he first began to see the pain Mr. Shantaram would inflict emotionally on Gudiya. Ram became attached to her in a brotherly way, and when the father threw the cup of tea on her, that was it for Ram-he had to protect his 'sister'. Because his reasoning to kill Mr. Shantaram were to protect Gudiya, I believe that his reasons were morally correct for him. Ram knew that if he were to pursue help else where he would not be helped because he would be told to mind his own business. In my moral opinion, it is hard to imagine myself in that situation because I have never had to endure that, therefore I cannot say whether his reasons are ethical. His actions from this point forward in the book are motivated by anger and pain. He hurts others when they hurt the innocent. His actions remind me of the classic Robin hood, for he “steals from the rich and gives to the poor”. Ram may not be stealing material items, but he is stealing their lives, so the others can continue to live their lives.

What chapter do you think is the most important to the story?

posted May 12, 2010, 9:05 PM by

  • There is no chapter I could pinpoint, pick from all the others, that exceeds what would be remaining. Each chapter in the book, also being each chapter in Ram's life, contributes equally to the plot of the story. The ending would not be sufficient without all the chapters, because each event in his life is why he is able to answer each quiz question. If Neelima had not had the man who hurt her, Ram would have never stayed to see who it was, and he would not have known it was the same man who hurt Nita. If Ram had not endured so much harsh treatment in his life, and learned right from wrong, he would have shot Prem Kumar in that bathroom, been sent to jail, and he wouldn't have reunited with Smita or been there for Nita. In my opinion, no chapter was more important than the previous, or next. The structure of the book contributes to the story as well, because if it was not set up by each chapter being each question, it wouldn't have been as interesting to read. It would drag, and people would not want to read it. All the chapters in the book equally contributes to the story because if t

    here were to be a chapter taken out, the others would still make sense, however the ending would not have wrapped up so neatly.

Overall—how did you experience the book while reading it? Were you immediately drawn into the story—or did it take a while? Did the book intrigue, amuse, disturb, alienate, or irritate, you?

posted May 12, 2010, 8:45 PM by

Overall—how did you experience the book while reading it? Were you immediately drawn into the story—or did it take a while? Did the book intrigue, amuse, disturb, alienate, or irritate, you?

    From reading the book "Q&A" by Vikas Swarup, I was not immediately drawn into the book. There was no major colossal interest for me. However, I preferred this book of the others we have read in class, but it is not something I would have read by choice. The book as a whole was interesting; it gave insight and perspective into an Indians boys struggles in his society, and the corrupt situations he, as well as others have to endure. For this reason, the book intrigued me. The times when there similarities between their culture to our, amused me. It showed me that in even being across the globe, there are similarities. For the majority, the book did disturb me. I came to the realization that by looking at someone, you cannot possibly know what is really going on. It disturbed me to read about the treatment Ram, and Salim, as well as the other orphans had to deal with because of religion, or names or just their social class in society. I felt alienated at times because I did not want to think about the reality of life; that America is a privileged place, and while we do have crime and corruption, it is not nearly as bad as the streets of Mumbai. I felt irritated when Nita was so nonchalant about living the life of a prostitute. I understand that in India, and her culture it is expected of her, however it goes against what I believe in. For that reason I was irritated.

Can you pick out a passage that strikes you as particularly profound or interesting—or perhaps something that sums up the central dilemma of the book?

posted May 7, 2010, 3:22 PM by

“In that case I will just have to kill Shyam,” I say with a malevolent glint in m eyes.

“No,” she says vehemently. “Promise me you will never to that.”

I am taken by surprise. “But why?”

“Because Shyam is my brother.”

This passage struck me as interesting because it demonstrates the corrupt acts that go on not only in India, but also everywhere. The fact that a family member could subject their sister, like in the book, or even daughter, niece, etc, like in the other situations, strikes me as absurd. The whole book deals with corrupt situations from the beginning, when Ram receives the abuse of being “tied to the wooden beam with coarse rope. The beam is nine feet above the ground, so my legs dangle in the air and my hands and feet feel like they are being pulled apart”. It saddens me that people have to endure such treatment in countries whose government is as corrupt as the people. In television shows, and movies, even America’s government is portrayed to be corrupt, and it makes me question whether or not there is truly good people. When it is unraveled that Shyam is Nita’s brother, is really showed how different their country is from ours. Of course there is corrupt people everywhere, even in our country, but it is a part of the culture in India, that the prettiest daughter be sent to work as a prostitute. In my perspective, I feel that no woman be subject to such conditions, because we all have a chance to make something of ourselves. There, the women are expected to make the money, and the husbands sit at home and drink. 

What are Ram's ambitions in life? Why does he tell Prem Kumar he doesn't know how he's going to spend the billion rupees?

posted May 7, 2010, 2:43 PM by

    In the book "Q&A" by Vikas Swarup, Ram Mohammad Thomas is asked the question "And what will you do if you win today?". His response, "I don't know". He is expected to entertain the audience when asked that question by answering with something that would make it seem like he is an ambitious person. Everyone expects him to say he "will buy a restaurant, or a plane, or a country", however, none of these are what he wishes to do. He is a waiter of no significance to anyone. He lives his life satisfied with what he has and does not demonstrate any wishes to be more than that. He was picked for the game show from a data base, showing he didn't even wish to pursue being on the show. Ram's life has caused him to expect the worse, hope for the best. If good things come his way, then so be it, however he will not go out looking for them. There is one ambition he possesses however: proving his innocence. He demonstrates in each chapter in the book how the different chapters in his life have led to him know the answers to each of the questions. Ram states that "Well, wasn't I lucky that they asked only those questions to which i knew the answers?". He was not educated through school. He does not know the currency of France, but he does know who first produced pirated DVD's in Dharavi was. As the story unravels, we see that Ram is not just an ordinary man, he is beyond that. However, the game show wants to prove he is stupid, he lacks any ambition. However his main ambition becomes showing the world you cam be from the slums and still be a remarkable person.

1-10 of 17