Shanghai Girls

by Lisa See

Character Analysis of the Protagonist

In order to perform a full character analysis of the protagonist of Shanghai Girls, first we must identify who the protagonist is. The protagonist of Shanghai Girls is Pearl Chin. Although the story follows the lives of both Pearl and her younger sister, May Chin, the story is told from the perspective of Pearl, making it much easier to analyze her view of the world surrounding her. Anyway, Pearl Chin and her sister May were both models and both well-paid, even though there father did not approve of their lifestyle. Pearl was in love with the painter and photographer Z.G. Li, who would often take and paint pictures of her and her sister. However, Z.G. is in a secret relationship with May. When Pearl and May later flee to America and arrive at Angel Island, Pearl learns that May is pregnant. They agree to have Pearl claim May's baby as her own, which puts a huge burden of responsibility on Pearl, considering the circumstances. After giving birth to the child, who they name Joy, their lives begin as they join their new family in Chinatown. There, Pearl is married to Sam Louie, and they raise Joy as their own, with everyone believing that Joy is Pearl's child. As the years go by, Pearl develops into a more mature woman and later discovers she is pregnant. However, she is heartbroken when she learns that her child is stillborn and she will never be able to have children again. This causes her lots of emotional damage and pain. Later on in the story, Sam commits suicide to save his family after the government gets tipped and believes he is a paper son. This saddens Pearl a lot, and she is angered when she finds out May tipped off the government. As they argue, Joy (who is now 18) overhears that May is her real mother and that Z.G is her real father. She then runs away to China to find her real father. The story ends with Pearl going back to China to find and save Joy.

Plot Development through Setting and Charcterization

In Shanghai Girls, the development of the plot of the story heavily relies on the setting of the story. At the beginning of the story, both Pearl Chin and May Chin are living in Shanghai during the early 1900's. After their father loses their fortune through gambling, he arranges marriages for both Pearl and May, who were the only two things he had which were considered of worth. The two girls are supposed to go to Los Angeles to live their new lives, but disobey and stay and Shanghai. They soon regret their decisions as the Second Sino-Japanese War starts shortly after they decide to stay. Pearl and May along with their mother try to escape Shanghai and flee to Hong Kong, but their mother is unfortunately raped and killed during their travels. After recovering from these tragic events, the girls are able to get a ship to take them form Hong Kong to Angel Island. These tragic events help move along the plot as they transition from their life in China to their new life in America. There new lives in America are not as great as they believed they would be. Faced with constant discrimination and their small home in Chinatown, they learn how hard it s to be a Chinese immigrant in America towards the end of the Great Depression. These events, however, help the development of the story, along with characterization. The story takes place over the course of around 20 years, so not only do we learn about Pearl and May, we grow up with them, watching them go from teenagers to mature, grown women. As they grow and develop, the hardships they face (such as Pearls stillborn, the eviction of their family, the death of Sam, etc.) help move along the plot. Also, we are able to witness Joy grow up, facing these hardships with her aunt and mother, but never knowing that May was her real mother. All of these events help contribute to the plot development of Shanghai Girls.

Interview with Lisa See

Shanghai Girls inteview with New York Times Bestselling author Lisa See


Shanghai Girls is able to distinguish itself from other books through its unique plot development and wonderful story. The book is filled with rich characters and a compelling history. Lisa See does a great job at characterizing the strong relationship between Pearl and May. There was not as much imagery through the book, and there were many opportunities where the author could have painted a great picture for the reader. But the author was able to make up for this by a compelling plot that engaged the reader and kept you turning the pages. The two sisters faced so many ups and downs that it was hard to stop reading because you never knew what to expect next. It was to the point where you would be reading the book and you would have to ask yourself "what else could go wrong?" and just like that, something would indeed go wrong. A book like this might not sound interesting to some people, but I would definitely recommend this book if you're looking for a good book to enjoy. The book ends with an intense cliffhanger, and there is a sequel to the book titled Dreams of Joy, which continues the story of the two sisters. Even though I have not read that book yet myself, if you do decide to read Shanghai Girls, I recommend you the sequel as well. All in all, I am going to PRAISE Shanghai Girls.