Edexcel English IGCSE: Chinese Cinderella

by Adeline Yen Mah

Q2. How does the writer bring out the thoughts and emotions of Adeline in the passage from Chinese Cinderella?

In your answer, consider:

  • Adeline’s feelings towards school and education;
  • her relationship with her father;
  • the progression of Adeline’s emotions throughout the passage;
  • the use of language.

You should refer closely to the passage to support your answer. You may use brief quotations.

Chinese Cinderella Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

In this passage, Adeline experiences a drastic progression of emotions, including dread, fear, suspicion and finally all-encompassing joy.

While Adeline is at school, she experiences dread and fear about returning home. She describes the thought of leaving school with the simile of “a persistent toothache”, suggesting that the dread is like a strong physical pain which cannot be ignored. This dread turns into fear when she is told she has to return home early. Another simile captures her emotions here: she runs “as in a nightmare”, showing her discomfort and terror. She thinks first that somebody has died, and then that she has done something wrong; these thoughts reveal her cold relationship with her family, since she assumes that they would only contact her in negative circumstances. This fear continues when she arrives at her house. She is “overwhelmed” by the idea of going into her father’s room for the first time, suggesting a wave of emotion. She knocks on the door “timidly”, showing that she is fearful of her father.

She is very briefly relieved by her father’s happy appearance, but this relief quickly turns into suspicion. After the tense build-up of dread and fear, Adeline’s relief is captured with the non-threatening image of her father “looking relaxed in his slippers and bathrobe”.  However, this relief is quickly undermined by her suspicion. The long sentence beginning “I breathed a small sigh…” has few words and no punctuation between the emotional words “relief” and “uneasy”, reflecting the speed of her emotional progression. She suspects that her father might be tricking her: repeated questions about his intentions show her confusion and inability to relax in his presence.

When it is revealed that her father is genuinely pleased with her, Adeline is extremely joyful; her joy intensifies when she realises that she will be able to study at university in England. After reading the newspaper article about the writing competition, the series of short questions create a sense of breathless disbelief about her achievement. The question, “Am I dreaming?” provides a direct contrast with the “nightmare” she was experiencing earlier in the passage. She describes her joy with hyperbolic metaphors: for example, “I only had to stretch out my hand to reach the stars”. This metaphor also suggests that she has an ambition which is now within her reach. This ambition is to study in England, which she describes with another hyperbolic metaphor as “heaven”, showing the intensity of her desire to go there.

When her father agrees to allow her to study in England, Adeline experiences even greater joy. Although she has to compromise on which subject to study,  she does not care, which shows that her priority is just to leave China and continue her education.

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