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Edexcel English IGCSE: Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

In the passage from Chinese Cinderella, how does the writer portray the relationship between Adeline and her family?

In your answer, you should consider:

  • Adeline’s attitude towards her home;
  • Adeline’s relationship with her father;
  • the use of language.

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

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

Adeline clearly has a troublesome relationship with her family. She is frightened of going home, and has a particularly complex relationship with her father.

Early in the passage, the reader learns that Adeline does not want to return home from school. The repeated time phrases in the opening paragraphs, such as “eight weeks more” and “the end of term”, show her awareness of the passing of time, even months before she has to return home. A simile compares the thought of going home with “a persistent toothache”, suggesting that this worry is so intense that it feels like a physical pain. When she is told that she must return home then, she is open about her emotions of fear: she is full of “foreboding” and “dread”. This reveals that Adeline wants to stay at school not just because she loves to learn, but because there is something sinister about her home life.

Although the only family member described in detail in this passage is Adeline’s father, the reader receives clues about Adeline’s relationship with the rest of her family. The fact that she assumes that somebody has died when she is being taken home suggests that they only contact her when there is bad news. Furthermore, she does not recognise the house she is taken to, rendering the chauffeur’s comment, “This is your new home,” ironic, since there is nothing ‘homely’ about it for Adeline. The house is described as “quiet and cool”, which reflects the family’s attitudes towards Adeline. Nobody has come to greet her, even though they are just engaging in leisure activities such as “playing bridge” and “sunbathing”; there is a distinct lack of family warmth in this household.

Adeline has a complex relationship with her dominating father. She has never been to his room before, and describes it metaphorically as “the Holy of Holies”, giving it mystical and religious status. This shows that she finds her father mysterious and intimidating. The repeated use of questions throughout Adeline’s interaction with her father show her mixed feelings of confusion, fear and suspicion that he is being nice to her; this is clear evidence that he is not usually friendly towards her. Even though he is happy with her for winning the writing competition, her father still reveals his dominating and cruel character. He “scoffed” at her ambition of being a writer, and rejects her dream with cruel questions, encouraging her to doubt her own abilities. He is also dominating in his plan for her future, repeating the phrase “you will”, showing that his plan is not negotiable.

Although her father is intimidating and cruel, Adeline is overjoyed by his permission to allow her to escape her disinterested family by studying in England.

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