Perceived Fate

Kaleaf James

The story of A Girl like Me is an excellent representation of how people can perceive reality to protect themselves from failure. More specifically it is the story of one woman who cannot remove her own existence from that of her aunt's. Through the story it becomes clear that she expects herself to end up unloved in life and by expecting this fate she ultimately dooms herself to this so called fate.

The main character's Aunt Yifen chose her to follow in her footsteps as a make-up artist for the dead because she was not fearful of interacting with corpses. Over the years, much like her aunt, she has been unable to keep friendships together as people fear what they don't understand and what they don't understand is her work. She sees her aunt lose relationships because of her work and connects herself to her aunt as if she were just an extension of her aunt's being. She goes as far as to foretell the outcome of her relationship with her boyfriend Xia.

The main story in her narrative is her finally introducing her actual job to an unsuspecting boyfriend, much like her aunt had done long before. In her aunt's experience the man ran out and never returned and she believes the same must happen to her as well. The message in the story becomes clear when she refuses to do the makeup of a young couple that committed suicide because she is disgusted that they would give in to fate and try to escape by killing themselves rather than fight a perceived fate. At this point she is no longer a character that can be sympathized with but rather a hypocritical thinker that condemns succeeding to fate in her words but has already given into what she perceives is her destiny, to be alone.

Her earlier comments in the story only discredit her more as a rational thinker when she stated she never even should have began seeing her boyfriend. She continues to blame her career for her failures even condemning herself to the job, claiming she couldn't imagine doing the makeup of the living after years of doing it on dead bodies. While on one hand she speaks very rationally about how people should not allow fate to control their lives and speaks of how courage can get you through life, she cowers at the idea of breaking away from her resignation to loneliness. She refuses to allow herself to be happy in life by continuously creating excuses that trap her as a person who will always be alone.

In the end we do not learn how the boyfriend reacts, as it really is not important. The message in the story is made clear through this hypocritical character who defines the word through self damnation. Seeing her continuously contradict the points she stands so firmly behind and then try to rationalize why these contradictions are valid. The constant rationalization is reminiscent of Ah Q in how he perceives reality to be more fitting to what he desires. In this way our main character rationalizes her inaction as fate trapping her in loneliness.

A Morbid Tale of Hope and Hopelessness

Nick Robison

The main character in "A Girl Like Me" is full of contradictions and constantly says one thing and acts almost completely the opposite. Her profession is not an easy task. Her life as a mortician not only requires her to work among the dead, but with her occupation comes the fate of sacrificing her social life. Thus appears to be the problem of almost any working woman in China at that time. Men like the idea of having a woman at home waiting for him when he returns from work. The idea of an independent woman would be a turn off, especially if that woman is making more money than the man. Thus, the main character is set in this disposition in which she has already predicted the worst outcome for her relationship with Xia. Her fears are mainly fueled by the haunting tale of her aunt, who taught her the trade of doing make up for the dead, being left by her lover even after he had declared that he loved her and that he would never leave her. Although she has the right to be a little worried, it still gives her no justification to convince herself that there is no way to work out their relationship.

Ironically, very much like the couple she had chastised for committing suicide, she has also accepted a fate that, unlike the fated couple, has very much a chance at working out. It is this character's "sinking" mentality that does not allow her to achieve anything she wanted from creating the perfect sleeping beauty to maintaining a relationship with Xia. It appears that she has gotten used to having no social life except with those of the dead. This mentality is self destructive and it appears that she wants it to be like that. Maybe it is because the dead do not talk back and there is no risk of fights or other confrontations that leads her to act this way. One thing for certain is that there cannot be a happy ending in this story if she keeps on acting the way she is now. Maybe she will realize how foolish she is acting when Xia, although a little surprised, will show her that he doesn't care about what she does for a living, but only cares about her personality.

Over the months, this class has read many stories telling tales from a man that is convinced that everyone wants to eat him to a man who loses everything in his life including most of his family. These stories constantly remind us of the struggles that the average person had to go through in China. The reason why all these stories never seem to have a happy ending is because in China back then, not many were capable of living their life the way they wanted to. Arranged marriages separated people in love, families torn apart through death, people executed for no good reason, all these are reasons why there are no happy endings in these stories. This story is abnormal from the rest. There is no ending and thus the reader is left to fill in the blanks that the author has left for the reader. It is predictable what will happen in the end: the relationship will fail after Xia finally sees what she does. Although it seems likely that this will happen, the author shows hope for the main character by not telling the reader what happens. Thus, it is still possible that Xia will not be fazed by her profession and they will stay together. This author has hope for a better China and so should the rest of us.

Make-Up and . . .

Izabella Redzisz

Xi Xi's short story A Girl Like Me is, at its root, not really a story about a young woman with a strange job, but rather it examines the complex situations she has found herself in, as well as her psyche in general. While on the surface it may seem as though A Girl Like Me is simply the telling of one's life, it goes much deeper than that, coming to exam issues of great complexity and severity, ranging from friendship, to love, to one's own self-reflection, perception, and happiness.

Initially, a reader of A Girl Like Me is led to believe that the story is about a young girl who works putting make-up on dead people, and preparing them for funeral services and burial. However, the main character's profession as a mortician of sorts is really a segway into and metaphor for discussing much greater issues. While the main character spends her days making-up the dead, she herself has a bare face, which could imply both that she is simply pure and in a way untouched, or, at the same time, that she is so jaded and numbed by her profession that she can't even manage to put such effort into herself. A very import thing to understand, however, is that the main character does not dislike her profession. She appreciates the fact that she can support herself, and also feels as though she could never obtain another job of equal importance, value, and fulfillment.

Though profession specific to the text is an important component of the story, the idea and discussion of fate is just as, if not more, prominent. There is an interesting contradiction in the main character, in that she scolds others for simply accepting their fate, yet practically lies down in the path for hers, believing herself to be completely fearless. Is it really fearlessness that can define her, or is she simply too afraid to take control of her own life, a dilemma which eventually turns into indifference? Though the main character's profession keeps her from having a life and close relationships, she states that she "became content with things the way they were, and got used to [her] loneliness. There are always so many people looking for nice cushy jobs, wanting everything to be all roses and stardust. How can anyone test his strength and show his confidence when cushioned by star clouds and rose petals?" Though this woman makes a convincing argument for her job, one has to wonder whether that is all there is to it, or whether she is using the excuse of her career to avoid getting really close to anyone, perhaps out of fear. If she really felt so strongly about Xia, I would imagine that she would do much more to keep him close to her. It seems as though she is living her life based on the misfortune of her Aunt Yifen. While it is arguable that she has learned from her aunt's "mistakes," in the realm of her love life, in my opinion she is being nothing but cowardly, choosing to forfeit her life, supposedly in the name of her profession, though that is not inarguably necessary. Is the main character of A Girl Like Me a modest and noble hero of sorts, sacrificing herself for the good of her friends and those she invests such care in after they're gone? Or is she simply a scared individual with what appears to be little experience with much of what life has to offer, choosing to hide behind her job rather than taking the initiative and really living life to the fullest?

Beauty after Death

Haley Jung

It all started when Xia wanted to see where she worked. Would she mention the uniqueness of her job? Or test him to see if he truly loves her? Fate is a reoccurring theme in many of these stories we have read; whether to accept your fate or try to do something to change it for the better. The narrator in the story A Woman Like Me is faced with this problem. Her odd job of applying make-up to the deceased often scares away some of her closest friends. They fear she is tainted now that she has touched the dead. Her Aunt Yifen taught her this job because she, unlike many others was not afraid to do this work. Though this job may have many disadvantages, she is good at what she does and enjoys doing it. She understands how this job can alter her life dramatically by looking at the life of her Aunt Yifen as a model for her. Her Aunt had someone who loved her very much and was willing to go to the end of the world for her, but once he found out her occupation, he left her without saying a word.

Though the main character was well aware of what may happen, she was involved with a man by the name of Xia – he too loved her very much. The day he was going to see where she worked was a long day of reflection for her. Did she need a man in her life to be happy? Or were her "friends" at her work place enough for her. She was happy being independent but was longing for someone to talk back to her.

The story ends ironically with her seeing Xia walk up to her with a bouquet of flowers, smiling. All she could think of was how in her line of work, flowers were a last good bye. In a way she was just setting her self up for disappointment, she could have told him what she did instead of leading him to believe today he was going to be surrounded by happy beautiful brides full of life and love, all he was in for was death and silence. She seemed like she knew he was going to leave her after he saw her office, but didn't do anything about it, using fate as her excuse for him leaving her.

She comments on two corpses who were young and died for love, they looked peaceful and happy, yet she was sad for them – for they had succumbed to their fate. Even though she was in the same boat and she too sooner or later will succumb to her fate because she is doing nothing but accepting it. She seemed like she was always sad and had no real emotions. She always dwelled upon the fact that her job will never find her friendship or love, but still doing nothing about it but sulking. I feel she could have done something about this, either find a new job, or be more upfront will people from the beginning. If she would tell people in the beginning the shock would be far less than if she just took them to her work place.

We are left confused, not knowing what happens to her and Xia in the end. Does he truly love her and stay with her despite her work? Or does he too, run like her Aunt's "true love"? The whole story is built up on what happens between them, and we are left to guess. We can assume from the flower metaphor that he too says his final good bye to her. She needed to take her own words into action and not succumb to her own fate of being alone like her Aunt Yifen.

The Passion for The Dead

Lucy Zhang

A passion for something is an attribute that everyone obtains at some point in their lives. The passion to play an instrument, to be a surgeon, to practice law, is running through all things that people enjoy doing. People are interested in a wide variety of things ranging from sending flowers to loved ones to applying make up on dead corpses. In every passion for something, there is a certain beauty that appeals to the practitioner and, according to the particular story A Girl Like Me, the main character happens to have that special passion for making over the dead. She has a great talent as well as interest in doing it and she is willing to give up anything for the one thing that she enjoys doing. Her boyfriend, Xia, as not yet aware of where she works and is very eager to see her in action due to the fact that he misunderstood her for working in a bridal shop. Due to her extreme passion for her line of work, she is not afraid of her boyfriend finding out about her work. She chooses her passion for something that she enjoys doing over her love, or boyfriend.

Making the dead look alive and beautiful is what the main character of this story is most passionate about. It was a gift that her aunt Yifen passed down to her because she was worthy of it and was not afraid of the process involving the dead corpses. It was in a way a privilege for her to become the next practitioner in line for this job, due to the fact that her aunt picked her to carry out the practice. She enjoys being in the mortuary and creating "sleeping beauty" corpses. She has made the mortuary a place of her own and a place of intense relaxation; it is a paradise for her. She feels calm, collected and content when she is making over the dead.

Her drive and her passion for her job has secluded her from the outside world as well. She does not lead an exciting or an eventful life. Her life is simple, unordinary, and strangely calm. Regardless of the negative aspects of her life, she treasures her life and understands its purpose. She is doing what she loves and what she has a passion for. Nothing can keep her from continuing her interest, not even love. She is an independent woman who has accepted her fate. Love cannot keep her from giving up her life and Xia, her boyfriend, will eventually find out that her job is not at all what he has imagined it to be. He would see the cold mortuary, the dead bodies and smell the formaldehyde. The main character knows that he may either leave her with fear, or accept her for what she is and disregard her unnatural job. Whichever path he chooses, she would accept it with full understanding and continue to do what she loves to do. Her fate is to be what her aunt was and she has completely accepted it. She could live without love and she could wait for the right person to come that would actually understand her and accept her for who she is and what she does. Her independence correlates with her drive and passion for her work. The passion that she has for making up the dead has taken over her existence and it is all that she knows. It is only with the dead that she can be at peace. It is there where she can concentrate and find serenity in life. Passion is what she is full of and without it there would be no independence, determination, acceptance of fate, and dedication. Passion is what drives us to accomplish in life.

It is Power That Makes One Completely Fearless

Elizabeth Bowker

In A Girl like Me Written by Xi Xi the narrator felt that she was doomed by her fate. The narrator, who was a make up artist on the deceased claimed that her job leads her to have no romantic relationships or friends. She admits to the reader that she has accepted her fate and has always adjusted her life accordingly. Truth and fear are the major themes in this story. The narrator struggles with both truth and fear while accepting the path that her ancestors have chosen for her.

Struggling with one's fate is the theme of A Girl Like Me. Examples include the story about her brother who committed suicide, and her fate to be without a boyfriend. In terms of the narrator's own faith, she is battling with the importance of love and the importance of her duties and dedication to her job. The narrator's aunt took her under her wings and ensured that the narrator would always be able to support herself instead of holding the title of a man's wife. The skills that the narrator's aunt has taught her and the job that she currently holds of working with dead people create a life outside the cultural norm for women. Although the narrator seems to be content with her lifestyle, the social pressure of finding a handsome man as her mate weighs on her and causes her to question her own worth. Some readers may understand A Girl Like Me as a story about the relationship between the narrator and Xia, but I gather that this story is actually a tale between two women, the narrator and her aunt.

The narrator realizes that Xia will not always be there, while her job always will be. She has a special understanding and relationship with death due to her job. Being surrounded by death constantly is a constant reminder that people do in fact die and that we are not immortal. While Xia will die, as she will some day, her skills and the ability to pass it on to others will never die. The immortality of her job and her blood and her ancestor will live forever. The narrator decides to make love a second priority or not even a priority at all. The blood and strength that has been carried with her mother and her aunt, seems to be her faith.

This dichotomy of the need to love and the desire for independence many women experience in the United States also characterizes the situation of the narrator in this Chinese story. Women are often taught to not strive to be professionals or have a high paying job in order not to scare off or intimidate their male suitors. Many men in our society are scared or turned off by women in powerful positions or those who earn a high salary, just as the narrator feels that Xia will be scared of her occupation. The American society views women as successful and happy if they have a handsome husband and a nice home. It seems as if our society puts not emphasis on the importance on skills, education and employment for women. It puts a woman's relationship with a man as the most important aspect of woman's life, whereas with men it places importance on many other functions such as work, economic position and relationships with other men. Many may understand the story of A Girl Like Me to be a depressing story about a woman who cannot escape her fate and exchanges human relationships for companionship of the dead. However to me it is a story of pride and respect for one's self and one's family members; it is a story about not giving up everything just to fit in social expectations and standards of happiness. The narrator holds a position as a strong hero rather than a pathetic doomed woman running away from love.