Much of the actions and the decisions made in the book are based on looking forward into the future. The four mothers immigrate to America in a large part because they have a vision of their children having a better future in the U.S. than in China. The mothers hope that their daughters will be able to live happy, successful lives and still maintain their Chinese character. As their daughters get older, many of the mothers look forward into their daughters’ futures with concern; they see their daughters making the same mistakes they made, and hope to help their daughters avoid these pitfalls. On the daughters’ side, many look forward into their own futures with apprehension about life decisions that need to be made. Often it is not until they learn a key piece of wisdom from their mother that they can have a vision of their future which is more hopeful.
Only after each of the daughters learns a key piece of wisdom from her mother can she imagine a positive future for herself.