Study Guide

Dragonwings Plot Analysis

By Laurence Yep

Plot Analysis

Initial Situation

Windrider shares his dragon dream with Moon Shadow his first night in America.

Though the story significantly begins with Moon Shadow in the Middle Kingdom, it is not until Windrider shares his destiny as a dragon with his son that the story of Dragonwings really starts to roll. With the dream transmission, we see a common purpose that unites father and son and that places a wedge between them and the rest of the Company. It is the dream of building a flying machine that fuels the Lees' relationships with Mr. Alger, Miss Whitlaw, Robin, and eventually the Company.


The Lees must leave the Tang people's village after they fight Black Dog and kill a man.

Dragonwings is largely a story about moving from one place to another. After Windrider kills a man in self-defense, he and Moon Shadow must leave the Tang people's village to avoid revenge from the dead man's family. This move away from the Company, however, frees Windrider to work toward his dream of flight away from Uncle's judgment. We also structurally understand Black Dog to be an antagonist in this story since he lives with disregard to his kinsmen. This move to Miss Whitlaw's stable forges the friendship between the Lees and the Whitlaws.


The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 strikes. The City falls apart.

The Lees, and everyone in San Francisco, are forced to relocate when the natural disaster erupts. The somewhat comfortable routine they had going on at the stable, what with the Whitlaws so close for companionship, changes as they must consider where to relocate and where money will allow. The disaster brings out the good and the bad in people, once more complicating ideas of who you can and cannot trust. The earthquake presents the Lees with another opportunity to prove their loyalty to Uncle and the Company. But, as we will see, it's not one they take.


Windrider insists on pursuing his flying dream despite Uncle's disapproval. Moon Shadow goes with his father.

Just when it looked like the Lees were going to bunk with the Company again and all peace would break out between Windrider and Uncle Bright Star, Windrider makes a bid for his destiny as a dragon and decides to act for himself. Uncle Bright Star is totally peeved by this. Moon Shadow supports his father and accompanies him for one more move, this time to the odoriferous barn in the Oakland foothills.


Just as Dragonwings is ready, Black Dog takes Windrider and Moon Shadow's savings.

Black Dog once more proves himself to be a villain, nearly killing Moon Shadow in order to steal the Lees' savings for Dragonwings and rent. Just when it looked like Windrider was going to achieve his goal of flying in a machine, Black Dog dashes their chances by robbing them of the money to pull Dragonwings out of the barn and up on the hill.


The Company and the Whitlaws help Windrider fly.

But just when Windrider and Moon Shadow sound like they had just gotten kicked off of So You Think You Can Dance, the Company pulls through for them. Their surprise appearance comes not only with their physical help to push Dragonwings up the hill but also their financial support in paying rent and loaning Windrider money for partnership in the Company. And the flying dream wouldn't be completely right without Miss Whitlaw and Robin there.


The Lees live with the Company, Mother is on her way, and Moon Shadow maintains strong contact with the Whitlaws. (Chapter 12)

The Lees' sense of home is finally looking to stabilize, what with lodgings with the Company, the promise of Mother to be near, and frequent visits with the Whitlaws. All this, and the dream of family did not stop Windrider from flying.