Study Guide

Mother in In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

By Bette Bao Lord

Mother

Mama Bear

Mama Wong is one fierce, well, mama. She is a bit of a worry wart about the small things—"everyday things like the tiniest cockroach or a gentle tap on the back made her shriek" (2.3)—and she frets about having screwed up the tickets to America from San Francisco, even though she definitely got it right and Shirley reassures her. So Mama is also a bit of a worry wart about the big things.

But her mom isn't a scaredy cat when it comes down to it. Not by a long shot. As Shirley says, "It was so like Mother to tame a den of tigers and then jump at the sound of a kitten's meow" (2.16). During World War II, when people were bombing areas near China, her mother was the only one who kept calm, soothing the household and helping Precious Coins' mom give birth (2.3). In other words, when it counts, Mama's as clear-headed and steadfast as they come.

Tradition

Mrs. Wong is big on customs, too. When Shirley goes to school, her mom insists that they follow the American way and attend fifth grade, even though she only completed three grades at home in China (3.11). On the flip side, though, her mom urges Shirley to "never forget China or lose her Chinese" (7.7) and also tells her to "be extra good" (3.13) because all Chinese people's reputations rest on her. Mrs. Wong, then, both tries to keep her daughter true to her past, while also doing her best to help her embrace her future in America. Nice.

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