In a Bronze Mirror: Eileen Chang’s Life and Literature

Motherhood and Marriage

When Eileen Chang was a little girl, her mother left for Europe in seek of personal liberation. Chang’s sense of loss over her mother’s departure grew increasingly intense after her father married a second wife. Chang would come to express the complicated relationships between mothers, stepmothers, and daughters in her writings. In her 1963 screenplay Father Takes a Bride (小兒女), Chang considers multiple aspects of motherhood. In the story, Wang Hongshen's wife passes away, leaving behind a daughter and two small sons. The three children, witnessing their neighbor suffering under a stepmother, initially resist accepting their father’s new lover, Ms. Li. However, unlike the neighbor’s stepmother, Ms. Li proves extremely kind, and her considerate nature and helpful actions emotionally move Wang’s sons. Ultimately, all three children welcome Ms. Li into their family. Before penning this resolution, Chang incorporated her perspectives on marital strife in the 1947 screenplay Long Live the Missus (太太萬歲). Long Live the Missus, both a melodrama and screwball comedy, depicts a modern woman in marital crisis. Born into a relatively privileged family, Chen Sizhen marries a bank employee. Well intentioned, Chen often tells white lies to please and help everyone in her family, including her mediocre yet ambitious husband, over-demanding mother-in-law, and greedy father. Her overly pleasing gestures turn counter-productive and lead to satirical events that harm her marriage. Although the couple finally reconciles, Chen bittersweetly questions her own happiness. Through these screenplays, Chang partially fulfills her longstanding yearning for a harmonious family, while continuing to project ambivalent feelings towards marriage and motherhood.

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