Emily of emerald hill play.v2


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Emily of emerald hill play.v2

  1. 1. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 1 Emily of Emerald Hill – ANNOTATED FOR REVISION FOR EXAMINATIONS PAGE 2 of Textbook There is only one character, Emily. She wears the sarong kebaya of a modern Nonya; jade bangle, brooches and ear studs, her hair in a bun. When the play opens she is in her mid-thirties, but during the play she will move back and forward through time and through a range of milieux – “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale for infinite variety.” The play opens in 1950. One set is used throughout the play. It suggests a Baba mansion built at the turn of the century; with plastered walls, covered to a height of one metre with ornamental tiles, interrupted perhaps by Grecian columns or marble statues. On the walls towards stage right hang group photographs of a large family, and portraits of the patriarch and matriarch; also a large oil-painting of Emily as a young bride, in full traditional costume. Near stage centre is a large chair of rosewood, inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Beside it is a similar occasional table on which stands a telephone. Two wheeled trolleys stand in the wings until needed. There is an “auxiliary acting area’ – a side stage, or merely the area in front of the curtains. Emily is a “modern Nonya” - What does “modern” mean here? Emily is educated. She probably has an open mind  She is open-minded about things. Emily is in her mid-thirties  she is probably a woman who has a lot of life experiences to share with us. She must have gone through quite a fair bit of ups and downs. In the play, Emily travels forwards and backwards as if time did not matter. Milieu = your surroundings and how it affects and influences you. What does this quotation mean when it is used on Emily: “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale for infinite variety.” It seems to suggest that Emily seems ageless and quite affected by the passing of time. The people around her may come and go but she will always be there. She will always be a refreshing character unfazed by how other people expect her to behave. Emily is forever young. Her energy does not go away. PAGE 3 of Textbook Act One Main stage dark. Spotlight on phone beside large chair. Emily enters, picks up phone and dials. Susie ah! Emily here ah. This afternoon I’m going to town, anything that you’re needing? I’ve got the chicken you wanted from market; and I saw some good jackfruit, your children love it, so I bought one big one for you. What else you need? Ah, school uniforms for your two girls; I’ll buy the material. I will take the sizes tailor down the road…Ah Susie! Yesterday I went to Whiteaways to buy shirts for Richard to take to England, so I bought half-dozen for Freddy also: even though he’s not going to England How is Emily’s character revealed to us? Who is Susie? The Gan Family’s first daughter-in-law. Emily’s main rival in the Gan family when she takes over from Emily as her mother-in-law’s favourite. What kind of tone does Emily use on Susie when she speaks to her on the telephone? Emily seems to be very familiar with Susie. She uses the emphatic “ah” to address Susie and to call out to Susie that she is calling her. Emily and Susie are so familiar with each other that Emily appears to be rattling on the telephone without pausing or having to think too much before talking. The content here is also rather personal and it is familiar topic between Susie and Emily. Susie and Emily are so familiar with This portion of the play is called the STAGE DIRECTIONS. Here the playwright introduces to you in some details what you can expect EMILY is going to be like. At the same time, the playwright also suggests how we should consider the play is being staged on the theatre stage. The SETTING is a suggested one. We have to use our imagination to move along with the play as it progresses.
  2. 2. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 2 he can still wear them around town…Ya-lah, I’ve got a lot to do, interviewing new servant, preparing for Richard’s party. I see you, ya. PAGE 4 of Textbook Rings off, dials again – speaks in an upper-class educated voice, in amazing contrast to her previous manner. Hello, Adelphi Hotel? Good morning – may I be connected to the patisserie (a bakery-cum-cake shop) please? Thank you…Good morning, this is Mrs. Gan Joo Kheong speaking. I’ve ordered a birthday cake from you, for tomorrow; may I enquire when it will be ready for collection? Yes, the message on it is “Richard – many happy returns of the day.” And twenty candles. Thank you, then I’ll come in to collect it tomorrow morning. Yes, thank you very much. She rings off, dials again. This time her voice is warm, friendly and relaxed. Hello, Bee Choo? Emily here. Just want to remind you, don’t forget dinner tomorrow night, Richard’s birthday. Ya-lah, the boy so big now, grown-up already, going to England next month. I asked him whether he’s happy to go, you know what he said? “Mummy, to go to England happy also – but to leave my home very sad lah!” Yah, rascal-lah dia. All right, give my regards to your mother eh, hope she’ll be better soon… I see you eh Bee Choo? Bye-bye. She hangs up the phone. She calls: Richard! Richard, come let Mother talk to you something. Emily’s son, Richard enters; but all characters except Emily are unseen, and known to us only through her mime. PAGE 5 of Textbook Hullo boy-boy, did you sleep well? Ah, big strong sonny, tomorrow going to be twenty years old, eh? She laughs as Richard flatters her. Ya, “strong son, beautiful mother,” indeed… Eh, this afternoon I want you to come out with me in the car. I’m making five woollen suits for you at Chotirmall’s, I’m taking you down for fittings. What do you mean not free this afternoon? Riding, I know you’re riding, I know you’re riding. You go up to the polo ground at five o’clock only. I bring you back here in time to change and get ready. I know all your plans when I make my arrangements. Eh, you want new riding boots, is it? True lah, it’s cheaper to make them here and take them to England. We’ll go to the boot-makers this afternoon, you can choose your leather and show them your pattern. each other that they are able to converse with each other in casual English in clear local flavour. What happens here? When Emily calls up the patisserie at the hotel, she speaks in English too but this time round, she speaks “in an upper-class educated voice”. Why does Emily use the “upper-class educated” English? Reasons – 1. She is talking to an outsider who is a stranger. 2. She is a customer. She wants to reflect her status to the person who receives her call at the patisserie. 3. She wants to be respected as an important customer. 4. It is simply good manners. What can we then say about her way of speaking with Bee Choo? We are informed by the playwright’s stage direction that when talking to Bee Choo, Emily’s voice is “warm, friendly and relaxed”. So Emily has a close friend, Bee Choo. What is mime? Emily is alone on the stage. From her actions, we know that she is speaking to Richard face-to-face. Chotimall – Emily’s favourite tailorshop. What is the relationship like between Emily and Richard? Emily is a doting mother? True or False Emily is a caring mother? True or False Emily manages her dollars and cents well? True or False Does Emily let Richard have a lot of freedom? What do you think Emily is doing here? Do you find this familiar? Emily wants Richard to obey her wishes. She wants Richard to know that she will be unhappy if Richard does not obey her or fail to live up to her expectations or wishes. Emily keeps a tight rein on Richard. Emily is constantly busy in her house. All actions seem to begin with her. She is the livewire.
  3. 3. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 3 Then we drop into the passport office; Aunty Rosalind’s husband who’s working there has got all your papers ready for you. Now the party tomorrow – how many friends have you invited? Tell me who, Kok Beng, Peter, Joe… No, Richard, you don’t invite that Chong Soo Boey, samseng itu, he’ll get into trouble one of these days… You don’t be friendly with boys like that. I have told you before that I don’t like you to mix with him. Richard you must not pretend that you don’t care what I say. All I want is for you to be a good boy and make me proud of you. If you mix with bad company I will feel very worried about you. Maybe that boy is not bad, but your mother is not happy, Richard. Better you don’t invite him to your party. PAGE 6 of Textbook That’s my good boy sayang sayang. You don’t worry about your friend. After all in six weeks you will have gone to England and you will lose touch with him anyway, you both won’t remember each other. All right now. You get ready after lunch to go out with me. Emily watches Richard go. She calls to the servant, off- stage: Ah Hoon! Tell the driver, go and fetch the new servant to come to the house! Stage lights go up slowly to show the set. Emily raises her eyes and for the first time addresses the audience directly. This is Emerald Hill: this old mansion in a big compound, just off Orchard Road. My husband’s father, Mr. Gan Eng Swee, built it in 1902. In 1929, I came to the house as a bride of just fourteen years old; and since then I’ve lived here with Kheong (my husband) and our children, and Kheong’s parents, when they were alive. There are six adults in the house at present, Kheong and me, two of his brothers and my two sisters-in-law, Mabel and Molly. I have Richard, Charles, Edward and Doris; Mabel and Molly have six children between them. And the servants – well I need two in the kitchen, two to wash and clean the house, and then there are the various baby amahs. And there’s the driver living in the quarters at the back with his family, and the gardener and his family too. What do you think, full house or not? I tell you, looking after all of them, no joke lah! PAGE 7 of Textbook Before the War the house was really crowded. Then during the Occupation we had to leave Emerald Hill and go to our sea-side bungalow in Siglap. When we came back, amboi (wow), what a mess the place was in, really sakit hati (upsetting) … Ever since then I’ve been clearing up and putting it straight. Now, 1950, I can say that the Don’t forget this is a FLASHBACK. The dramatist is showing us a scene of the past, as though, it is the present. The point however is to show us the kind of attention to details which Emily does things – which can have both GOOD and BAD outcomes. Here she is seen telling her eldest son, Richard, who it is to invite to his birthday party and who it is not to be. Richard is not a child, but a young man about to celebrate his twentieth birthday. Still, Emily speaks to him as though he were a child. Emily may win by getting Richard to do things her way but Richard will not grow and develop healthily. Richard is not given any opportunity at all to feel, think or do things the way he wants to. EMILY SPEAKS TO US FOR THE FIRST TIME. In 1929, Emily was 14 years old. By 1950, Emily was already 35 -36 years old. Status symbols – “old mansion” “big compound” “Orchard Road” It was common in those days for girls to be married off when they were in their early teens. Traditional extended family. Emily + Gan Joo Kheong = Richard (eldest son) = Charles (second son) = Edward (third son) = Doris (fourth daughter) Emily is a very capable daughter-in-law. The Gan family is really rather well-to-do. During the war, the Japanese Occupation Army probably took over control of important areas in the city area. Remember: Emerald Hill is located in the Orchard Road area, very near to the government and business districts. Either the Gans were being evacuated by the Japanese or they moved away to avoid the Japanese on their own accord. Maybe this comment by Emily is useful for us to understand why the setting of the play is set in 1950. Emily is the matriarch who is responsible for returning the family mansion to its former glory.
  4. 4. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 4 place is back to its former glory. In the dining-room, I’ve hung up again our big glass chandelier, which I wrapped up and stored away before the War. The marble floors have been polished shining again; the balustrades on the wide staircase, that the Japs broke, I’ve found a craftsman to carve them in the same, twining vine-leaf pattern, as they were originally done in the good old days. At every tall window I’ve repaired the hinged wooden louvers, and hung up long curtains of printed English cotton. All the big, airy bedrooms have been replastered and painted; over each bed there’s a white mosquito net like a tent, and from the high ceiling hangs a modern electric fan that goes round and round to cool the air. And you know what else I’ve done – I’ve built two new bathrooms, upstairs, with shower and bath and bidet, and the taps and fittings in gold, and colour matching throughout – one in rose pink, one in sea green. So I keep myself busy, running the household, looking after all the family. PAGE 8 of Textbook Emily sits in the big chair and draws forward a sewing basket. She starts to take out her sewing things and put them on the side table; she stops doing this, to call the servant. Ah Hoon! Ah Hoon come! Where are you? She turns away from the sewing things to address the servant. Those new vests for Master Richard, put them in the sun to air. Get Master Edward’s scout uniform mended in time for his campfire tonight. The Third Mistress is playing bridge at eleven o’clock, tell the driver to bring the car round. Ask the Fourth Mistress’s baby amah to see me, the baby has prickly heat, she must use this powder. Is the new servant here? Emily rises and goes down left to meet new servant, speaks to her very kindly. So Ah Sim you want to work for me, I give you sixty dollars a month, and you have your day off once in two weeks. You work well for me and I will be very good to you, and surely we will get on very nicely together. You know how to wash clothes; you must put a lot of starch in the Big Master’s trousers, and all the children’s school uniforms. But don’t put a lot on my kebayas. Only just a little bit of starch on my kebayas, you do it the way I want. All right, you go with Ah Hoon now, she will show you around. Emily dismisses servant and speaks to audience. Why does she keep herself busy? Why does she do all the work by herself? 1. She is expected to – as a senior daughter-in-law. 2. Her husband spends little time with her. 3. Her nature – she likes to be busy. 4. She feels that it is her duty and responsibility to carry on with the family tradition. 5. She is also eternally gratefully to her father-in-law for taking her in as a teenage-bride. Third Mistress = Mabel (Emily’s sister-in-law) Fourth Mistress = Molly (Another of Emily’s sister-in-law) Emily keeps the family mansion running and takes care of its upkeeping. Emily is the new mistress of Emerald Hill. She is married to the family mansion. From the way she says it to the audience, we should be able to tell that her relationship with her husband, Gan Joo Kheong is not a loving one. A flashback = Emily brings us back to the past. Here you notice how Emily runs her household. Even if she does not actually do things on her own, she keeps clear instructions and specific orders to her servants on what to do to get things done the correct way in the mansion. We can tell from here that Emily has a meticulous touch in the things she does. The downside of this is that: if she does it so well with the non- living, she might think that she could do the same with the living. One by one, over the years, her relationship with her close ones begin to suffer because of Emily’s domineering personality. She expects her husband or her son, Richard to do as she wishes. These expectations bring about very unfortunate outcomes.
  5. 5. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 5 PAGE 9 of Textbook So I look after the whole household, and I am the Mistress of Emerald Hill, just as my husband’s mother used to be in the pre-war days. My goodness, when I first married, I was so scared of her! I had heard so many stories about wicked mothers-in-law. The stage lights are dimmed. There is a brighter area stage right, with small spots emphasizing the family portraits. Emily has put on a long pink baju (coat) in the style of the 1930s. She moves into that bright area and does a flashback to the past. Yes, I was frightened when I first came to Emerald Hill. The mother-in-law was not my only trouble. I was my husband’s second wife – his first wife died three years before – and the wives of the second and third brothers were aged eighteen and nineteen, not prepared to accept a young bride as the senior sister-in-law. I was an orphan from a poor family; I was a girl alone, coming to a house of women who hated me before they knew my name. Emily gazes at the wedding picture. My husband, Gan Joo Kheong, was the eldest son of Mr. Gan Eng Swee. He was twenty-eight years old and he had been previously married to a tin-miner’s daughter, who died without children. His father decided that Kheong must marry again; but this time he would marry a poor girl, who would be grateful, and humble, and not cause trouble in the house. Even better, instead of bringing in outside blood, he should marry a girl who was already related to the family…Mr. Gan remembered his niece, the daughter of his dead cousin Boon Swee, a girl with no one else to care for her. PAGE 10 of Textbook I can’t remember my mother much. She threw me away when I was small; she went a bit crazy when my father took a sing-song girl as his second wife. My father went bankrupt about that same time, but that didn’t make him change the way he lived… Admiringly He was a fine, jovial man, my father. He was a great sportsman; I remember when I was about nine he brought home a big silver cup from the Singapore Tennis Championship. In the evenings I used to run to him and cling to his big strong shoulder, and I’d smell his special smell of brandy and cigars. Then he’d say: “Sing for your supper, little lady!” and he would pick me up in his arms and put me right on top of the grand piano. And I would sing for him the way he taught me… Emily talks about her humble beginning. A 14-year-old Emily and a 28-year-old husband. We should understand that this was not a love match. It was an arranged marriage. To Gan Eng Swee, it was a marriage of convenience. Emily was chosen because she did not have any emotional baggage elsewhere. She is totally reliant on her husband and his family. So Emily is unlikely to be a difficult wife or daughter-in-law. Emily thinks fondly of her father even though his father did not seem to be a responsible husband or father. Emily’s father’s name is GAN BOON SWEE. Boon Swee is a cousin of Gan Eng Swee. Emily does not have any good memories of her mother. Although her father has a colourful past and has not be a faithful husband, Emily has a better memory of him. Emily tells us fondly about her father but not about her mother. She claims that her mother “couldn’t be bothered” with her. So although Emily was not exactly unloved or uncared for in her childhood, she was certainly deprived of familial warmth. She certainly does not have the opportunity to savour motherly love from her very own mother. Emily does not receive any motherly love from her own mother. Fortunately, because of her bubbly and energetic personality, she lived through her “motherless” experience. When she actually becomes a mother herself, she is seen as an “overprotective” parent
  6. 6. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 6 Emily sings in a childish little voice. By-and-by hard times come a-knocking at the door, Then my old Kentucky home, good night. Weep no more my lady, oh weep no more today We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home, For the old Kentucky home so far away. PAGE 11 of Textbook When my father died my mother couldn’t be bothered with me. I left school and I stayed with one relative or another. One day the auntie I was living with called me and said to me, “On Friday you are going to be married.” Mr. Gan sent people to dress me in the red bridal costume, and deck me out with jewellery and the heavy golden headdress, and teach me what to do. One of his houses was prepared for the marriage ceremony. And that Friday I was married! The celebrations went on for three days, then I moved into Emerald Hill. At first I had a lot of problems. Of course, I didn’t have a personal maid. At Emerald Hill, all the young Nonyas had their own servant to clean their rooms, look after their clothes, wait on them all the time. Not one of the sisters- in-law offered to let her servant help me. I asked Susie to let her servant wash my clothes. She said, “My servant got no time, got too much things to do!” I washed my clothes myself. Twelve o’clock at night, I borrowed the iron to iron them. My husband didn’t know. She quotes husband’s perfunctory [Joo Kheong is just merely checking to see if she is all right] enquiry: “Emily you’re all right ah?” She nods and smiles tightly in reply. So they tried to bully me but I didn’t cry: I never cried for myself. I went to visit my old school friend, Bee Choo; her mother was always very kind to me, and she found a servant for me. I told Bee Choo: “I don’t care for my sisters-in-law. The only one I want to worry about is my mother-in- law.” PAGE 12 of Textbook Emily draws the big chair forward. My mother-in-law used to spend her days playing cards with her friends. And when she did so, she liked to have one or other of her daughters-in-law standing behind her chair, to make her sireh and wait on her. (She was the real old-fashioned Nonya, spoke and wrote only in Malay, her teeth all black from chewing her sireh.) Before I came, Susie was the senior daughter-in-law, but she was so lazy: she would make excuse, my son is crying, got to run away. I said, “Oh Susie, you better go and look after your son. I’m so free lah, no children, I can help who takes charge of her children’s lives, as seen in her treatment of Richard. We sympathize with Emily because, this is probably her way of trying to make up to her children, the best way that she knows how to, for all the love that she did not receive from her mother previously. So, she “overcompensates” by taking care of her children because she loves them. Her motivation to give Richard the best she can give because she herself did not receive any such opportunities from her own mother. Her insecurity makes her “love” her children in a very “controlling manner”. She dictates to Richard, for example, what she thinks, are the “best” decisions. Richard is always a child to her, even at twenty-two years old. Emily seemed to have a “hard time” when she was a young bride at Emerald Hill. But she already shows us that she has a very strong personality. She recovers very quickly from her position of weakness to become the most important member and leader of the Gan household. Emily works very hard to please her mother-in-law. She does not scheme or plot to win the heart of her mother-in-law. The other sisters-in-law, particularly, Susie, are simply not good enough for the old lady. Suzie, according to Emily, is a rather irresponsible and lazy senior daughter-in-law. It is no wonder that Susie falls out of favour with her mother-in-law. Once Emily replaces Suzie, she replaces her forever. Emily is grateful to Bee Choo’s mother, because she is “always very kind to her”. Emily remains a loyal friend to Bee Choo for the rest of her life. – See ACT TWO. Emily plays her role of a daughter-in-law skillfully. She understands the needs and the demands of her mother-in-law. She understands her position in the home can only be maintained or empowered by her mother-in-law. At the same time, Emily also learns a lot from her and very fortunately, she comes to enjoy doing what her mother-in-law is doing at the Gan household. When the old lady passes away, Emily is more than ready to take over her role to be the matriarch.
  7. 7. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 7 Mother.” I stood behind the old lady. Emily stands behind the big chair and watches card game. “Neo, you want to drink tea ah? You want your sireh?” I made her sireh from her silver box and folded it and pounded it for her. “Ahyo Neo, cherki eh, tan chit eh?... Ah… Amboi! Mampus!... Ahyo, mak mau tombok kah? (Oh Mother you’ve lost. Shall I massage you?”) Emily stands behind mother and pummels her shoulders. Mother wins the next hand. Ah, ah, mata cherki! Chot! Chot! Ho-miah-la Neo. (“You won. Good luck.”) So my mother-in-law liked me a lot. When she went to town in the big Studebaker she took me with her - Susie again didn’t want to keep her company. One day she went to the bank to take out her diamonds for a party. And that day she happened to be in a good mood so she took her big ring and she asked me, “Mau- kah Emily?” PAGE 13 of Textbook Shows big diamond ring. So she gave me her ring; Susie naik jah-kee saja. (Susie hit the wall.) And then my son was born: Richard. He was the first son of the eldest son, and the grandparents were very happy. Of course, I had a baby amah to look after him; only, sometimes, I would carry him and rock him to sleep… Emily rocks the baby; she herself looks young and tense as she sings him to sleep. Go to sleep, my little piccaninny, Brer Fox will catch you if you don’t… I’s a little Alabama coon, I’s not been born very long. I remember seeing a great big moon I remember hearing one sweet song… Go to sleep, my little piccaninny, Brer Fox will catch you if you don’t… Lights up. During next speech Emily takes off pink coat, leaving it near portraits. I had three sons, father-in-law chose their names – Richard, Charlie, Edward. Then I had a girl; “I like a daughter,” my husband said, “call her Doris.” Not that he pays much attention to any of the children, of course. PAGE 14 of Textbook When Richard was going to join Anglo-Chinese School I expected the father to bring him to see the “matriarch” – the most important motherly figure in a household or organization. Susie has herself to blame for falling out of favour with the mother- in-law. What does the “big diamond ring” symbolize? The “big diamond ring” symbolizes that Emily has become the most favoured daughter-in-law in the household. Why is Richard so important to the Gan family and also to Emily? - Richard is the first son of the eldest son - Richard’s birth raises the status of the mother, Emily - Richard is the heir to the Gan family heirloom, at least according to Peranakan culture and tradition. Emily really loves Richard. This is a foreign song learned in a Peranakan household. Sons are very important to a family because they carry the surname of the family. The family line lives on. Gan Joo Kheong, like most fathers, does not always sit at home. Men like him are expected to be staying away from home and be working busily for their children and wives. So Emily does not expect Kheong to spend quality time with any of her children. But she does show us that she is not altogether happy with his inattentiveness. Emily is hinting to us that Kheong does not care too much for her and her children here. Emily is proactive and she certainly has very good skills at making friends with people. Emily is always learning new things. She never seems to sit still. She is growing and developing all the time.
  8. 8. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 8 Headmaster, after all he was from ACS himself, but he couldn’t be bothered. (Emily imitates Kheong’s brusque brush-off) “You look after it, you arrange it lah!” So I got to know the ACS headmaster and his wife. Through her I started making my patchwork quilts; she taught handwork to the girls at Methodist Girls’ School, and I learned from her. Emily sits in her big chair and again turns to her sewing things. I never like to sit idle; even when I’m directing the household, I kike to keep my hands busy with something. On the table beside her she sets a series of plaited-leaf boxes in which are kept her patches, paper patterns, etc and she explains the work. First you draw these six-sided shapes on paper and cut them out. Then you take the pieces of cloth and tack them to the paper pattern – fold the edges nicely – and when you have made a lot of the shapes, then you start joining them together to form the quilt. You sew with very small neat stitches – and of course you can choose the colours and arrange them to make a nice pattern. This piece came from a brocade gown that I wore the time that the Governor came to dinner. This is a remnant from my dress for Mabel’s wedding. This piece was from one of mother-in-law’s old cheong sams. There were a lot of her old clothes left behind when she died. Susie said, “Nobody wants them lah, I’ll take them away to throw.” She wanted to make use of them of course. “Oh needn’t waste them,” I said, “they can be given to the poor.” I kept them and sorted them out. Some of them I did give to the Salvation Army. PAGE 15 of Textbook By now after so many years, I’ve made quilts for all the family. Every night, each one of them sleeps all wrapped up in my patchwork quilt. Emily sits at her patchwork. The stage is dim with a low spot on Emily. Over speakers in the auditorium, we hear a pre- recorded tape of Emily’s voice. The following scene has been read softly and close to the mike and is played back at higher volume, thus providing a contrast in sound-texture to her speech on stage. Mabel, you do look nice in that dress. You have such good taste in choosing the pattern, and my little tailor has made it up very neatly. Mabel, I wonder whether you like to let your Annie join Doris at Mrs. Swanson’s folk- dancing class? It would be so good for her figure, wouldn’t it? Doris would enjoy her lessons more with her cousin to join her. Lately she said she wasn’t satisfied with the folk- dancing, she wanted to transfer to Mrs. Swanson’s ballet class. I’ve seen those ballet-dancers on the stage, showing Emily is good at home economics. She is good at running her household. She does not merely order people around. She leads by example. She is cut out to run a household sensibly and economically. She does not waste and she knows how to make use of things other people think are worthless. She is already practicing what we now fondly think of as “recycling”. What does this line tells us? This clearly indicates to us that every one of the member in Emerald Hill Mansion is under the “protection” extended by Emily. The “patchwork quilt” is the protective blanket. Emily gives generously and asks without any hesitation for favours whenever she needs them. Here is one example. Emily is conservative in some ways. Emily does everything for Richard. If a mother “spoonfeeds” her children, do you think they can grow and develop properly? Emily is the decision maker at home. Emily is so capable that her father and mother-in-law put their trust in her.
  9. 9. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 9 half their body naked, stretching their thighs… I told Doris she should enjoy the folk-dancing, with those pretty peasant dresses they wear: I’m sure Annie would like it too. Emily takes a new piece of patchwork. PAGE 16 of Textbook Richard come with me. I’ll see to everything you need. You don’t have to worry about any problems, just let Mother do everything for you. You know how much I love you, and I want you to be happy. And I know you want to make Mother happy too. Kheong, I’m going to make two new bathrooms and build a new wing onto the house. Remember your father always said we needed more rooms, I’m sure he would have approved. We can afford it, can’t we – Father’s rubber dividends are coming in. In fact Kheong, I think now you should make more investments. Not in property. Mr. G. P. Chee told me we could buy shares in some public companies, Whiteaways, Singapore Traction Corporation: in future those shares will be very valuable, he says. A risky chance, you think? But I trust Mr. Chee’s advice, don’t you? You’ve got the sound judgement like your father of course: a shrewd businessman like you won’t let a good opportunity pass by. Molly – wasn’t your husband coughing badly last night? Of course as his wife you’ve noticed it, but don’t you think he should see the doctor? Dr. Liew said it’s nothing, who is Dr. Liew? He should see the chest specialist at the hospital, I will make an appointment. I will boil Chinese medicine for him and you must see that he drinks it, Molly, you must look after him. He’s that bad, is he, he has to go into hospital? Molly, you must stay at his side. He must have a private room so that you can sleep by his bed at night. I’ll send your clothes and food to the hospital so that you can stay with him all the time. A woman must look after her husband. PAGE 17 of Textbook Kheong – they are forming a new Legislative Council – could you be a Councillor, if you wanted to be? You know so many people don’t you, if you talk to them properly you can be nominated. Yes of course you have to go to office, but you can spare some time to do this surely? You’ll be respected, people will look up to you. Councillor Gan Joo Kheong – it sounds very good. Charlie, Edward, are you studying hard at school? You must work hard to be clever like your brother. Doris, stop reading. What, this girl forever has her nose in a book. Come and ehlp me in the kitchen, when you get married you must know how to cook and look after your family. Molly, Mabel, during the school holidays we’ll take all the family to stay at our sea-side bungalow. The children can swim and play sand, we’ll play mahjong every day. I’ve Another example on how Emily tries to express her concern and influence on her relatives. Is Emily a busybody or is she merely a caring matriarch of a big family? She certainly goes to great lengths to take care of each and every member of the Gan family. Her understanding of how a married woman should behave is very rooted. She is very clear about what she has to do as a woman, wife and mother in her family. She also expects the other married women in her house to do the same. Emily plans for Kheong to enter politics. She is quite ambitious for her husband. She may not have the real reasons for Kheong to join the Legislative Council. But she certainly knows how to influence Kheong. Emily has her conservative side as well. She thinks, like most mothers, that a son’s future matters more than a daughter’s. A son must have a good education. A daughter must marry into a good family. All children are expected to do their parents proud. In the 50s and 60s, the Gans are already enjoying a fairly high standard of living in Singapore. DID YOU KNOW? The HDB which is the statutory board responsible for housing more than 80 – 90 percent of Singaporeans has not been set up yet during Emily’s time. So the Gan family is actually living WAY ABOVE the ordinary local people’s standard of living. Emily plans everything for Richard. She expects Richard to do as she says and she tells him clearly that he is supposed to “do everything that she wants him to do”. DO not forget to read the STAGE DIRECTIONS because they tell us through EMILY’s movements, what she is going to do next. TIME moves back and forth in this play. So be very careful.
  10. 10. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 10 bought an American barbecue grill so that we can cook out there on the beach. We’ll all just relax and enjoy ourselves. Richard, you did so well in your Cambridge Exams. I have written to a famous college in London for you to study there next year. But of course you will like it in England, you’ll get on very well there, nothing to be frightened about. Clever boy, Mother is very proud of you. You will never do anything to make me sad, will you?... You’ll do everything that I want you to do. PAGE 18 of Textbook Lights go up on centre stage. Emily puts away her work and goes to the back of the stage; she brings forward a wheeled trolley which she positions down left. Broad spot on the trolley. Emily opens hinged flaps to make the trolley into a long table. From under the trolley she takes a white tablecloth and various tableware. She talks to the audience as she spreads the tablecloth. I like to entertain at Emerald Hill. Once in a while we give a big formal dinner, hire cooks and waiters, set out tables on the lawn. Or quite often we have a smaller party like this, I do the cooking myself. I set out the family silverware; it’s engraved with a capital G for Gan, and a jeweled mountain, the Emerald Hill. The old wine-glasses have the symbol too. I put out the Nonya china, some of it my mother-in-law inherited from her mother – must be over a hundred years old. In the old days my father-in-law used to entertain a lot at Emerald Hill. Every Sunday he held Open House: this long table would be spread with food, and anybody at all could drop in for a meal. All of us daughters-in-law had to help in the kitchen, picking taugeh, cutting vegetables for the popiah – my speciality was my babi buah keluak. And sometimes in the evenings he would give a really big party, the whole house decorated with lights, a hired band playing in the garden. We daughters-in-law had to serve the table. My mother- in-law didn’t really do much cooking herself, she had an excellent Hainanese boy as our cookie. But at these formal dinners she would stand and supervise as though she had done everything herself; and we daughters-in-law had to run back and forth under her eye. PAGE 19 of Textbook From the back of the stage Emily brings dishes to table. All evening we’d be going in and out of the kitchen, taking away empty dishes, bringing out full ones. We’d be wearing our best cheong sams or evening gowns – frightened of spilling things on ourselves! Back aching, feet sore, hungry like anything! But my mother-in-law, she enjoyed herself at those dinner parties. Emily enjoys her role as the hostess of Emerald Hill Mansion. There is definite pride and honour in the Gan family. Emily makes comparison between her time and her father-in-law’s time because time changes the practices of the people. Time also makes traditional concepts and practices change. Emerald Hill Mansion is not protected from the ravage of time. However, because Emerald Hill Mansion has survived, it shows its ability to adapt itself to meet the needs of the changing times. It also shows us that Emily is a good leader and manager. Her thinking may not be always right but she gets the results, which may not always be positive. Emilly and her relatives and servants at Emerald Hill Mansion enjoy the hustle and bustle of the parties and functions. They quite obviously take great pride in serving their invited guests. Peranakan families, especially the women folks take great pride in their cooking skills and the special cuisine dishes they prepare for their guests. STAGE DIRECTIONS - Emily shows us the great amount of effort Emily puts in to make herself a presentable hostess for one of her dinner parties she holds at the Emerald Hill Mansion. Emily takes pain to entertain important guiests whom she thinks will be useful in maintaining the reputation and prosperity of the Gan family. She works hard to be a useful wife to Gan Joo Kheong. Emily makes an effort to remember her guests and she seems to not only know their names, but also quite a fair bit about their lives as well. This is a remarkable quality. Emily is confident with her cooking skills and selection of food for her guests. Like all true blue Peranakan hostess, she wants only the best for her guests. Emily tries her best to get Richard “connected” with her guests, especially those she considers as important to Richard’s future.
  11. 11. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 11 There now. Quite a small function tonight, only a few of our friends; the party is mostly for the children’s sake. The table is set. Emily steps back and goes to extreme stage right. She powders her face, puts on diamonds, hairpins, high-heeled slippers. The stage lights up, blazing brilliantly. Emily sweeps forward magnificently to greet her guests. (With overwhelming graciousness) Welcome to Emerald Hill, Mr. Lim. I think this is the first time we’ve had the pleasure of your company. Some of the other Councillors will be coming too. Kheong, here’s Mr. Lim, give him a drink and some makan kecil. (With great cordiality) Hello Mrs. Ong, hello Johnny. How are you Mrs. Ong? How is your new house coming on? Johnny, you can go inside, Richard is at the back somewhere. Do sit down Mrs. Ong, try my prawn savouries. PAGE 20 of Textbook (Aside) Richard, where have you been, you must meet your guests. Straighten your tie. Say good evening to Mrs. Ong. (Cordial and sedate to male acquaintance) Hello Mr. Chan – why alone? Where’s the better half? Bring her next time eh. Yes, here’s our birthday boy. He’ll be leaving for England soon. And then when he comes back with his law degree he can go straight into your office. Richard, look after Mr. Chan, in future he’s going to be your boss you know! Get a drink for him and maybe he will give you some good advice about how to study in London! (With real warmth) Hello Bee Choo! How are you? How’s your mother? Come in, sit down, have a cold drink. Try the makan kecil. Yes, we’re all fine thank you, Kheong fine too. (Dropping her voice) Hey Bee Choo, you know what I told you about Kheong? That’s the woman there, that whore Diana Lee. (With alarming sweetness) Hello, Diana, are you looking for Kheong? He’s in the bar over there, do go to him, I’m sure he’s dying to see you; it’s full of men there but I’m sure that doesn’t bother you at all. (With fake warmth, guard well up) Hello Susie! Wah, very nice embroidered blouse, where from? Hello Freddy, how’s everything? Ahyo, Susie, thank you for the present you sent to Richard. So good of you. You shouldn’t have spent so much. But Joo Chong is doing well, isn’t he, ever since I got Mr. G.P. Chee to support him. Mr. Chee is always so obliging to me, just because he was our father- in-law’s old friend. I don’t know why you don’t try to see more of him. Emily plans for Richard’s future. She does this because this is one of the ways she expresses her love for her son. ONE IMPORTANT THING - Emily has never revealed openly to us that she and Joo Kheong are not very much in love. There are hints of Joo Kheong being a “dutiful” but not loving husband or father. Emily does everything and Joo Kheong, practically notihing for their children. Emily has never expressed “unhappiness” with her husband. Gan Joo Kheong and Emily’s marriage is not a love marriage. It is an ARRANGED marriage. It is not surprising that Joo Kheong may not love Emily. Emily herself has never loved Kheong. She is concerned with her duties and responsibilities. Emily is unable to stop Kheong from seeing another woman. Diana Lee is Kheong’s mistress. Their relationship cannot be kept secret because it is impossible for keeping such affairs secret. It is an OPEN secret. People in polite society do not discuss such affairs openly. Susie and Emily never REALLY like each other. Emily never fails to remind Susie how much she has used her influence to help both Susie and her husband financially. She is implying that Susie and her husband owes their living to her. Emily also shows off her influence by telling Susie openly that “G.P. Chee is always so obliging to her”. She is advising Susie to be grateful and pretends to ask her “why she doesn’t try to se more of him” – why Susie is NOT friendly to Chee. [We cannot expect Susie to swallow a HUMBLE pill here - Susie has pride too. She and her husband may not have willingly accepted help from Emily or Chee.] Emily’s hospitality (friendliness towards guests) is reserved for the guests she considers most useful to her and her family. Emily treats her guests VERY well because she takes them very seriously. Emily makes use of Emerald Hill Mansion and her position in the GAN family to make important friends for herself and her family. Social networking. She is good at keeping ties with her friends and associates who are influential in the business, legal or political field.
  12. 12. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 12 PAGE 21 of Textbook She flies to the door, she “manjas” Mr. Chee! So glad you can come! I’m just waiting for you to be the guest of honour at the table. Ah yo Mr. Chee, no more “little Em-lee”, got such a big buffalo for a son, I’m an old hag already…”Fountain of youth”, pula! What about yourself Mr. Chee, never look a day older, you’ll see the rest of us six feet under…Really you look very well. I heard you went for new treatment in Switzerland ya?... Are you ready to makan? Would you like another drink? Yes-lah, I know what you like to eat, I’ve made my otak specially for your sake. Ladies and Gentlemen – shall we adjourn to the dining-room? Emily leads the way to the dining table where she stands, presiding over the buffet. Buffet style, eh, do please help yourselves. Roast chicken is there, sambal, achar, babi buah keluak, soup. Molly, please can you serve the rice… Mabel please see to the soup…Mr. Chan, fill up your plate. Mr. Chee – try a bit of sambal? Here’s the otak – and the duck soup. Ladies if you’re watching your weight you just rata-rata lah, eat dishes only, don’t worry about rice. Come, Freddy, Johnnie, don’t be shy boys, just gasak… Afterwards we’ll have a film show for you young people, I have got some Charlie Chaplin films. Kheong please will you set up the projector and the screen. PAGE 22 of Textbook Doris, call all the young children to come – we’re going to cut the birthday cake! Come, Richard, ready to blow out your candles… Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to Richard, happy birthday to you! Main lights go down leaving the stage very dim. Emily rolls the trolley away into the wings. She removes her jewellery etc. She goes over to pick up the phone. Stage lights up. No lah Bee Choo, I haven’t heard from Richard for quite a while. Yah, he’s been there nearly two years now. He seems to be enjoying himself there. In his holidays he goes hiking in the country and riding at a riding school. In fact I tell you Bee Choo, I am afraid that he is playing too much and neglecting his studies, he failed his last examinations and he will have to sit for them again. Yes I am a bit worried about him. I must write and ask him to concentrate more on his work. Puts down phone. On the day Richard left, the whole family went down to Keppel Harbour to see him off. We went on board the big liner, P&O Carthage, and had tea in the saloon. The Indian porters carried his big trunks. We all went down to look at his cabin, the younger children climbed Time is being FAST FORWARD here to TWO YEARS later. When Richard goes away from Emily and gets out of her side, he gets on with his life in a way VERY DIFFERENTLY from his mother’s wish. Emily does not understand why Richard is not writing home. TIME IS FLASHBACKED again to the time the Gan family is seeing Richard off at the Keppel Harbour to see Richard off to England. ARRIVAL OF RICHARD’S UNFORTUNATE LETTER. In his letter, Richard reveals a lot of himself to his mother and also to us. We know for the first time, that he is now 22 years old and like all young adults, has a mind of his own. He has his own plans on how his life should be heading from then onwards. He appeals to his mother to give him the opportunity to “make some decisions for himself”. We know that Richard cannot grow and develop as a person if he continues to take orders on what to do or what not to do from his mother. We also know that Emily has high hopes for Richard. We also know that Emily resorts to using EMOTIONAL BLACKMAILING a lot
  13. 13. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 13 in and out of the bunks. PAGE 23 of Textbook “Bye-bye Richard! Don’t forget to work hard. Don’t worry about money, if you need anything you just write back and ask. Study hared, pass your exams, come back soon! You’ll have a good future, Richard, you’ll have a good career. Study hard and make Mother very proud of you.” And so he sailed away. What is he doing? Why hasn’t he written for so long? Ah Hoon! See whether that’s the postman there… Emily picks up a letter and reads it. Dear Mummy, I’m afraid you’re going to be awfully angry when you read this letter! As you can see, I’ve left the University and I’m in Salisbury now. I’ve started a job here that could become my permanent way of living. You remember that last summer holidays, I worked as an instructor at Mr. Green’s riding school. Mr. Green has offered me a permanent job as his assistant, and in a few years I could become his partner. Meanwhile I’m teaching the younger pupils and helping around the stables. Mummy, I know you won’t like this idea much, but I’ve been thinking it over very carefully. I will work hard and save my pay so that I can buy a share of the business in future. The important thing is that I shall be standing on my own feet and earning my own living. I feel it’s time that I made some decisions for myself, and stopped depending on you for everything. Please don’t be too angry, Mummy, because I’ve definitely made up my mind. I like working with horses, and I wasn’t ever very keen about going into Mr. Chan’s law office. Your son, Richard. PAGE 24 of Textbook Emily abandons letter…is grimly silent for a moment. Kheong! You’d better read this letter. Ah Hoon, bring down my suitcase to be packed. Tell the driver to bring the car, to take me to the ticket office. No Kheong don’t waste your time writing to Richard. I’m going to go to England to see him. Boat? The boat takes three weeks to get there. I am going to fly by plane. Emily leaves the main stage for auxiliary acting area. Salisbury? Salisbury? Excuse me, is this the Salisbury Riding School? I know it’s late but could you please show me where Richard Gan lives? Thank you…He’s going to get a shock when he sees me… Richard!! Your mother is here! What is this wonderful job you have, to throw away your education for? Instructor is it? You’re a syce in a stableyard! Is this all you care for all that I’ve done for To Emily, Richard’s request is a BETRAYAL of her HOPES, AMBIION, DREAMS and TRUST. Her main intention to go to England is to put Richard back on the RIGHT track. She cannot see that Richard is begging her to let him have an opportunity to lead a new life, more importantly, the kind of life which Richard thinks he truly wants for himself. Although a caring mother, Emily as she appears here in this scene, can appear to be quite a scary woman – She can be rather intimidating here and if you place her beside her son, Richard, who is only beginning to discover what life is like for himself, you will realize why Richard is no match to her mother at all. Emily will never be able to fully appreciate how her aggressiveness has driven her son, Richard to cut short his life. Richard takes his own life because he probably thinks 1. he is no match for his mother because he understands her too well. He probably thinks she will make him gjve up his work at the riding school and return to his university to complete his studies. 2. he does not know how to persuade his mother to give in to his wish to stsy in Salisbury and continue working. 3. he has done all he could to persuade his mother in his earlier letter. So he cannot bring himself to clash with her face-to-face. He has always been living in her shadow so it is not for him to fight directly against her wish. 4. he thinks it is the end of the road for him because he does not receive any support from his mother – probably the only person who cares for him and whom he cares for. He may be too disappointed and distraught and think it meaningless to continue living. 5. he does not want to be a mother’s boy anymore. He has gotten used to his new-found independence. He does not want to move backwards. Emily always gets what she wants. She expects Richard to deliver what she expects him to achieve. She does not expect disappointment or betrayal. She treats Richard’s betrayal as a matter which urgently needs to be settled, acts immediately and travels swiftly by air to pin her son down. What Emily has failed to realize is that she cannot stop Richard from making drastic decisions to go further against her. She has failed to realize that Richard has already grown up, that he has tasted what life is like abroad. Emily underestimates Richard’s determination to what to decide things for himself now that he is 23 years old. She certainly has not expected Richard to commit suicide and take his own life. It is a very tragic ending for both Richard and Emily. What Emily wants Richard to do is to admit that what he has decided for himself to do is a mistake and he is supposed to undo it. Emily may not have realized it but her love for her son is laden with conditions. In order for Richard to receive her love, he has got to fulfil her wishes and do things her way.
  14. 14. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 14 you? You forget everything I’ve given you, you throw away all the sacrifices I’ve made, you drage down all my hopes into the mud! You trample on your mother’s heart, no love, no gratitude, anak cherkeh darah, you eat your mother’s blood. I should have hanged myself first, before I have a son like you! PAGE 25 of Textbook Oh yes. What is this famous job of yours. You think you’re very clever don’t your, going to stand on your own feet, going to be independent it seems! You think you’re going to save money do you? How much are you earning in one month? How much do you pay for food, clothes, tax? You’re not sure. You stupid boy, this man is just using you as a cheap worker to sweep his tai kuda. He offered you partnership hah? Have you got anything in writing? All right, trust him, wait and see… You think this place has good prospects do you. Will you listen to what I have to say? I am not saying this to hurt you - I never want to hurt you. I only want the best for you. I have had a good look at this place. The grounds are neglected, the buildings need repair. When I asked my way here, the place wasn’t well known. You think the business is flourishing? I see that he is struggling to keep his head above the water. Within a few years this place wil have to close down. And then what will happen to you? Yes, you’d better think of these things. If you go on with this scheme, soon you will be without a job, without any prospects. You will have thrown all my hopes down the drain - you will have broken your mother’s heart for nothing. But I don’t care for myself, Richard, it doesn’t matter how I suffer as long as you don’t ruin your own future, you understand? Richard, you better listen to my advice. You can still give up the job and go back to complete your studies. Think it over carefully, what’s the right thing to do. Are you mature enough to admit when you have made a mistake? Can you do that Richard? PAGE 26 of Textbook Ah yes, Richard. You have made the right decision. Tell Mr. Green that you can’t work for him, because your parents need you to go back to your country. He will understand. Then you go and finish this term at the University. I am very proud of you, Richard. You have had the sense to choose the right thing to do. You understand that my plan for you is the best. Smiling, Emily turns away and returns to main stage area. So, Richard will soon be back in Singapore! Actually, come to think of it, why does he have to take his law degree? He doesn’t have to work for his living at all. I will tell him that he doesn’t have to go back to the University, he may as well stay here and start to settle TIME SHIFTS FORWARD AGAIN and EMILY IS BACK TO CONTINUE HER STORY-TELLING IIN SINGAPORE. It is quite clear here that Emily has failed to treat Richard as a person with his own mind, thinking and feelings. Richard seems more like an object to be used for pleasing her own desires. She can change her mind about what to do with Richard and his future any which way she likes. The telegram turns out to be a deathnote regarding Richard. Why is Richard’s death the “worst shock” of Emily’s life? . Why is Richard’s suicide kept a secret from other people? If the Gan family is Catholic, then the reason is quite obvious. If Richard’s suicide is known, Emily and Kheong will not be able to arrange any church service before his burial. Charlie and Doris’s promise to Emily tells us that there is still an opportunity for Emily to make up for her past mistake as a domineering mother to her children.
  15. 15. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 15 down…I’ll invite Mr. G. P. Chee’s grand-daughter to visit us, she’s just back from Switzerland, a nice young girl. Ah Hoon! See who’s at the door! Who’s ringing the bell! What? A telegram? A telegram from England? What is it…? “Regret to inform that Richard Gan found dead – police believe suicide. Deepest sympathies, Green.” Emily stares blankly out at the audience. She speaks subduedly, as the lights dim. I never saw his body. His ashes were sent back to us. Richard hanged himself in his room, he hanged himself with the long leather reins that he used for training the horses…It was the worst shock of my whole life. PAGE 27 of Textbook The Bishop conducted a ceremony, at the family plot at Bidadari. We told people that he died in an accident, falling from a horse. Everyone was there crying at the funeral…The other children did their best to comfort me. “We will look after you Mum,” Charlie said. “Don’t cry Mum. You still have us, “ Doris said. It was raining that day. There were lots of flowers. Mr. G. P. Chee sent a big wreath of white frangipani, ever since then I hate that smell… I have lost my big strong son… Lights out End of Act One PAGE 28 of Textbook Act Two Main stage dark. Low lights on auxiliary acting area. We hear Emily bawling, offstage. Ah Hoon! Ah Hoon! Open the door! Bring the basket! Call the driver! Tel him Nonya Besar wants to go to market! Lights up on auxiliary acting area. Emily enters, with marketing basket. Approaches fishmonger and harangues him. Hei, Botak! What are you doing ah! What kind of fish you sent to me yesterday? All rotten ones lah! Yes! How to eat ah? You want my family all go to hospital die ah? Mmh! You don’t know ah, how can you don’t know – all right. You give me good ones today. If not all right I bring back I throw at your head… She squats comfortably to examine his baskets. Auxiliary = On the side of the stage. Bawling = calling out loudly. Harangues him = aggressively bothers Him Emily is basically very much in control of her family and her servants. She is snobbish in every way. It is not necessarily a good or a bad thing for her. She is the mistress of the house, and she uses her power well. She is rich and she knows it. People then understand the power held by mistresses like Emily. Feistiness in Emily = She is energetic. Her survival instinct is strong. She lives for her family. So it is natural for her to drive a good bargain. She acts as a “bully” here because she is familiar with the fishmonger and she is demonstrating her bargaining power at the wet market. Gregarious – sociable
  16. 16. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 16 PAGE 29 of Textbook See your prawns…Cheh, all small ones! You have some good big ones hidden at the back somewhere, you bring them out for me. All right, five katis, how much? Four dollars, you crazy ah? I give you three dollars can already. Cannot lah, three-seventy too much also. Three-forty lah. All right all right, I give you three-sixty, enough lah. Send it to the car with my driver outside. She goes on to the next stall. Ah Soh! How are you, chiak pah boey? Ya I’m fine, family is fine, chin ho, chin ho. I want to buy sixteen cucumbers today, half a kati of long beans, half a kati of French beans. Yes, you guessed correctly, I’m making achar for the New Year. I have to make such a large quantity, we have so many people visiting the house. Give me four carrots and a small cauliflower and half a cabbage; bitter gourd, ladies fingers. Let me select the garlic and small onions, I like to have them all the same size in the achar. Yes, how time flies doesn’t it? Again it’s time to prepare for another New Year. She moves on to the next stall. Ai, tambi! Give me sesame seed please, dried chilli, peanuts. Thank you, thank you. Hai Mat, put all the marketing into the car and wait for me, I am just popping in to Cold Storage. She enters Cold Storage and assumes a posh accent. PAGE 30 of Textbook Good morning Mr. Chai. I would like to order one honey- baked ham for the Chinese New Year. Eleven pounds will be excellent, please deliver it to Emerald Hill. Oh, good morning Mrs. Schneider, how nice to run into you! Yes indeed, I shall send you some orchids for the Church Bazaar as usual. Not at all, with my sons at the Anglo-Chinese School I’m very glad to make my little contribution. Do give the Bishop my best wishes won’t you? She leaves Cold Storage. She bawls: Ahmad!!! Bring the car!!!! Go back to Emerald Hill! Emily walks to the edge of the main stage. She addresses the driver. After this you carry Baba Tengah to office. Then Nonya Mabel going to play mahjong and Nonya Molly going to the hairdressers; you send them both before you go to fetch the children home from school. This evening Tuan Besar is playing golf after work, you make sure his golf-clubs are in the car when you fetch him from office. She is gregarious – she likes to talk to people and her social networking skills is very good. In the market place, she may be engaging freely in small talks with the food stallholders. She is both respected and feared. She could be a big customer because she buys things for her big household. Cold Storage in the 1950s – 1970s – considered the largest and best shopping spots in Orchard Road and the whole of Singapore. It is natural to expect an air of snobbishness to prevail in a place like Cold Storage because it serves the middle-upper class of the local people and the Europeans. Tuan Besar - Her husband, Gan Joo Kheong
  17. 17. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 17 Then you remember, tonight Tuan Besar and I are going out for dinner so you be ready to send us at seven, and you tell your wife to have your coat nicely washed and ironed. Ah Hoon, carry the baskets in! PAGE 31 of Textbook The stage lights go up on the main set. Several years have passed. A large framed photograph of Richard now hangs on the wall and there are a few modernizations such as a new fan or a television set. Ah Fong!! Have you finished sewing the dress for Second Mistress? Why so slow? Even with a sewing machine you take so long, I can use a needle and thread to sew faster than that. Quickly hurry up lah and finish it in time for New Year. Ah Choey Koon – now listen what I tell you! When you make the pineapple jam, you put in a piece of cinnamon for special flavour. Get the girls to start cutting the cucumbers for achar, and put them in the sun to dry. She seats herself and picks up her phone. Hello, Bee Choo, how are you? I wonder whether you are making love-letters this year, can you spare some for me? You let me have ten tins please. Of course, of course, four dollars one tin is fine, I’ll come and pick them up Wednesday then. Thanks a lot eh Bee Choo, bye bye. Rings off, dials again. Hello, Cheng Nam Soon, Mrs. Gan here. I want you to send a gift hamper from me, to Mr. G. P. Chee. Yes, two Hennessy brandy, two VSOP, and a small Australian smoked ham. Deliver it to his house and put it on my account. Rings off, rises. PAGE 32 of Textbook Mat! Kebun! Come two of you. I’m making ice-cream, I need you to turn the handle. Kebun, you chop the big block of ice to small pieces. Mat, put the pieces of ice in the bucket here – around the container – sprinkle lots of salt. Now you and Kebun turn the handle, round and round, yes, like starting Tuan’s old Morris long ago! Yes, every year I make the same ice-cream, with condensed milk and sugar, and creamed corn. This year I added something special, small thin strips of coconut flesh from very young coconuts – let’s see how they like it. Is it harder to turn? Is it very stiff now? Should be nearly ready… Ah Hoon, take the ice-cream out, put it in the fridge. Kebun, go and cut flowers for me, bring in my spider orchids and golden shower and vanda Joachim, I TIME is fast forward. What happens to Emily and Emerald Hill Mansion after Richard’s death? Emily goes around her house paying close attention to what her servants or hired help are supposed to be doing. She directs her helpers and controls the minutest details. She takes great pride in her leadership and in the outcome of her leadership. Emily is loyal to Bee Choo. Emily has very few friends. Bee Choo is one of them. Cheng Nam Soon is a hamper gift shop. It is a popular practice for people to spend money on hampers to be given away to friends or business associates. A flashback = Going back in Time.
  18. 18. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 18 will arrange them in vases throughout the house. Mat, bring the big ladder – bring it to the front door. Hang up the red cloth – ya, ya, careful now. Emily uses a long bamboo to hang up the traditional banner on hooks which already hang above the stage. All right… so we’re all ready now for New Year. Emily does a flashback to herself as a young wife. She puts on the long pink coat. The stage lights dim slightly, spotlights pick out the old family portraits. PAGE 33 of Textbook I remember my first Chinese New Year at Emerald Hill. It was my first New Year as a married woman, and I had to give red packets to all the children in the household, and pay respects to my father and mother- in-law. According to the old traditional custom, the younger ones have to kneel down in front of their elders to pay their respects. But my father- in-law said we didn’t have to do this. He was English-educated, Mr. Gan Eng Swee, my father- in-law. In his time he doubled the family fortunes, and he built properties, and his sea-side bungalow, and his motor-cars, and his horses at the Turf Club. In 1936 he won the Singapore Gold Cup with his best mare, Miss Peterson, wah, he gave such a big dinner to celebrate. So he was quite modern in his ways, and he said we did not have to kneel down to him and mother-in-law. Emily “manjas” like a cajoling, willful little girl. Never mind lah, I want to kneel down. Father is very modern, but I am so old-fashioned. I want to kneel down. She kneels with joined hands. Father, Mother, I wish you the very best good fortune and prosperity in the coming year. Father, I hope that business will grow bigger and bigger – this year, can make another one million! Mother, I wish that your grandchildren can be more and more, and that the good cards will always come, and every game can sampai! PAGE 34 of Textbook She rises gracefully, steps back and watches with side- long satisfaction. So the rest of the family also had to kneel down. My second sister-in-law wasn’t smiling very much, but my mother-in-law was simply beaming away…And then the younger brothers and sisters-in-law had to pay their respects to Kheong and me… Emily takes her place beside Kheong in the state chair, with a girlish giggle. Now Joo Chong and Su-see must kneel down to us. Of THIS IS A FLASHBACK of EMILY when she is a YOUNG wife. Ask yourselves: What do you recall usually about your younger days? Although Emily has a lot of things to do as a daughter-in-law, she seems to take to her role positively. Traditions do not always endure. Educated peranakans do away with the more traditional practice of how the young should show respect to the seniors in the family. Emily’s father in law is an English-educated man and so it is not surprising that he does away with the Chinese way of showing respect to seniority by kneeling. However Emily insists on kneeling. She actually does so willingly. Emily says “never mind lah” but she actually cares a lot for the traditional customs of the Peranakans. Emily tries her utmost to be a dutiful and respectful daughter-in- law. This is one example of her responsible nature. She is also full of gratitude to her father-in-law and mother-in-law. Because she observes the traditional customs dutifully, Emily is sure to have made other young folks in the Gan family unhappy with her “old-fashioned” ways. This is also why she is the favourite daughter-in-law for the old folks at home. Although Emily “giggles” as she makes her demand to get her younger or junior relatives to kneel down to her and Joo Kheong, she is actually not joking about the symbolic gesture. She is quite insistent to be at the receiving end of proper traditional customs in her own household.
  19. 19. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 19 course-lah, we kneel down to Father and Mother, now you must kneel down to us, Kheong is your elder brother what. Giggles. Must-lah! She turns with a little-girl pout and shake of head to amused father-in-law. Father, you see Chong and Su-see don’t want to kneel to Kheong. You tell them lah, they must show respect for their brother lah… So the old man laughed and he told them to kneel down! So Joo Chong and Susie and all the younger brothers, they all had to kneel down to Kheong and me. Hiding triumph, Emily accepts the homage of the brother and sister-in-law. PAGE 35 of Textbook Emily moves away from that spot and continues her narration about the past. Those were good old days, when Susie and Molly and Kheong and I were young. I joined their set when they went to their balls and dinners and dance-parties – “You must bring Little Emily,” the hostesses used to say. We wore our gowns from Europe or our modern-style cheong sams; we danced the foxtrot and the quick-step! In 1934 Mr. G. P. Chee gave a New Year’s Eve dance at his house. I have a cutting from the Singapore Free Press: “Mrs. Emily Gan was voted Belle of the Ball!” During the day we had lots of time to amuse ourselves. We played a lot of bridge and mahjong. Susie and Molly joined the Chinese Ladies’ Association, they went to talks on Chinese porcelain and brush-painting. I didn’t follow them. Richard and Charlie used to study with a private tutor, and I sat with them. Later I took lessons myself, I studied English and French and classical Malay. When the boys started going to Anglo-Chinese School I got to know the Methodist pastor, Mr. Schneider, he’s Bishop Schneider now, and I became involved with their charity work. There’s a big hall up at the new school which is named because of our contributions, “Gan Joo Kheong Hall”. And then sometimes we would have a musical evening at Emerald Hill, we called it a “soiree”. Kheong would play his violin, Susie played the piano. I couldn’t play piano but I got a teacher to give me music lessons, and I learned to sing. (Susie sang like a frog.) PAGE 36 of Textbook Emily performs at one of those soirees. She sings with poise and artistry: “The sun shines bright on the old Kentucky home, ‘Tis summer, the meadow is bright – Emily “hides her trumph” because she manages successfully to get the junior members in the Gan family to kneel down to her and her husband. She does not want to appear to be overly excited or happy to see them do that to her. It is a silent victory to her. If they kneel down to her, it means that she is their “mistress” and they are her “slaves”. The narration about the past = Emily is still recalling her past as a young bride. Emily recalls the “good old days” when she is young and newly married. After her marriage, Emily adapts quickly to the social schedule of the Gan household. She is probably popular and well received by the hostesses of parties and dinners. She starts to learn about life and develop her taste for the kinds of friends she keeps, the kinds of clothes she wears and the kinds of social activities she takes part in. Emily loves and savours the limelight (attention) given to her by the hosts and the media (the reporters). She is living her live to the fullest in this context. Although her life is not one of entertaining and partying, she is actually good at it and enjoying it. When she is not playing the host, she is gladly socializing with the rich, the famous and the powerful. There is a saying which goes like this: “Behind every successful man, there is a woman”. This means that it is the woman who helps make her man successful. Emily is THAT woman who stands solidly behind her husband. Without Emily, Gan Joo Kheong may not have been successful at all. Remember: It is Emily who makes Gan Joo Kheong invite famous people, ministers and politicians to their house parties so that Joo Kheong may get to know them. The aim is to get Joo Kheong to be a counselor. Emily may not have all the advantages of a rich girl because of her unfortunate childhood (read ACT 1) but she makes up for that with her natural talents and her willingness to work hard. When she believes in something which will help herself, her husband or her family, she will be very focused and she will work hard to achieve it. Emily’s positive qualities: 1. energetic 2. task-orientated – she gets things done 3. willing to learn 4. willing to strive for achievement 5. putting her family first before anything else This is a FLASHBACK. Richard is still a school-going child. Emily is like any other mother. This is a very common mother- child conversation.
  20. 20. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 20 By-an-by hard times come a-knocking at the door. Then my old Kentucky home good night. Weep no more my lady, oh weep no more today, We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home, For the old Kentucky home so far away.” Those were the years when the children were all growing up. Richard was at the Anglo-Chinese School as I told you. And so was Susie’s son Freddy, they were in the same class. Richard, come show me your report card. Heh, what is this red mark…for mathematics? Why so bad? You’re not studying hard ah? A for history and for French. That’s better. What is your class position – eight? Dropping for voice What was Freddy’s position? Eleventh? How did he do in mathematics…? Failed also? All right lah – you did quite well. Good boy, Mamma give you five dollars to spend. What else? … All right, Mamma will buy those roller skates from Robinsons. She takes the report card to the side of the big chair. PAGE 37 of Textbook Father (referring to her father-in-law) , you want to see Richard’s report card? Not too bad lah – of course he only came in eighth in the class. Ah, Susie, how is Freddy doing, has he improved in his mathematics? Ya-lah, true, Richard’s maths not strong also, after all he is younger than Freddy. Father, have you seen Freddy’s report by the way? What was his class position? My father-in-law was starting to get old, he was talking about making his will. He wanted the estate to stay in one piece till the next generation, so we expected that he would leave it to his grandsons. My Richard was the eldest son of the eldest son, of course he should have got the biggest share of the property. But Susie said that her Freddy should get it because he was the oldest grandson. She was always trying to get on Father’s good side. I heard her telling Father: “Father, my friends say that Freddy is growing up to be handsome boy ah. My friends say that he looks just like you lah! I think this son of mine really takes after the grandfather lah.” Hmmh! Takes after the grandfather pula… Richard! After school today, you go with me to visit Uncle Ben. Yes, Uncle Ben who plays polo: He’s going to teach you how to ride. Kheong, Richard has been taking riding lessons: I want to get him a little pony, Ben will advise me how to buy one. Father, did you hear that we buying Richard a pony? Yes, he has been taking riding lessons, Ben says that he has a natural ability for it. And he has such a love of horses, so we are buying him a little pony. And next time when he is older, perhaps he can ride in amateur racing. Oh yes, Freddy is Susie’s (Gan family’s first daughter-in-law) son. There is rivalry between Emily and Susie. So naturally, Emily is eager to make sure that her Richard does not lose out knowingly to Freddy. Emily tries to make Richard a “better grandson” than Freddy. IT IS EMILY WHO GETS RICHARD TO RIDE A HORSE. Emily is making sure that she does not let Richard lose out to Freddy. For those readers who may not take too kindly to Emily’s “caring” disposition, there is a valid reason to criticize her at this point. It is indeed Emily who has actually caused Richard to have actually taken a liking to riding which leads to the tragedy (however indirectly) in his later years. Remember: This is how Emily became the mistress of Emerald Hill. She is already a mistress of Emerald Hill mansion in spirit because she makes the house a home for everybody in the Gan family. She deserves to inherit the house because Emily and the Emerald Hill Mansion are both one and the same thing.
  21. 21. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 21 perhaps he can even ride one of your horses for you. That would be wonderful. Perhaps your grandson can win another Gold Cup for you. PAGE 38 of Textbook There’s a photo of Richard sitting on Miss Peterson, with the old man standing by. Stage lights dim. Spot on Emily. She removes pink coat. My father-in-law died just before the War; and when the will was read, he left the house and the big share of the property…to Richard. When Richard died, all his property went back to his parents – and then when Kheong died it came back to me. In the end – after paying death duties and taxes and everything – I am the owner of Emerald Hill. Emily wheels forward a trolley which she positions downstage centre. On it are various kitchen utensils: stone pestle and mortar; circular chopping block and chopper; kuali (wok); clay cooking pot (blangah). Stage lights are low except for a broad spot on the trolley. Emily, addressing audience directly, demonstrates her recipe. I’m going to show you how I make my famous babi buah keluak (pork with Indonesian black nuts). This is the buah keluak, this black sort of nut. It comes from Java and when you buy it it’s dirty and muddy, so you have to scrub it with a brush till all the mud’s gone and then you soak it in water overnight to soften it. Then you cut open the top of the nut, and you soak it again for about one hour. Then you can cook it with the babi. And when you eat it you use a small spoon to scrape out the flesh of the nut, and the flesh is black and oily and rich. Ahyo, sedap sekali – like opium! PAGE 39 of Textbook So this is how I do it. I take about five katis of good pork ribs, and forty or fifty of the buah keluak. Then I start with the rempah (mixture of spices). I pound up the spices, serai (lemon grass), daun kunyit (turmeric leaves), lengkuas (galingale), a few buah keras (candlenut), some belachan. And chillies and onion. Then I fry the rempah in the kuali, not too hot, keep on stirring it back and forth till the oil starts to come to the top again. Then put in the buah keluak and fry it a little bit and put in the pork ribs. Then put in some asam (tamarind) water and salt, and transfer it to the blangah and leave it to simmer very slowly. And you know what else I like to add in – I put in a few pieces of rock sugar, one piece at a time. Ah yah. Very nice. This is my husband’s favourite, he simply loves it; he’ll sit down and pour the gravy on his rice, and he’ll take so many helpings. Emily takes the chopper and starts chopping the pork. She stops for a moment and looks challengingly at the Emily showcases her cooking skills. All daughters-in-law are supposed to know how to prepare proper Peranakan dishes for the family. STUDY THIS SCENE CAREFULLY: The chopper is sharp. Emily “looks challengingly at the audience”. You can almost image her fury gaze. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MOMENT IN THE SCENE. Emily reveals another dark secret (an open secret, because everybody in the Gan household should already have known) – that Gan Joo Kheong has another woman – he is keeping a mistress. REMEMBER: This is the 50s – 60s Singapore. Bigamy (a man marrying or keeping more than one wife) is widely practiced and it is not something to scream about if a married man keeps a woman as a mistress. Gan Joo Kheong is rich and so if he can afford another woman by keeping her as his mistress, why not? Here, Emily is telling us that she put up with Gan Joo Kheong because she simply cannot do anything to stop her husband from keeping a mistress.
  22. 22. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 22 audience. And when I’ve finished cooking this, I’ll put it in a big pot and send it over to my husband’s mistress’s house. Oh yes, he’s left my house and he’s staying with his mistress in Amber Road. That whore Diana Lee. But I send him special food from day to day, and his clean clothes, and the driver brings back his dirty clothes for my amah to wash. No matter what he does, I still am his wife, I must continue to look after him. PAGE 40 of Textbook Emily turns to her cooking. The spot on her dims slightly. As she goes about chopping, pounding, frying, we hear a prerecorded tape of her voice. The sounds of food preparation, perhaps largely mixed, punctuate the narrative without interrupting it. What do you do when a husband goes astray? If you grumble and complain, he is not going to change his ways. He will still continue just as he likes. If you keep quiet, he feels very free: “My wife doesn’t mind, she gives me licence!” if you make a scene, you yell and shout, then, he has an excuse to get angry! “Oh, my wife is such a shrew, no wonder I can’t stay with her!” Mampus, you’re finished! For more than a year now, Kheong has been seeing that whore, Diana Lee, on and off. Lately he’s more gatal. He says he has dinners and functions, coming back very late; he even had two outstation trips to Malacca, business trips it seems! He thinks I’m blind? Stupid fool, he leaves his car parked near her house – right next to Chinese Swimming Club. I’ve had enough of his nonsense It’s time I said something to him. (Brazenly) Kheong, what function are you going to tonight? Recreation Club dinner? That’s a funny thing, I am also going there with Bee Choo and her mother. Why don’t you come in our car instead of driving by yourself? That’s fine, we leave at seven o’clock. Oh yes, what are you doing tomorrow evening? I want to let him know that he cannot get away any more. He cannot continue to live in my house, and see his whore. See what he wants to do about it. PAGE 41 of Textbook Right, you are going out now, you will be home late. You won’t be home tonight? Oh, where will you be? When will you be coming home? Oh, you want me to shut up. Surely, I will keep quiet – you don’t have to tell me anything. Time passes. Hello Bee Choo, nice of you to come over…Yes, I’m fine thank you…Ya lah, Kheong is living in Amber Road with that woman. Sometimes he comes home to see the children, doesn’t want to talk to me. I don’t know how can he do this to his family, Bee Choo? I think he wouldn’t Emily, however, is not exactly helpless. She knows how to deal with Joo Kheong. Gan Joo Kheong does not love Emily. Amber Road – still around today, very near to Parkway Parade. Emily stays on stoically as the pillar of the Gan Family while Joo Kheong leaves Emerald Hill Mansion to live with his mistress. Emily is a very clever and smart wife. If she were to agree to a divorce, she will lose her official status as Mrs. Gan Joo Kheong. She is very right too to say that she has done nothing wrong. Emily dutifully performs her role as Mrs. Gan Joo Kheong. She behaves as though everything is still just like the same as before. Emily is claiming that Gan Joo Kheong’s friends and colleagues treat his infidelity as a private matter and pretend that there is nothing wrong for Kheong to keep a mistress. Emily naturally hates/dislikes Diana for snatching Kheong away from her.
  23. 23. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 23 have done something like this when Richard was alive. (With saintly resignation) What can I do Bee Choo, I just go on living my life as usual, and I keep on doing my duty. He wants me to give him a divorce. Why should I give him a divorce? I am his wife, whatever he has done, I have not done anything wrong. Ah Hoon, take the soup from the kitchen, it’s in the tingkat, give it to the driver. Put Baba’s clothes for golf in the car also, today he is due to play at the Island Club. Tell the driver to take the things to Amber Road, and bring back any dirty clothes and remind Baba that on Friday he has to go for his meeting of the Legislative Assembly. All his fellow Assemblymen know what he’s doing. All his friends know. They won’t tell him he’s wrong – they all stick together, a man has his pleasures, they say – but he will know what they think as they look at him. “Gan can have his fun with his mistress, but he is treating his wife badly. She is a fine woman, a good wife and mother. The way he has behaved to her is shameful…” PAGE 42 of Textbook What can that Diana do for him? The modern woman, working all day in an office, does she have time to look after him properly? I wonder how she attracted him; she must have used magic charms from the Siamese priest. Diana Lee. Can he take that whore out with him to go for formal functions? Can he bring his friends back to her house – can he invite people there?... Every year since the War ended, on the fifth of September, he gives a big dinner here to celebrate the end of the Occupation. He makes it an occasion to invite his business associates, and the other Assemblymen, and the Governor. What is he going to do this year? By now Emily has got all her ingredients into the blangah; she stands and watches it simmering. Kheong! If you can just spare me a few minutes, I have to discuss something with you. I am making arrangements to rent the marquee and tables for September the fifth. I am hiring the extra staff we need for the dinner. If you want to carry on with the function, you’d better ask your staff at the office to send out the invitations. He sent out the invitations. I made all the arrangements and prepared the house. And two days before the dinner he came home, bringing his clothes and his shoes and his golf-clubs, and put them back in his room. PAGE 43 of Textbook Emily has removed her pot from the fire and is stirring it, lasting it. Yes. Next day the Singapore Free Press reported the social event: “Mr. and Mrs. Gan Joo Kheong gave a splendidly- attended dinner at their residence, Emerald Hill.” KNOW YOUR COUNTRY’s HISTORY Singapore was captured by the Japanese Army on 15 February 1942. The occupation of Singapore by the Japanese Army lasted for three years and eight months. Emily tries her best to keep her relationship with Joo Kheong intact by putting aside her emotions. She suppresses her feelings and tries her best to persuade herself that she should at least work with Joo Kheong to continue to invite people to their annual celebration dinner. She is successful in her persuasion. Emily’s bigheartedness must have caused Kheong to stop seeing his mistress. But their relationship does not improve. Kheong dies and Emily inherits Emerald Hill Mansion. Kheong simply loses his fight for independence and right to pursue his own happiness with another woman. FLASHBACK: Joo Kheong does not wish to see Emily even at his deathbed. Their relationship has to be really bad. Kheong actually hates Emily that much.
  24. 24. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 24 Broad spot on Emily brightens. With a flourish she lays down her cooking spoon: stands for a moment in triumph. Then briskly she trundles the trolley away from the stage, she returns to stand downstage and continues the narrative “live”. Kheong never went astray again, from that day till he died. But the next year, he did not give any party on the fifth of September. He started spending more and more of his free time at his club, playing mahjong, losing a lot of money. In fact he was at the Club when he had his heart attack and collapsed, and they took him straight to the Hospital… Kheong! Kheong!Which ward is he in? Is he awake now? Can I talk to him? …Oh, Needs to rest, does he? Well of course I mustn’t disturb him if he can’t see anyone yet. I’ll come back tomorrow. What, I still can’t see him? What’s wrong, is he very bad? Not bad but he needs complete rest – surely a short visit for a few minutes won’t hurt him – well I suppose I must listen to the doctor. You’ll give him the soup I brought won’t you. What’s wrong, what won’t they let me see him…Charlie! Where were you? Were you inside the ward? They told me your father is too sick to see anyone. What do you mean he asked to see you? They’ve been telling me he’s unable to have any visitors at all… PAGE 44 of Textbook Emily tries to force her way into the ward. Doctor! I want to see my husband! What do you mean by keeping me out of his room? How dare you keep me away from him? What do you mean, he doesn’t want to see me…I’m his wife don’t you know that?... I don’t believe it. I don’t believe he said that. He must be ill and out of his mind…Well if he’s getting so upset about it I suppose I better not see him just now. I’ll leave him alone for the present. When he recovers, I will come in and look after him… Kheong died in the hospital. Everybody came to the funeral, all his friends and eminent colleagues… I suppose not many of these people knew, that when he was dying, he refused to see his wife. The stage grows completely dark; the spotlight on Emily narrows. She wanders across to look at her own childhood portrait, picking up the pink coat that lies under it. Perhaps for the first time, her voice is subdued, filled with pain. When my father died my mother went away and left me behind. I remember I was in her room and she came in, started packing up her clothes. “I can’t look after you!” she said. “Why am I so unlucky, I don’t have a son to take care of me? I only have a useless girl like you. What were you born for?” I cried to her: “Ma! Take me with you! Ma! Take me with you!” She pushed me back into the room and went away. From that time on I lived with one We can tell from here how much Joo Kheong must have hated Emily. REMEMBER: Emily is only fourteen years old when Joo Kheong marries her. It is not a love match but an arranged marriage. Emily does not have a proper childhood. Emily attempts to explain to us that she is what she is because she is taught how to behave as a married woman in the Peranakan culture. The life of a woman revolves around her husband. Without her husband, Emily thinks that her social position will be nothing. The darkest lamentation. Emily does not understand why the two men who are dearest to her does not want to have anything more to do with her.
  25. 25. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 25 relative of another, doing housework and kitchen work, and they would say to me: “We took you out of the gutter, when your mother threw you away.” From when I was ten, I lived like that for four years, until they sent for me to be married to a man twice my age. PAGE 45 of Textbook Directly to audience Do you understand what made me what I am? Before my breasts were grown, I learned that a woman is nothing in this world that men have made, except in the role that men demand of her. Your life is meaningless, you have no value, except as you are a wife and mother. Look after your husband and family, yes: do everything for them, wrap them, bind them in the web of your providing, till they can’t lift a finger to help themselves: so that husband and son and sister-in-law must all depend on you, so that you control them and keep them in the palm of your hand. So that the whole world knows your worth – so that a screaming girl-child, long ago, may be reassured that her life has some significance, that no one is going to throw her back into the gutter. Richard, I was a good mother to you! Kheong, I was a good wife! Why did you both hate me then? I didn’t do anything wrong! Emily looks down to see that the pink coat has been crushed and wrung unheedingly in her clenched hands. She opens her hands and smoothes the cloth, and gently puts the coat away as though putting a hurt child to rest. Stage lights up. PAGE 46 of Textbook It’s all over now. It’s all past, It can’t be changed… The children are all growing up and moving away. Molly and Mabel have gone to live with their children in new modern flats. Charles is building his own house in Clementi Road, jawoh sahja. Soon there won’t be so many people in Emerald Hill, so I have told Doris that after she’s married she and her husband must continue to live here with me. I have spoken to the Ling boy’s parents and we all agree on it. Right now Doris is in the USA visiting her Auntie. Charles has a little boy, Bin Seong. His wife is out teaching during the day so my grandson is left at home with me… Emily plays with her little grandson. We may note that she is more relaxed and kindly than with her own children. Come Bin-bin…Porpor play with you… (Pinching game) “Chubit-chubit semut, siapa sakit naik atas!” Come, that’s right, go up on top ya… “Chubit-chubit semut, siapa sakit naik atas…ohh!” Ayo, sayang anak chu-chu. Come, good boy, time to go to sleep. (Pats baby’s bottom rhythmically) Du dud u. Ask yourself this question: 1. Is it Emily’s fault that Richard dies? 2. Is it Emily’s fault that Kheong decides to have a relationship with Diana Lee? 3. Is it Emily’s fault that to the last minute at the deathbed, Kheong refuses to see her? Emily faces the changing times as Singapore moves into the 70s and the 80s. Singapore grew strongly as the country became industrialized and more and more HDB new towns, roads, schools and other kinds of facilities were built. Orchard Road, where you can still find the real Emerald Hill Mansion today, has become an important shopping and tourism district. You either catch up with the change or get left behind. TIME IS FASTFORWARD ONCE AGAIN. EMILY IS NOW A GRANDMOTHER. Porpor = Grandma / Grandmother Emily plays her role as a grandmother as dutifully as ever. All her life, she has devoted herself to being a married woman, a devoted wife and a caring mother. Emily receives a surprising news from her daughter, Doris Gan that she is marrying an American man. Doris is making her own decision and she is telling it to Emily.
  26. 26. Literature in English St. Hilda’s Secondary School Secondary 2BCD Term 1-3.2008 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee 26 PAGE 47 of Textbook She croons. I’s a little Alabama coon, I’s not been born very long. I remember seeing one great big moon, I remember hearing one sweet song As l lay upon my Mammy’s knee, This was the song she sang to me – Go to sleep, my little piccaninny, Brer Fox will catch you if you don’t. Slumber on, Mammy’s little baby, Mammy’s little Alabama coon! Emily turns away from the sleeping baby. The phone rings. She answers it. Doris? Hello Doris, yes, Mother here. Where are you calling me from? Washington! What are you doing in Washington, I thought you were with Aunt Lucy in Philadelphia… What did you say? You’re going to get married? What are you telling me Doris Gan…? Steve Jackson: an American is he? How long have you known him?... Six weeks? Oh you’ve made up your mind have you – you don’t care if I don’t send you money – you’re going to be independent, are you? And after that, do you think you’re coming back to Singapore? Emily takes receiver from her ear in distress. Then she seems to think. Wait a minute, Doris. Let me think about it. Don’t cry, girl! Let Mother think. PAGE 48 of Textbook Doris, why do you want to marry this man? You’ve only known him a short time – is it because you want to stay in America? You don’t want to come back home? All right, you listen to me Doris. I don’t forbid you to get married. I will send you some money to support you there. But I advise you – I – I beg you as your mother – to wait before you get married. You don’t have to come home. You can stay in America, study there, anything. After one year, if you still want to marry Steve, you go ahead, I won’t object. All right, you don’t worry about the Ling boy, I’ll explain to his parents. But will you please wait for a while, Doris?... Yes. Live your own life. Make your own decisions. But don’t rush into marriage just because you want to escape from me… All right Doris. You wait a few months. Keep in touch with Aunt Lucy. I will send you money. Slowly Emily sets down the receiver, and opens her hand with a gesture of releasing, of setting free. Emily seems to have learnt her lesson. She is no longer insistent on her children listening to her instructions and obeying everything she demands of them. TIME FLASHES BACK AGAIN TO Emily recalling Charles getting married. Charles – gets married. Edward – gets married. The family size keeps getting smaller as more and more married couples choose to move out of their parents or in-laws’ homes. The nuclear family structure becomes more and more common. Traditional families with a lot of people living under one roof become less and less popular or even possible. Charles and Edward both move out of Emerald Hill Mansion. Clementi and Ang Mo Kio are new towns. People of the 70s and 80s were beginning to experience more choices in terms of jobs, housing and lifestyles. There was also an overall increase in the living standards of Singaporeans. Old houses, neighbourhoods, districts make way for urbal renewal projects around the island republic. Bee Choo’s house is just a hint of the new development taking place in Singapore as the country develops and modernizes. Emily helps Bee Choo out telling us that she is a loyal friend. Emily knows Bee Choo does not accept charity and so she tells her a white lie.