Shirley Geok Lin-Lim
Nor Syafiqah Bt Zakaria
Noor Masitah Bt Zulkifly
15 April 2013
• Historical criticism
• Social Criticism
• Cultural Criticism
• Gender Criticism
• Author’s background
• Summary of the story
• Relation between the story and the
Shirley Geok-Lin Lim
Born in 1944 in Malacca.
A baba nyonya.
An American writer of poetry,
fiction, and criticism.
Lim had a pretty unhappy childhood.
Born into a life of poverty,
deprivation, parental violence, and
abandonment in a culture that, at
that time, rarely recognised girls
Mei Sim has been scolded by her
mother as she sat with her legs wide
opened which is an inappropriate
practice in her culture.
Siew Eng was being abused, tortured
and discriminated by her own mother
as her mother believed with the
fortune teller’s words.
A huge shame filled Mei Sim
In this story, we can say that Lim
portrayed herself as Mei Sim and Siew
Eng who have such unhappy childhood
as a Baba Nyonya girl. She really
emphasized on the importance of their
culture and traditions.
Siew Eng who was being abused,
tortured and discriminated by her own
mother as her mother believed in
superstitious is the symbolism of the
thing that might happened to most of
the Baba and Nyonya girls including
the writer during that particular time;
when their society apply the culture the
So, it is proved that this story is based
on the author experiences in her life
during her time.
The criticism provokes us to
think why and how we are
responding in a certain way.
It is related to the
traditions, beliefs, the way one
thinks, the norms which in
relation with the arts in Baba
and Nyonya culture.
• A society where the people do not
see a woman as an individual.
• The people would appreciate it if the
girls could marry a rich man.
Page 29: “… but she tolerated
Jeng Chung as the niece whose
successful marriage to a rich
• Baba Nyonya society (peranakan) must behave according to their
• In Peranakan’s culture, girls are not allowed to sit with their legs open
as it is not polite.
– Eg: Mei Sim’s mother said “We’re going to visit Tua Ee. And don’t sit
with your legs open there. She think I bring you up with no shame.” Pg
– Mei Sim’s mother scolded her “Ta’ malu!” “you no shame! Close your
Even at the end of this story, Mei Sim stuck with an
accident where her mother caught her with a little
boy who was trying to touch her dress and that she
felt a huge shame filled her.
In this story, we can see how much Baba and Nyonya
society is concern towards their manners especially
when it comes to girls.
In Malaysia, Baba and Nyonya culture was well
known in their way to nurture their society.
• Traditions Aspect
• Cultural Taboo
Malay influence is very strong in the Baba and Nyonya tradition;
clothing and food, but they have also retained their Chinese
heritage, especially their religion, name and ethnic
The characters are having Chinese-styled names. E.g: (Mei Sim,
Siew Eng, Jeng Chung)
Mei Sim’s mother visited her aunty at least once a week with
gifts of fruit, pulot, and ang-pows and consulted her on every
matter in the Chung family’s life.
This shows that, the Malay culture such as visiting among
relatives are still practiced at that time.
During the ancient time, they retained some practices of
Chinese cultures but at the same time adapted local Malay
traditions in order to minimize the culture shock.
“Girls must wear skirt.” (ancient Chinese
culture & Malay culture)
*throughout the whole story, all the
female characters are wearing skirt.
‘Mother had put on her gold bangles, gold earrings, and a
long chain of platinum with a cross as a pendant. Her
kebaya was a pale blue...’ (page 26, paragh 3)
‘The two women returned to the chairs beside the sireh
table, where two neat green packages of sireh rested.’
• Most Peranakans are Hokkien ancestry. They
speak Baba Malay (creole dialect) which contains
many Hokkien words.
– “Mei Sim could only hear the trishaw man mumbles
like, “hey…yau soo….chei….” Pg 27.
– Noted that “yao soo..” carries the meaning that
“wanna die ah!!!” (negative meaning)
• Mei Sim’s mother said that the trishaw man was
angry at puppy dog, bringing him bad luck.
– Commonly, Baba and Nyonya societies are still believe
in the fortune teller and about the luck.
• Mother said Siew Eng was cursed. “
– The fortune teller had told her that the girl would eat her
blood, so she wouldn’t nurse or hold the baby, had sent her to
a foster mother, and had taken her back at seven to send her
off to the kitchen where she slept on a camp bed”. (Pg
31, third last paragraph)
• Mei Sim’s grand aunty believes in superstitious. She treated her
daughter badly and violently because of the fortune teller.
– Eg: “You must stay for lunch, I have already told that
prostitute daughter of mine to boil the rice….”
– pg 29. “Grand-aunty had four sons, of whom she loved only
the youngest, and a daughter who she treated as a bought
- Pg 31. She shouted and slapped her daughter.
- Pg 33, paragraph 5, line 4-8. Purple bruise bloomed on Siew Eng’s
arm, just because she walked slow.
- Her mother never assumes her as a family member in the house. Eg:
pg 33, paragraph 5, line 8, “you think you can be so proud in my
• Sim’s grand-aunty physically abused and mentally abused Siew Eng.
She did not provide appropriate care for her.
– Eg: Pg 31, “Siew Eng hung her head. Her samfoo was faded and
worn at the trouser bottoms, the thin cotton print didn’t hide
her strange absence of breasts. She was already sixteen, had
never been sent to school but had worked at home washing,
cleaning and cooking since she was seven.”
• “Sundal” pg 31 ¨“what do you say? What do you say, you
• There is a difference between
men and women in the society at
• Women are submissive, men are
portrayed to be dominant at that
time. History of Chinese and
Malay until now, male is always
dominant over female.
• Mei Sim’s grand-aunty prefers son than daughter.
“Grand-aunty had four sons, of whom she loved only the
youngest, and a daughter whom she treated as a bought
slave.” (pg29, paragraph 4)
• This is related to the culture and their tradition. As in both
Chinese and Malay culture, they put focus on male as they
will become heir of their family.
• Female is not having important position and roles in family,
their rights have been ignored.
– Eg. Page 32, paragraph 6“…We women must
accept our fate. If we want to have some fun also,
stomach will explode. Where can we hide our
shame? But men, they think they are datoks
because they can do things without being
• From feminism point of view, women want
confirmation of status. They seek for a place for
themselves neither in family nor society. Although
women cannot control the men, they can at least
control their money to show that they have certain