Valley of Amazement (Tan) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Valley of Amazement ... then take off on your own:

1. "When I was 7, I knew exactly who I was." What does that statement suggest about the young speaker, and what is the irony behind it?

2. How does Amy Tan present Violet's perspective of the surroundings in Hidden Jade Path?

3. Describe Violet's relationship with her mother. What do you think of Lulu Mimi (in the first part of the novel)?

4. Describe Magic Gourd and her role as Violet's mentor. What do we learn through her long disquisition on the ways of the courtesan culture? (One hundred positions? Really?) Did it hold your attention? Does Magic Gourd's monlogue have a familiar ring to it (perhaps you've read Memoirs of a Geisha)?

5. Talk about the path of Violet's life once she is sold to the Hall of Tranquility? In what way does her own life mirror that of her mother?

6. How does the backdrop of China's many cultural and political disasters impinge on the secluded world of the brothels?

7. Many of the characters are in search of what one calls "pure self-being." What does that phrase mean, and how do the various characters each define attempt to locate the ideal for their own lives.

8. Eventually, Tan takes us back to late 19th-century California and to Lulu / Lucia. Does this section of the novel alter your view of her character?

9. What is role of the painting that gives the novel its name — the Valley of Amazement? Like "pure self-being (in Question 7), its message varies for each character—hope or hopelessness, perhaps. For Violet, the painting reminds her "of those illusions that changed as you turned them upside down or sideways."

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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