How would you feel if you lived in a place so poor with land so bad that the mountain next to it was literally called Fruitless Mountain? How about if your life was so hard that your mother fretted about wasting even the tiniest grain of rice? Would you still even be able to be happy? Well, in the novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, that is exactly the life Minli leads.
Minli is the main character of that novel, and the story is basically about her and her fairytale-like journey through China to find the ‘Old Man of the Moon‘. This story definitely wouldn’t have been as great if it had a main character with different characteristics. First of all, Minli, unlike the rest of the poor, miserable villagers in her village, is (while still just as poor as the rest of them) happy with what little she has. Another thing that sets her apart is how she looks.”Minli was not brown and dull like the rest of the village. She had glossy black hair with pink cheeks, shining eyes always eager for adventure, and a fast smile that flashed from her face” (Lin 2). Of course the main character of a novel is probably always going to be unique in some way, which makes the book worth reading. The same goes for Minli – besides how she looked though, even her name contributed to what set her apart in such a way even other people noticed it. “When people saw her lively and impulsive spirit, they thought her name, which meant quick thinking suited her well. “Too well,” her mother sighed, as Minli had a habit of quick acting as well” (2).
This mention of her mom brings me to another influence on Minli’s character – her parents. Minli’s mom is basically what prompts Minli to later on go on her adventure and the conflict portion of this story (more on that later). Remember how I said everyone in the village was miserable? Well, Minli’s mother is a classic example of that. However, Minli’s father is like Minli, a lively person despite all the hardships, who tells Minli stories everyday. Even though Minli is such a cheerful person, she still doesn’t exactly love toiling in the fields each day, “She hated the feeling of thick, soggy mud on her hands and face; and many times she wanted to stop in irritation and exhaustion. But seeing her parents patiently working, backs bent, made her swallow her complaints and continue” (11). You can tell from this Minli is determined, not afraid of hardships, and doesn’t let all this suffering bring her down. To put it simply, she isn’t a wuss.
On the other hand, Minli’s mother is a serious downer. “[She] sighed a great deal, an impatient noise usually accompanied with a frown at their rough clothes, rundown house, or meager food…it often made Minli wish she had been called a name that meant gold or fortune instead” (3). What’s super sad about this is that eventually, her mother’s constant complaining made Minli start longing for a better life instead of being content and happy with what she had already. Of course, her father tried his best to kinda even things out on setting a good example and all that but it just wasn’t happening. In the end, all the nagging about saving every penny and grumbling about their misfortune inspired Minli to leave her home to go on a journey that (spoiler alert!) includes a dragon that can’t fly, to find the Old Man of the Moon and change their fortune. I really hope Minli’s conditions improve by the end of her adventure because if anyone deserves good fortune, it’s her.
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