SECTION I - FEATHERS FROM A THOUSAND LI AWAY .
The novel opens with a parable presented by a Chinese woman living in America. While in China she had purchased a "swan" from a vendor, who boasted that the animal was actually a duck .
that had stretched itself out because of a strong desire to change. The woman bought the "swan" to take with her to America because it represented her hope for a bright future in her new .
country. On landing in America, the immigration officials took the swan from the woman. She managed to save one of the swan's feathers, which she hoped to give to a future daughter. .
As she had hoped, the Chinese woman had a daughter, Jing-Mei Woo, who grew up in America and so learned to speak fluent English. Now the two of them are unable to really communicate, for the mother speaks little English, and the daughter does not know Chinese. Additionally, they cannot understand the each other's lifestyle. The daughter resents her mother's traditional Chinese ways, and the mother cannot understand why her daughter does not appreciate the suffering she has endured for her sake. .
This opening parable depicts America as a land of opportunity, where people can achieve greatness. As she sails to American, clutching her "lucky swan," the Chinese woman is filled with hope. She .
envisions a bright future for herself. She also envisions having a successful daughter who speaks perfect English. The woman's wish for a daughter comes true. .
The symbol of the swan is very significant; desiring to be something better than it was, the duck changed itself into the swan. As the Chinese woman leaves for America, she also wants to change herself into something better and believes her new country will offer her and her future daughter a .
wealth of opportunity. Upon landing in America, the woman quickly learns that all will not go smoothly or easily. Immigration officials strip her treasured swan from her, and she is left with only a feather.