My perspectives about how the main character’s personality causes tragedy
‘Everything I Never Told You’
Published: Aug 31, 2023 09:35 PM
Editor's Note:

"Read ten thousand books, and your pen will be guided as if by the gods" is an ancient Chinese idiom that can be seen in students' textbooks. China's Ministry of Education has published an action plan to further promote reading among students across the nation. With new and diverse book recommendations, the reading scene is expected to be revived not only at schools, but also across society. To contribute to this endeavor, the Global Times launched "My Reading Life" essay contest for middle school students.

Please pick up a pen and share your stories with us at



Participants will be rewarded once the article has been selected. Have you ever wondered whether the traits of a human being will influence the fate of this person? This is the question I wondered after reading Everything I Never Told You, a book written by Chinese immigrant Celeste Ng. It is a story that revolves around the drowning of a middle child, Lydia. The traits of Lydia somehow influenced the behind-the-scenes thoughts she gained and the consequential decisions she made. From my perspective, Lydia's characteristics of being people-pleasing, naive, and sometimes rebellious caused her to drown. 

First, Lydia's people-pleasing personality generated the motivation for her to jump into the river. 

In the book, there are many descriptions that show her people-pleasing side - one of them: "Marilyn made plans for Lydia's books. Science fair projects for summer classes. 'Only if you're interested,' she said. But she did not realize she was holding her breath. Lydia did. Yes, she said, every time. Yes. Yes. And her mother would breathe again."  

This quote shows the suffocating work and load Marilyn had planned for Lydia. However, due to Lydia's people-pleasing character, she never refused her mom's tedious work. Instead, she kept compromising and accepted it all, even if she would be overdrawn. 

The book provides evidence: "All those weeks and months had left a persistent, insistent ache in her chest, like a pulsing bruise. She had promised to do anything her mother wanted. Anything at all. As long as her mother stayed."

Correspondingly, the pressure to meet her dad's demands, maintain family relationships, be nice to classmates, and keep secrets from her family were placed on Lydia's own shoulders as well. 

As a result, no matter whether her death was the result of suicide or occurred as an accident, for now, due to her people-pleasing trait, her mind was on the verge of collapse and she was desperate to flee home.

Second, the innocence of Lydia made her believe that to jump into the river could change her past life and her family. In the book, there are several places that show that Lydia was innocent. For example, she would use "baby soft" as perfume to attract others. 

The book reads: "When she stood near, the little-girl scent of her perfume - even its name childish, Baby Soft - wafted from her skin." From this quote, it's not hard to see that Lydia liked the scent of a baby. 

Therefore, she was childishly innocent deep in her consciousness. What's more, she would try to hide the admission letter from Harvard sent to her brother Nath from her family in order to prevent Nath from leaving her. 

However, in the end, Lydia's little trick couldn't prevent Nath from leaving. 

He still got the letter and went to Harvard. Therefore, Lydia was naive enough to believe that after she took the jump, her ancestors would disappear from the world, and if she lived, she would have a better life and her family would make a difference. Believing this, Lydia really took the leap.

Third, Lydia's character as someone who is rebellious gave her the courage to jump into the river. After interacting with her friend Jack, Lydia experienced a completely new life. She ignores her family's expectations and rules; instead, she uses makeup and perfume to be more attractive. What's more, she tries smoking and driving; she sees condoms for the first time and she even learns how to skip school and hang out with boys alone. 

All these rebellious behaviors provide her with a valuable break from her suffocating family relationships and free her from their high expectations. Theoretically, being rebellious can provide people with a push toward things that seem nonconforming and give them the courage to do that. Therefore, even though Lydia might be afraid of the water and would lose her own life by jumping into the river, due to her rebellious trait, she was able to be determined and have the courage to do it. 

"She could do this; she was certain. All she had to do was kick. She would kick her way to the dock, reach up to the planks, and pull herself up out of the water. Tomorrow morning, she would ask Nath about Harvard".

To sum up, Lydia's trait of pleasing others caused her to suffer from other people's behaviors, which sparked the idea of jumping into the river; her trait of being childishly innocent led her to believe she could make a difference if she did jump; and her trait of being disobedient, which gave her the courage to do the jump.

The author is a student at the High School Affiliated with Renmin University of China