In John Minford's translation of Cao Xueqin's Dream of the Red Chamber, Aroma is translation of the maid Xi-ren's name. In Chinese, her name is actually a somewhat racy pun, but her name was translated simply by Minford.

In the time that the book takes place, the maids in rich families were treated almost as family members, and could become rich and gain status in their own right. Aroma, as personal maid to Bao-yu, the heir of the family and protagonist of the story, is once such maid. Although she is raised in the family and has little knowledge of the outside world, Aroma is smart and self-confident, and manages to wield a bit of influence in the family.

Aroma is also chosen to be the the personal servant of Bao-yu, with the implicit or explicit intention that she will carry on an affair with him, which she does starting when they are young adolescence. She does not act submissive to him, however, and actually manages on more then one occasion to force her master into behaving in the socially acceptable that she would like.

It is also fairly clear that Aroma is being paid by Bao-yu's mother and aunt to spy on him and make sure he is not causing too much trouble or being corrupted by the wrong people. It could be said that her spying leads to some disasturous consequences, but it is not due to ill will on her part.

As the story concludes with Bao-yu's departure, Aroma is married off into another family, something she finds very depressing until she realizes her new husband is an old friend of Bao-yu's and shares her love for him. Thus, Aroma is one of the characters in the novel who truly does live happily ever after.

A*ro"ma (#), n. [L. aroma, Gr. : cf. OE. aromaz, aromat, spice, F. aromate.]

1.

The quality or principle of plants or other substances which constitutes their fragrance; agreeable odor; as, the aroma of coffee.

2.

Fig.: The fine diffusive quality of intellectual power; flavor; as, the subtile aroma of genius.

 

© Webster 1913.

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