Literature, Language, and Life

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In his chapter on Ideas, Lodge states that ” by novel of ideas one means to denote a novel in which the ideas are the source of the work’s energy”(198). He goes on to claim that these ideas are philosophically based and carry the novel’s narrative momentum. These ideas are often found as debatable theories or questions that are not answered within the novel but rather require the reader to find the answer themselves, thus leaving the reader in a state of thought and inquiry.

In Paradise of the Blind, the reader comes across the central idea or philosophical question that the novel itself revolves around in the beginning of the story. This “idea” is focused on the effect of radical political adjustment on families. This is evident in chapter 2 of Paradise of the Blind. In this chapter we come across Hang in a flashback of her uncle, who was kidnapped by the underground, forcing her mother’s husband’s family to prostrate themselves in the village courtyard. This event initiated the years and years of hatred among Hang’s paternal aunt and maternal uncle. Also in chapter 10, Hang breaks relations with her mother due to her acceptance of gifts from her aunt, which under no circumstances were to be used to finance her mother’s care packages to her uncle. The hatred among family members increases at this point in the novel and elicits the reader to question whether or not Hang’s family would not be in this situation if the communist regime took over or if they would be worse off.

It is in this moment that the reader has confronted the “idea” within the novel and is just beginning to uncover the truths and reasoning behind it. When the reader feels the need to keep reading and discovering. This is the novel’s narrative momentum, and Author Duong Thu Huong uses this central “idea” maintain the flow of the story and motivate her readers to remain glued to the novel.

Author Duong Thu Huong weaved this concept into the fabric of her novel, always keeping it in the mind of the reader. The question of the amalgamation of family and politics is left open for the reader to conjure up an answer for. Therefor the impact left on the reader is one of personal reflection on his/her ethics. Is it acceptable, in the effort of creating a utopian society where all are equal, for a government of a country to conduct themselves in a fashion that alters their countrymen’s way of life, for better or worse? Huong thus brings the reader to understand that the ambition of men can often lead to disastrous results.



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