In Lodge’s chapter on A Sense of the Past, he states, “Historical novels dealt with historical events, yet they also evoked the past in terms of morals, manners, and culture.” In addition, Lodge claims that most novels were set back in time from the point of composition, in the period of their authors’ childhood and youth in order to shed light on the social and cultural change, in which the effect is easily lost on modern readers.
According to Lodge’s point of view, he makes a point: The author Duong Thu Huong has written the novel Paradise of the Blind perhaps to emphasize on Vietnam’s culture and tradition. She often adds a lot of details, addressing the readers the significance of Vietnam so they get a better understanding of not where the Vietnamese were, but where and how they are now. Additionally, the reason why Duong includes details is because not everything known is actually experienced. For instance, people nowadays have a glimpse about historical events, such as wars, but they never experienced them. Nevertheless, they feel the loss, yet not fully.
In Paradise of the Blind, Duong Thu Huong gives the readers a sense of the past because she was involved in it. Therefore, she utilizes description, imagery, and symbolism to convey human emotion thereby allowing the reader to get a deep understanding of the past.
The character Hang as a narrator in the novel is often very powerful because the use of Hang’s poetic description infuses with human emotion. Hence, the use of description in the novel helps readers to form images in their minds about the things described; in the Paradise of the Blind, Hang mostly describes the village where she had grown up. Correspondingly, Hang’s description of the village often depicts the contrast between the condition before and after the Vietnam War. Hang mostly depicts how children had their own good times and played around in smutty water. “Children played in this filthy black water, sailing their little white paper boats.” (b.p 13) Furthermore, she mentions how in her village men used to drink on too much beer and came to relieve themselves. “This was my street; I had grown up here.” (b.p 14)
The usage of imagery in the Paradise of the blind helps us readers to have a sense of the village through sight, touch, and hearing. Hang’s diction in describing the village is detailed and poetic. Thus, it contributes to an emotionally rich atmosphere, such as nostalgia, and also lets readers to have a picture of the village in the past. “…village after village; church spires and rooftops piercing the air…drowned in fog, awash in eerie fluorescent light.” (b.p 13) Hang draws a picture for the readers, showing them the gutters gurgling under slabs of cement, flowed from one house to another. Hang’s use of poetic description ultimately creates a visual representation of ideas in the readers’ minds, in which it greatly influences the readers by contributing ideas that correlate with Vietnam’s culture and tradition. Also, within the novel, Hang reveals her past to us readers, showing us vividly her immaturity as a child when interpreting certain objects. Therefore, the author of the novel continually describes events from the past in order to portray the character’s true nature throughout the novel. Hence, the Huong’s technique of showing her readers the very little details in the novel impacts them by comprehending the novel’s purpose as a whole. Additionally, as Hang exposes and addresses the readers about her culture through the use of her poetic description of the past, she perceives the oppression in her society.
Symbolism is used in the novel to show how significant the culture and tradition are. In the first month of Tet, the Lunar New Year Festival, Hang describes how the drums would beat to call the people of the village to celebrate and how kids scurried down the roads, chasing each other. Hence, this symbolizes the importance of the Lunar New Year for the people. “On clear August nights, the rhythm of the pestles pounding young rice rose from every courtyard in every village.” (b.p 24) Hang portrays and describes how happy and joyful the people are during this particular time of the year. “The shrill jeer of women’s laughter was enough to shatter these millions of white flowers.” On the other hand, symbolism is also used to show that communism existed and that Que’s brother being a communist shows how it had an authentic effect on the reader, in which communism was a catastrophe. Furthermore, the existence of communism in the novel signifies how people were brainwashed. “The Special Section for the Rectification of Errors was incapable of picking up the pieces, but succeeded in dispelling the sinister atmosphere that had suffocated the village.” (b.p 33) Thus, communism is symbolized to show that everyone in the village could tell of the unhappiness and the injustice they had suffered. Lastly, Duong Thu Huong had copiously succeeded in giving her readers a glimpse of the past by the main character Hang’s use of words throughout the Paradise of the Blind.
In conclusion, the Paradise of the Blind was initially written in Vietnamese, in which it was envisioned for its people. Nevertheless, the novel was banned from her country due to the political views she discussed within it; hence, most of her readers are not Vietnamese after all. Huong however couldn’t have really expected this. The purpose of her writing the Paradise of the Blind not only was to portray the sufferings and the struggles the Vietnamese people went through during communism and the war she had experienced, but also to depict the strength and patience of the victims in Vietnam and their willpower to survive with dignity.