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A Sense of the Past

The past can highlight the social and cultural changes in a person’s life this is seen in the book when Hang is talking about her mother, Hang says “she wanted me to show the same selflessness, and what I had done? My uncle, her younger brother, -her only brother had asked for my help. He was sick, and here I was preparing to abandon him.” Here Hang shows a change in culture by comparing herself to her mother’s generation, who was caring and altruistic and was used to taking care of the men in their family, and would work to please them. While Hang was more self-caring and didn’t focus so much on the opinion of men.

Authors also use the past to create a sense of nostalgia and humor to keep the reader entertained and intrigued. You can see this on page 13 where Hang’s roommate plays an old record which reminds hang of her life back in Vietnam. Hang says “I saw the roof of the shack in the Hanoi where my mother used to live sheet metal patched together with tar paper. On rainy days the roof leaked and in the summer children played in the filthy black water.”  This gives us a specific illustration of Hang’s old life in Vietnam and that she misses it.

The past is also used to reveal new things about a character and the theme. This is seen in the book when Hang is a child she goes to visit her mother and her friends at their party, and the women begin to make fun of her because she doesn’t have a father. Hang says “I ran into the garden they had mocked me, insulted me, me the fatherless child.” Here we learn a new thing about hang even though the women made fun of her she was still strong enough not to cry. This allows the reader to perceive Hang as a strong and resilient woman. This is also where I started to understand the authors work and how she was trying to convey the idea of feminism. I also learned how women in Vietnam would shame each other if they were different, especially when it came to men. Hang was made fun of because she didn’t have a father and the women thought she would be hopeless without a man.

The past can be used to express Vietnamese culture and role of women during that time. On page 23 Hang’s mother is being told by her brother to forget about her husband because he was apart of the land owning class , and it would go against communist beliefs bringing shame to the family. Because her brother was the eldest male she had to obey his wishes and couldn’t disobey his orders. Here the author shows how the eldest male in the family has the most responsibilities and acts as a leader and has a say in all the decisions made in the family. The harsh nature of Uncle Chinh portrays the strictness of Vietnamese culture.






1 Comment

  1. buhisi22 says:

    I think you did a very good job portraying how the past can be used by authors to represent the themes in novels. You used good examples of irony and I actually learned something new About Hang. When I first read your ideas on Uncle Chinh’s similiraties with Communism, I thought of Uncle Chinh’s similarity with the author’s past. Perhaps the author meant both ideas. Next time you could try to compare hangs past to her present state. That would be a good example of a characters development.

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