Lodge defines symbolism as a literary feature that introduces an object that suggests another, different object and is usually characterized as a shimmering surface of suggested meanings without a clear given meaning. Symbolism is usually generated through the use of metonymy and synecdoche, both figures of speech that can be seen in the book “Paradise of the Blind”.
Metonymy is a figure of speech that substitutes a name of an object for that of the thing meant, for example, suit for business executive or track for horse racing. This figure of speech can be seen in “Paradise of the Blind”, with the use of the word “family”. In many instances of the novel, the word “family” is usually followed by talk of hard work, obedience, or respect. The word “family” may be a substitute for the word “culture”. Vietnamese culture is usually associated with obedience to the eldest man of the house and immense work for the heir of the family line. This is seen in the line “As long as these hands work, there will always be money. Don’t worry. I know how to get by.” Aunt Tam’s promise of support and dedication to Hang signifies the importance of the heir of the family to Vietnamese culture. Aunt Tam was willing to sacrifice her money, time, and energy just to please and spoil Hang. Since Hang was Aunt Tam’s last living heir, she was willing to sacrifice herself for Hang. The same is shown by Hang’s mom, Que, with her devout devotion to Uncle Chinh’s children, as they are the only male heirs of her family.
Synecdoche, on the other hand, is a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent a whole. The use of synecdoche is seen throughout the novel, the first of which is the character of the uncle, Chinh. Uncle Chinh is portrayed as a strict and ruthless member of the Communist Party, tied to the rules of the Communist Party and the strictness of the Vietnamese culture. He symbolizes the harsh Communist Party, a technique Duong Thu Huong, the author, used to expose the brutality of the Communist Party. However, Uncle Chinh was not the only character subject to synecdoche. Hang symbolizes the feminist and humanitarian views of the author, who was expelled from the Communist Party in Vietnam because of these views. Being a prominent spokeswoman of feminist and human rights, the author was able to incorporate those ideas and thoughts in the character of Hang, portraying her as a strong independent woman, especially towards the end of the book.
Through the use of symbolism, the author was able to incorporate ideas of feminism and human rights, without explicitly saying so. The same can be said about the exposure of the harshness of the Communist Party in Vietnam, and the strictness of the Vietnamese culture. This may have been a factor in the decision of the Vietnamese government to ban the novel in Vietnam.