Duong Thu Huong in Paradise of the Blind, uses real-life experiences to convey to the reader the hardships of living in Vietnam. These hardships were all centered around Vietnamese culture, ideology, and morals. This explanation of her experience evokes historical context during the communist years of Vietnam. This is what David Lodge calls, “A Sense of the Past”. Lodges interpretation of his ideas about evoking “A Sense of the Past” is linked with Huong’s novel, Paradise of the Blind. Huang expresses the hardships of Vietnamese culture and communism by using her own experiences and characters in the novel. Que, a lady and a mother of a child, is faced with deprivation in Vietnamese society and is faced with a constant struggle in the novel. Meanwhile, with Communism, Huang shows the failure of this “utopian ideology” through her viewpoints and experiences.
Culture is a strong part of people’s lives. It influences their views, their values, their humor, their hopes, their loyalties, and their worries and fears (ctb.ku.edu). To people living in Vietnam in the 1980’s, culture is what brought them together and what shaped them as an individual. Given that, there are cultural standards and expectations between the men and women in Vietnam. David Lodge’s chapter refers to this as describing the way of life of ordinary people in the past.
Cultural standards between the work given to the parents are completely different in Paradise of the Blind. The father supports the family by providing money by working. On the other hand, the mom is the caretaker of the family, cooks the food and does house chores. In the novel, these cultural standards are evident: “it was difficult enough to clean it and scrub the floors. On top of that, there was the garden to maintain and defend from an invasion of weeds. As soon as she weeded one corner, weeds would swallow up another” (Huong 19).
In Paradise of the Blind, we see an example of male authority over the women in Chapter 2 with Uncle Chinh. Chinh threatens to kick Ton out of the village while also forcing Hang’s aunt and grandmother to obey his commands: “My grandmother and my aunt were forced to prostrate themselves, head bowed, arms crossed behind their backs”(Huong 24)
Not long after that, Ton escapes the village because of the mockery and humiliation he faced. Uncle Chinh and his family then become the laughing stock of the village and Chinh is infuriated. Que argues with Chinh saying that it was his fault for Ton leaving. In response, Chinh in hopes of comforting her states, “Listen, you’re still young. You’re well mannered, pretty. You’re working class. We have a good house. Now we even have some rice paddy. You’ll find a good match whenever you’re ready (Huang 24). This is an indication revealing how Que doesn’t have a voice when it comes to her own personal interests, it is always chosen by her brother. And if she does anything to displease anyone, she then becomes judged by everyone in the village.
Paradise of the Blind was banned from its own country that it was published in because of its unfavoured opinions on communism. Huang experienced all the events good and bad and wrote a novel of it describing the experience while also retaining the fact of expressing the failure of this utopian ideology.
A significant point in Lodges chapter, “In the period of their authors’ childhood and youth, in order to highlight the phenomenon of social and cultural change. This effect is easily lost on the modern reader” (Lodge 131). Lodge is precisely correct because the reader cannot empathize Huang’s experiences because they have not lived in the same time period as she lived in, however, they can gain an understanding of the situation.
However, parts of her reason that I think she wrote this novel was to give an understanding the negative aspects of communism, the “utopian ideology”. While also providing an insight into Vietnamese culture.
- Dương, Thu Hương. Paradise of the Blind. New York: Perennial, 2002. Print.
- Lodges chapter, A Sense of the Past
- “Section 1. Understanding Culture and Diversity in Building Communities.” Chapter 27. Cultural Competence in a Multicultural World | Section 1. Understanding Culture and Diversity in Building Communities | Main Section | Community Tool Box, ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/culture/cultural-competence/culture-and-diversity/main.