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Duong Thu Huong’s Paradise of the Blind- Epiphany

In Lodge’s chapter on epiphany, the main point he covered was that an epiphany is literally a showing. In modern fiction, an epiphany often has the function performed by a decisive action in traditional narrative, providing a climax or resolution to a story or episode.The passage quoted from the first of John Updike’s Rabbit novels describes an action in a contest, but it is the intensity of the moment, not its consequences, that are important. (We never discover whether the hero won that particular hole). In epiphanies, prose fiction comes closest to the verbal intensity of lyric poetry (most modern lyrics are, in fact, nothing but epiphanies). An epiphanic description is likely to be rich in figures of speech and sound.(Lodge, 146-148)

The first time we see epiphany in the novel Paradise of the Blind is in Chapter 1 page 15 when Hang enters the train station and brushes against a Russian woman. She describes the woman as beautiful with a tight figure in a red velvet blouse and in her mid-twenties(Hương, 15). Then Hang compares the woman to herself and how they are the same age but time treated them differently. She describes herself as pale, with a lost and worried expression, stooped shoulders, and a cheap maroon suit. This is an example of epiphany because Hang had to have passed at least 50 people before encountering the Russian woman, and she only describes her (Hương, 15-16).

This scene is, as Lodge’s definition of epiphany says, a showing. She is showing how two people the same age could look so different and lead such different lives if one has money and the other one doesn’t. The scene has lots of descriptive language. When describing what the Russian woman was wearing, Hang describes the color of the clothes, but also says that she was “tightly molded” into them, which shows how perfectly they fit her. The descriptive language really shows the difference between them which makes the epiphany clear.

The second epiphany is when Hang is about to board the train. Hang begins to question her trip to visit her uncle. She realizes that she hates her uncle and sees no purpose of even visiting him. However, reality hits her, and she remembers that the family comes before anyone’s self-feelings. This is a custom that all people follow.  And because the uncle is family, she pretty much has no choice but to visit him, whether she wants to or not. Hang tells herself that putting herself ahead of family duty is being “ridiculous” and would just “complicate life.” She then boards the train to her uncle’s quickly, trying not to think about it anymore. (Hương, 16)

Lodge said that epiphanies use descriptive language, and this was the case here. The descriptive language would be Hang using a figure of speech to describe the hatred she felt toward her uncle as something rising inside her. Like many epiphanies, this is an intense moment, because when she nestles herself into the corner she is pushing the outside world away from her just like she pushes thoughts of her hatred away in her head. This literally shows how she deals with her feelings because she does the same with her body. Epiphanies are often a decisive action, and Hang decides that her personal feelings are less important than her family and decides to push them away and not think of them.

The third epiphany is on pages 228 to 230 when Hang is sitting in the unkempt garden, and a group of Japanese students attract the attention of all the people in the park. At this point, Hang begins to wonder what the difference is between the Japanese and the Vietnamese. She begins to compare the facial features of the Japanese and the Vietnamese. Hang then comes to the realization that the only difference between the two groups is that the Japanese were lucky to have been born in a time of peace and in real houses, “Their intelligence, their perseverance-these are qualities we Asians have in no short supply. All this generation had was a bit of luck. Luck to have been born in peacetime, in a real house, in the right place, under a real roof . . .”(Hương, 228-230).

When Hang saw the Russian woman, she realized that what you had made a big difference, and here she’s realizing that what you are born into makes an equally big difference. Both the Japanese and the Russian woman both ignored her. Like what Lodge said, this is a realization. This realization shows Hang that no matter how much she tries, she does not have the luck that the Japanese have. And that life will not come easy as it does for the Japanese. The way it was written gives it an envious tone. She is envious of the Japanese because even though they are equal in smarts, the Japanese have the opportunity to benefit from it, while Hang can’t because she has to provide her mother with financial aid. The scene uses very descriptive language to show the differences between the Japanese and Vietnamese. The Japanese are described as having sparkling eyes, “smooth, healthy skin”(Hương, 229). and “the glow of well-nourished people”(Hương, 229)m while the Vietnamese are described as having “faces gnawed with worry, shattered faces, twisted, ravaged, sooty, frantic faces.”(Hương, 229). The language used here is very intense. There are many metaphors used in this scene to make it more intense, like “the eyes of a wild animal.”(Hương, 229). This helps to make the realization, and the epiphany, more clear.

Abdullah Kabli

Lodge, David. The art of fiction. Vintage, 2011

Hương, Dương Thu. Paradise of the Blind. Trans. Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson. New York: Perennial, 2002. Print.

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