Monday, May 24, 2010

I was just thinking of the different thing that separe Mai from her mother. The main thing that came to mind was their different ideologies. Mai does not want to remember the past and the past is all Thanh is and holds unto. Mai wants to sever all ties from the past but cannot. She has nightmares and flashbacks from when she used to volunteer at the hospital. The gruesome images haunt her. They do not try to understand each other. Mai sees her mother as ignorant. Her mother is actually quite knowledgeable. Thanh sees that there is not much difference between Karma and genetics. She says that she and her daughter will always be close there is a close connection between them. Thanh knows that what separate them are their different outlooks on life.
Mai unlike her mother adapts well to the United States. Mai is modern meaning that she does hold unto traditional values. Her father was also considered as a modern thinker. Thanh was married to a modern man who was always chasing big ideas. He never stayed long enough with her and was not satisfied with the way life is. That is why Thanh is afraid that Mai will be just like her father. Her fear is that Mai will always look on the horizon for bigger and better things. She could come to abandon her too and never quite be satisfied with her life as well. This could be the bridge separating yet connecting them at the same time.



  1. This is an interesting perspective on Thanh's outlook. It is certainly true that their perceptions of each other is what pulls them apart. Both judge the other harshly. Part of what hurts their relationship is the lack of empathy Mai has for her mother. Before the journals Mai had never really tried to put herself in her mother's place.

  2. Alice,
    This had a very interesting beginning. In my post, I couldn't stop thinking about what connects Thanh and Mai because they seem so disjointed and it never really occurred to me to consider what it is that keeps them apart! I think you are absolutely right in the division between past and present, however there is shift halfway through the novel where Mai suddenly becomes obsessed with her past and with Vietnam and tries to use this as way to reach out for a connection with her mother. However, we find that she is met with apathy and it seems that Thanh is no longer concerned with the past. I think this is a very important consideration in your ideas of bridging their relationship!

  3. Maybe Mai does not try to understand Thanh, but Thanh makes it quite clear that she understands Mai. Thanh had to move to a new village and re-adapt to a new life. She was able to do it successfully and she even begins to enjoy her new life at her husband’s place. She mentions at some point that Mai is going through the same things that she has gone through and acknowledges the fact the Mai is adapting successfully. She understands that Mai must think like an American and not a Vietnamese woman if she is to survive in this new land. Given all of that, my question is why does Thanh still try to make Mai’s identity a Vietnamese identity when she knows it could only do Mai harm in America?

  4. I agree about the seperation. It seems that Mai is able to adapt well because she moved to America at such a young age, lived with an American, and never saw the torment her mother did. although she was born in vietnam, she appears to be American. She knows nothing of her past in Vietnam and ostensibly understands American culture much better. Since her mother doesn't express herself or discuss emotions to her daugther, it seems that this allows Mai to be her own person and not take after her mother.

  5. The issue of past, present and future is a fueling agent in the novel. Mai and Thanh each have a different relationship to the passing of time. in each choosing to hold onto one aspect of time and suppress another the battle amongst the two continues.