Monday, May 24, 2010

"In our way of thinking, it is not enough to obey, you must also, as a child, look deep into your parents' souls, and distill the true meaning behind all the outward conversations. A child born from her mother's womb should be able to unlock double meanings."

I think that this passage speaks to Mai and her mother's unmeshed relationship. Mai's mother, coming from a very deep and rich Vietnamese history, who believes in profound connections, surpasses the logic and science of Mai's more familiar American culture. Mai's mother is still hopeful, or at least longs for, her daughter's understanding of their deep rooted connection to things that are not explicit or obvious. The connection that her mother possess to karma, tradition and a profound respect for the dead, is lost at times with Mai, who does not really comprehend this because she was brought up in this American culture. In writing this in her journal perhaps her mother was trying to reach out to her in hopes that she will read through the journal and discover her true feelings. In the very way that her mother is expressing things to Mai through this journal, she could be showing how her daughter and she have a deeper connection after all-because perhaps she knew she would read it and get the message. The message being that culture and history lies deeper than genes and heredity, it is a state of beig that is as subtle as a breath and as powerful as a monsoon. I think this idea needs to be understood by Mai in order to be totally connected to her mother and her past.



  1. I completely agree with you in that their relationship is unmeshed. Thanh seems to be attempting to reconnect with her daughter through the journals just as the King in the betel-nut story states that:

    "There is a luminous motion that binds family together for eternity. The blood of family can never be diluted. Mixed in a bowl, it will come together in a thick bright mixture." (85)

    This quote along with the one you mentioned really allow the reader to realize how strong the family bond is assumed to be in Vietnamese culture. Mai eventually comes to realize this, but not until after reading the final letter.

  2. The quote suggests that mothers and their children should have a strong unbreakable bond. Yet in the story, Mai and Thanh do not have that. This quote is key in understanding the mother's viewpoint. Yet, Mai does not hold this sentiment, and has a more americanized viewpoint of communication: one says what one feels. This difference in belief affects their relationship drastically.

  3. When you say that Thanh's traditional beliefs surpass the logic and science of Mai's American culture, do you mean that they are superior? Thanh clearly thinks so, but Mai would probably disagree. I'm not sure the book makes a strong statement one way or the other. In the end, Thanh's beliefs lead her to kill herself, which seems to damage Mai even further rather than helping her. If Thanh had simply abandoned her belief in karma she might have chosen another path. On the other hand, Mai's faith in America doesn't seem to translate into self-assurance or a sense of home.

  4. I think that Mai more than anything wants to submit and understand her mother and her traditional beliefs. But they are too separated and distant with a world in between them. I wonder if Thanh's need to express culture and hereditary to Mai was more important than giving an accurate history to her?