Monday, May 31, 2010

Teresa's blog on Monkey Bridge

Throughout the novel the reader is able to understand that there is a disconnect between Mai and Thanh. However Thanh is able to maintain somewhat intimate and close relationships with other people. Thanh shares a special relationship with GI’s. This at first seems odd because she can be perceived to have a distain for Americans and the ‘American way.’ However, there is a shared experience between the two. Uncle Michael is able to appreciate Vietnam the same way the Thanh does. And regarding Bill, he is able to connect with Thanh’s status as an outsider. Thanh is considered one because she is a Vietnamese immigrant. Bill is outcasted because he fought and Vietnam and both have stigmas associated with those roles. Than’s lack of connection with Mai could stem from the fact that Mai has not been able to connect with Vietnam outside of a war. Mai’s memories, at least the ones mentioned in the book, only seem to come from the people of Vietnam like her grandfather, and father not Vietnam itself.


  1. While it is true that we hear very little about Mai’s connection with Vietnam other than through the people she knew there, we are given a big clue at the beginning as to why that might be. The novel opens with her flashback of the guy who had a grenade in his chest that killed all of those doctors, Mai experienced this firsthand. She would have been very young at the time, perhaps not even a teen yet. This could have caused her to bury all of the war memories that you hint she does not have deep within her sub consciousness. If this is the case then the disconnect she has with her mother could stem from the fact that Mai just can’t remember the uglier aspects of war whereas her mother can’t forget them. As for Thanh’s connection with other outsiders I think it is to be expected because adults process and deal with traumatic events in different ways than children do, perhaps it might be a little unfair of the mother to compare her own coping mechanisms with that of her daughter’s.

  2. If Thanh really cannot connect to Mai because Mai does not share her memories of Vietnam, this is quite ironic. Thanh has actively deceived Mai by creating a false history in her journals. If Thanh wanted to connect with Mai through shared experiences, she presumably would have tried to jog Mai's memory by telling her true stories. Rather, I think than Thanh on some level does not want Mai to connect with her. She instead wants to cut Mai off from herself and thus from the trauma of their family history.

  3. I think it is easier for Thanh to have a better connection with the GIs because she doesn't care for them as she does her daughter. She can lie and pretend to be a different person because she has no reservations about how they view her. Mai, on the other hand, is somebody she does truly love. With her fear of hurting her daughter, she stays disconnected in attempt to keep her from sharing her pain that eventually kills her.