Monday, June 7, 2010

Shadowed by History

I chose to depict Thanh gradually crossing a monkey bridge connecting Vietnam and the united states. I felt that the tenuous yet firmly grasped structure served as Cao's best metaphor in traversing one world into another. Baba Quan, whose legacy is forever shadowing Thanh's, is depicted as the shadow in Vietnam. The bridge is at once an impetuous structure binding Thanh to Vietnam and a generation gap keeping Mai and her mother from relating to each other.

-David S.

An Easy Way Out?

I am contemplating the effectiveness of Thanh’s decision to free Mai from her culture by the means of suicide. Thanh’s rationale for her actions is that her death will have a liberating effect on Main and allow her to pursue her own life in American culture. I disagree with her reasoning, although I can see a reasonable thought process. She wants to free Mai to the human obligation, the Mother-Daughter obligation that Mai our feel like she has toward her mother. Personally, I also think that her mother’s reality of the weight of her past, and the traumatic pain that accompanied her with the act of suicide leaves Mai completely alone without anyone to support her as she goes through college.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

What Remains in the Heart

One of the most striking images in the novel was when Mai's father likens the communist strongholds as "leopard spots" in Vietnam. This image seems to resonate about what is happening in Mai's heart. The spots are representative of Vietnam in Mai's heart. Mai is attempting to become a part of the American culture that has been forced upon her but she continues to be tormented by those leopard spots.

the significance of a rice kernel

This scene is intended to portray the rice fields of Saigon. The rice fields symbolize so many things in the text-both good and bad. I separated the sky into two colors in order to illustrate this aspect. For instance, the "golden" sky is meant to reflect the "current of grace that runs through [the fields] (like golden light)" pictured on page 172 in Cao's text. However, as seen, the light in my drawing does "evolve" into darkness (the black color) as a means of representing the turmoil of war and even exile. The color red in the water is meant to represent the blood that was spilled in the war (among the luscious greens of the fields-emphasizing the contrasting memories that Lan Cao's family has of this specific terrain). I was really fascinated by the passage on pg. 172- especially when the mother says "She (i.e. Mai) has never known how it farmed, how it is loved, how a bowl of rice is also a bowl of sweat, a farmer's sweat, a mother's sweat." This really puts things into perspective- never take anything for granted-because someone, somewhere, sacrificed in order for us to have it.

In Mai's eyes, the essential elements of Vietnamese culture are precariously placed and can easily be shaken by science and her new American ideals. And yet for her mother, who knows how to easily navigate monkey bridges, they seem as safe and sturdy as ever.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mai and Thanh and written memories

The journal that Mai reads, that belongs to her mother, was a really interesting and valuable part of the novel as it actually lets us see, as Mai also is, a little further into her mother and the way her mother thinks and why she is the way she is. Earlier in the novel Mai describes her mother’s wedding photo and how she observes that her mother was once beautiful, there is a sense of disconnect and inability to relate to her mother. The journal provides a chance for Mai to understand her mother on a deeper level.

Because Mai is so much younger than her mother the way she experiences her life in exile and the way she relates to her Vietnamese past is very different than the way her mother experiences and relates to those things. Mai’s comment about the wedding photo is an example of the way Mai can’t really link her mother’s Vietnamese past with who her mother is now. The journals provide insight into the past that Thanh embellishes on but the journals only serve to create more stress for Mai as she struggles to hold on to her past. The descriptions of Baba Quan and the land and the life that they came from only serves to awaken a longing in Mai for Vietnam and for answers to questions that there seem to be no answers for.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

David B.'s Journal Entry: Thanh Rides Across a Monkey Bridge on Her Father's Back

We hear a lot about Thanh's childhood throughout the novel. Actually we hear a lot about the childhoods of both Mai's mother and grandmother. Yet we hear next to nothing about Mai's childhood in comparison. I drew the scene where little Thanh is riding on her father's back because it is precisely this kind of childhood memory that Mai does not seem to have. This memory is one of many that grounds Thanh to her old way of life and it's traditions. They are crossing a monkey bridge because this memory is one of the only things that Thanh was able to bring with her to her new world, it is her connection between her past and present. It also brings up some interesting questions such as why Mai doesn't have anything similar? The monkey bridge itself sort of represents Mai's connection with her mother, it appears whin and rickety but it is made of materials taken from the land, and should it break it would be easy to reconstruct. Also bamboo is a lot stronger than it looks, much like Mai's relationship with her mother.

~David B.

Jason's Journal

I decided to focus my final journal entry on the journal that Thanh leaves for Mai. Now, what I decided to depict here was an over-exaggeration. Thanh's intentions for the journal's appeared to be that she wanted Mai to have a connection to her homeland and to through that, have a connection with her mother. Now, while she still depicted Vietnam in a somewhat gloomy light, there were areas that she enhanced in order to create a rosier picture. Particularly with the sections that deal with Baba Quan. By speaking better of him, this helped developed Mai's desire to reconnect with him and what made things seem better then they actually were. This is where my over-exaggeration comes in. In order to show the strong feelings of longing for Baba Quan and the Vietnam Thanh was depicting, I decided to draw a rainbow and bright light erupting from the pages of the journal. Obviously it Thanh's depiction was not that spectacular, but the actual reality of the situation was far worse then what Thanh was letting on.

Side note, I never intended for my journal to reach human eyes other then the Professor's, excuse my horrific artistic skills. :p

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Matt's Journal

Mai's mother's discussion of genetics and karma is an interesting illustration of the differences and similarities between their worldviews. Mai has learned about genetics and DNA through her western education, while her mother has reached a similar, though broader position - the karmic connection of people to their ancestors, and even more fundamentally, of people to the land. Mai's mother draws an essential part of her identity from her connection to the land - she is tied to it like we are tied to our ancestors through genetics, and consequently she seems to suffer more than Mai from their physical exile.

Aimee's Blog Entry

On page 212, I came across a quote that struck me as very powerful: "As my mother's eyes and mine met and locked for a brief moment, I was afraid I knew what she was thinking: among the four of us, it was not Bill, but I, who would be considered the outsider with insider information." This is very revealing on Mai's feelings. The cultural separation that she feels seem to reach its peak at this moment. She has never considered herself as Vietnamese but an assimilation of cultures and values that an exile might feel. Her mother's strong sense of traditionalism strongly opposes that and the generational divide furthers this misunderstanding of one another. Mai's acceptance of a Western ideology contrasts with Thanh's karmic beliefs and as a result, Mai feels isolated and lost. Thanh wanting to instill a hereditary legacy in Mai just pushes her further away.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kristel's Monkey Bridge Journal

The Lotus and Rose

Depiction’s description:

The picture is of a wilting rose over Thanh’s lotus-adorned head, and a wilting lotus over Mai’s rose-bearing head. It symbolizes the view of the American culture (as the rose is the U.S.’s national flower) to Thanh who holds the ideals of Vietnam (symbolized by the lotus as it is Vietnam’s national flower). Thanh’s or Vietnam’s belief system at the time and traditions as well are seen as obsolete and weak in Mai’s perspective, which is why the lotus wilts above her head. The flowers, vibrant and proudly worn, represent the belief systems being upheld by Mai and Thanh while the wilted flowers depict their perspectives of the other culture. Thanh’s perspective of American ways, then, is that they are inapplicable and virtually useless to her thought process and cultural foundation of beliefs. Also, the positioning if their heads signify their clash in beliefs and ideas based on the cultures they inhabit the most.

Jefferson's Thoughts on Monkey Bridge

I feel it's important that I add a disclaimer to my explanation. Brush work has always been challenging so in attempting to create this response the actualized form of my concept is lacking. I attempted to creat an asian inspired brush painting. That was supposed to depict the Great Smokey Mountain Range that would be near where the characters of Monkey Bridge live. The reason that I wanted to depict this range because it seems that Mai's mother has been living a life in exile. So my concept was to depict the familiar in an alien fashion. To me the novel is about dealing with what is unfamiliar for Mai and Thanh. Because of Mai's young age when she left Vietnam, her Vietnamese heritage becomes troubling for her. For Thanh the new world with its different ways causes her a great deal of stress. The motivating factor and what drives the plot forward is that the two main characters attempt to rectify the alienation that they feel. In the sketch I link the house like structure to the mountains by way of a murky pathway. That pathway is representative of the pains that Mai and Thanh go through in order to connect to one another.