Paradise of the Blind:
GINS Novel Study:
October 23, 2013
My teachers have just created a new project called the "Global Issues Novel Study". My posts will be more frequent for the next couple of weeks and should be based around the book, Paradise of the Blind by Huong Thu Duong. I have recently read 20% of the novel, 58 pgs, and will be talking about the characters introduced, the issues discussed, and the reasons I chose this novel, ect.
Paradise of the Blind takes place in Vietnam, a beautiful country surrounded by China, Cambodia, and Laos. Throughout the novel the life of a young girl, Hang, is explored as we discover her past and the mysterious disappearance of her father. We explore her future and the oddities of her Aunt Tam; who is fighting for Hang's future. The beauty of Vietnam is discovered and it's rich culture is unveiled through this exquisite novel written by Huong Thu Duong.
Why I Chose This Novel:The main reason why I chose this novel was due to my background. I, too, am a Vietnamese person and I chose this book in hopes of better understanding my heritage. I wanted to explore the rich history of Vietnam from another individual's eyes. Although my parents went through many hardships and experienced many of these events, they often protect me from tragedies of their countries' past. My initial interest first began when I read the author's note. Duong explains the cultures and traditions of the Vietnamese to be indescribable, and the only way to fully understand it is to live/experience it. An example of this would be the golden rule of respecting elders. For "outsiders" the mere thought is an obvious and a must, but to follow this moral and ethic under the Vietnamese views is impossible to explain in English. A great upside to this novel study is the fact that I understand the culture. The traditions that she discusses are some in which I live in everyday. Although my circumstances aren't nearly as harsh as those in Vietnam; I understand the expectations that an individual must fulfill in hopes of pleasing their family and the undermining eyes of the society around them. Throughout the novel I hope to expand and better understand this idea and see the perspective of someone from the past.
The Main Issue Being Addressed:
I would say that there are many issues being discussed throughout the book but the main one that Duong focuses on is the roles that tradition plays in ones' lifestyle. Although she puts some attention on the social make-up of Vietnam, we see that Duong continues to bring her thoughts back to this larger idea. On pg. 37, this idea of culture and respect is tested. "He pushed the glass to my lips. I felt uneasy, but out of respect I swallowed a mouthful."From this quote, we see how the expectations of the society influence an individual's choices. In this scenario, Hang was "forced" to drink the alcohol out of pure "respect". Through out this novel I think Duong will make sure to explore a series of issues, that aren't only related to the religion of the Vietnamese, but also the social structure, and the gender roles that circulate through the lives of the citizens.
What Background Knowledge Do You Already Possess on the Novel:
As I have briefly explained in the beginning, I am a Vietnamese person. I know some of the basic ideas of the tradition, the food, and the social structure that is made up within Vietnam however if I were to choose the one that I best understand it would have to be the cultures and ethics that the Vietnamese hold.
Earlier I mentioned the idea of "respecting elders" and the importance that it plays in Vietnamese society. It determines your first impression, and if done wrongly it could brand you for years. Although there are many who refer to this rule as a moral; I would like to differ. When you have lived in a Vietnamese society and coexisted with the true citizens of Vietnam, you will understand that elders have the say and that their word is law. Your answer must always be a "yes" and there shouldn't never be a thought of "no". From the few perspectives that are reading this post, there will be many who question these ideas and the thoughts in which I am sharing, however as Duong explains herself, "the Vietnamese language, with it's myriad ways of expressing respect for age, and social class is impossible to translate in English." Pg. 9.
As my reading continues I hope to share with you more ideas on the tradition of the Vietnamese and to open your eyes to the distinct culture that belongs to the Vietnamese.
- Why don't Hang and her mother live together?
- What importance or relationship does Hang and her uncle have?
- Why does Hang have such resentful feelings towards her uncle?
- Is this a true story?
- How did the author feel when crafting this story?What kind of personal connection does she have with this novel?
- What were the difficulties in publishing this book? What were her parents' views?
- Did she face any of the same troubles that were inflicted upon Hang?
Characters with Larger Influences in the Novel:
- Hang: Protagonists and Main Character --> Introduced from Pg. 11
- Que (Hang's Mother) --> Introduced from Pg. 17
- Ton (Hang's Father) ---> Introduced from Pg. 19
- Uncle Chinh (Hang's Mother's Older Brother) ---> Introduced Pg. 12
- Aunt Tam (Hang's Father's Older Sister) --> Introduced from Pg. 23
Minor/ Supporting Characters in the Novel:
- Madame Vera --> Introduced from Pg.11
- Hang's Roomate --> Introduced from Pg.13
- Grandma Nhieu (Hang's Father's Mother) ---> Introduced from Pg.16
- Little Thu ---> Introduced from Pg. 43
As a whole, the novel is centred around the perspective of Hang, the protagonists. Throughout the novel we should be able to explore her interactions with her mother, her Uncle Chinh, her Aunt Tam, and some other minor characters that have had a role on her life. As we reach nearer to the end of the book, I think Hang will begin to grow more dynamic and develop a different mindset that helps her escape the stereotypical thoughts of the Vietnamese citizens and branch out into an independent and successful women.