I really enjoyed looking through this book. For the most part I could easily understand what was happening. I found the frames that depict the man struggling to find employment really realistic and eye opening. So often immigrants travel to a new country for the chance of employment and better opportunities. Since the job market is so competitive these days, I can only imagine the struggle that immigrants face with finding a job when they first arrive. The idea that one travels to a new country in order to establish a better life for themselves or their family (like in this story) is really eye opening when you remember that starting off in that new country isn’t so easy. Seeing the main character struggle to adapt reminds me how difficult it must be to not only adapt to societal ways but to also find employment when you don’t necessarily know what’s going on. I also enjoyed looking at the part where the man and young boy are particularly hospitable to the immigrant man. This reminds you that hospitality is so important and always welcome. I’m fascinated by the end where the young daughter is presumably pointing a refugee in some direction. The transition from the main character moving first to the new country, figuring things out, then having his wife and daughter come, and then the arrival of new immigrants in general is interesting because it shows how the family went through that initially but now they’re almost experts at this transition. Lastly, two questions I want to bring up are that of 1) the tentacles/rigid tails that we see throughout the beginning when the main character leaves his city of origin- what do we think this signifies? and 2) why do we think Tan includes 60 faces in a grid formation at the beginning and end papers? All of the faces are very different from one another, so is this trying to bring together each individual reader and connect us in a way?
After finishing the novel there are a few things I want to reiterate from discussion last week. I think it’s interesting that the characters throughout the text are never officially identified. Why do we think this is? Also why do we think the text transitions between first and third person? Why do we see an unidentifiable ‘she’ throughout the text as well as read Cha in the first person? Interestingly, there is not any dialogue in the text. What might be the purpose of this? Lastly, one theme I notice is that of language and the silence/speaking binary. On page 75, Cha writes, “One by one./ The sounds. The sounds that move at a time/ stops. Starts again. Exceptions/ stops and starts again/ all but exceptions./ Stop. Start. Starts. / Contractions. Noise. Semblance of noise./ Broken speech. One to one. At a time./ Cracked tongue. Broken tongue./ Pidgeon. Semblance of speech./ Swallows. Inhales. Stutter. Starts. Stops before starts./ About to. Then stops. Exhale/ swallowed to a sudden arrest./ Rest. Without. Can do without rests. Improper/ to rest before begun even. Probation of rest./ Without them all./ Stop start./ Where proper pauses were expected./ But no more.” These one word sentences resemble a constant pause like in a speech. Why do we think she includes this passage? Clearly language is important to Cha but what about speech is also important? What else can we conclude besides it being a form of power and a way of communication?
First of all, what do we think about the title? I haven’t finished the story (I’m almost done), but I have no idea what to make of it. I noticed throughout the story the use of the same sentences, “Wong Wan-Lee was working in his laundry. While he was working, he was thinking of Pearl Chang” and “Pearl Chang didn’t come”. Why do we think the author purposely repeated these sentences throughout the text/what does the repetition do?
When the old Chinese man comes into the laundry place and begins to converse with Wong he states, “America is an evil land and once you sink in you can never get out” (p 55). At what point in the story does Wong perhaps begin to agree with this statement? It isn’t until later on he states, “I, Wong Wan-Lee—the descendant of the first Emperor, the great Huang Ti, the great- greatgrandson of the Han Dynasty, the great-grandson of the T’ang Dynasty, the grandson of the Sung Dynasty and the son of the Ming Dynasty—was exiled to a savage land, first as a waiter and then as a laundryman” (p 99). What do we think about this?
I can’t help but laugh at Pearl Chang and her almost naive-like behavior towards Wan- Lee Wong at times. She is convinced at one point that Wong was a prince; her prince. “And she was thoroughly convinced that Wong Wan-Lee was a prince of certain validity, and she wished that she had a Five-and-Ten grandfather, for then she would be able to buy ponies for Prince Wong Wan-Lee as a wedding present so that he might ride them in polo games” (p 99). What can we take from this passage?
Another thing I found to be interesting was when Pearl Chang lost her job in the Chinese restaurant in Chinatown because she was not purely Chinese, but she got a job in the cafeteria because ‘the owner thought that as long as Pearl Chang looked like a Chinese, that the Americans would not know whether she was genuine or not’ (145). Also, I find it ironic that when Wan-Lee Wong and Pearl Chang went to the Chinese New Year celebration in Chinatown that they saw more Americans than Chinese (73). I find it rather comical that Pearl Chang is Chinese (and would you say, proud to be it?) when she can’t even read the language, doesn’t know how to use chopsticks, and thinks Chow Mein and Chop Suey are authentic Chinese dishes. Lastly, what can we take from the passage where she takes a look at herself in her pocket mirror, is glad she is Chinese and then throws away a small picture of a white movie actress? (97). I think the character of Pearl Chang definitely adds a lot of depth to this narrative and creates an important dynamic between Chinese immigrants and American-born Chinese.
I’m really enjoying this narrative so far. There are a few scenes within the story that have caught my attention. The first time I notice Jim acting hostile towards the Shimerda family is when Mrs. Shimerda pleads with his grandmother to gift her a kitchen pot. “I thought it weak-minded of grandmother to give the pot to her.. She was a conceited, boastful old thing, and even misfortune could not humble her. I was so annoyed that I felt coldly even toward Ántonia and listened unsympathetically when she told me her father was not well” (Cather, 98). Ántonia expresses her concern for her father and Jim goes on to say, “People who don’t like this country ought to stay at home. We don’t make them come here” (98). This is the first time I notice Jim acting aggressive and annoyed towards his dear friend. Despite wanting to believe that Jim, his grandparents (The Burdens), Jake Marpole, and Otto Fuchs are utterly saintlike people for their hospitality and care towards the Shimerdas (from the very beginning), you are reminded that they still regard them as immigrants and don’t fully accept them in their society. “They ain’t the same Jimmy, These foreigners ain’t the same. You can’t trust ’em to be fair” (120). Often regarded as ‘the foreigners’ or ‘the Bohemians’, the Shimerdas are looked down upon as insignificant beings. It isn’t until later on in the story once Jim has grown up a bit that he explains his thoughts on the attitudes of his fellow townspeople. Although foreigners could have been very well respected in their home country, he concludes that the townspeople saw no difference, being that “All foreigners were ignorant people who couldn’t speak English” (158). (On a side note, even a drunk tramp who jumped into a thrashing machine said, “My God! So it’s Norwegian’s now, is it? I thought this was Americy” (145). I’m not sure what to think about ‘americy’ and what it means? Randomly on pg. 170, Jim says, “Her warm, sweet face, her kind arms, and the true heart in her; she was, oh, she was still my Ántonia!” I believe this is the first time I see ‘my Antonia’ written out not just in the title. Another interesting passage, different from the ones above, is where Jim describes his neighbor Mr. Harling and the apparent power he holds over his family and wife. “Mr.Harling had a desk in his bedroom… in which no one else ever sat… Mrs. Harling paid no heed to any one else if he was there… his wife made coffee for him at any hour of the night he happened to want it”. Jim further says, “Mr. Harling, therefore, seemed to me autocratic and imperial in his ways. He walked, talked, put on his gloves, shook hands, like a man who felt he has power” (134). I know this passage holds significance and I look forward to discussing it in class.