Novels that illustrate a confrontation between disparate cultures provide
particularly straightforward insights into basic human behavior.
Characters confronted with a cultural conflict must explore basic human
commonalities to breach the gap between the cultures. In doing so, one
diminishes the differences between her culture and the unknown culture,
ultimately bringing her closer to her raw humanity. Simultaneously, this
sets the stage for countless sociological case studies that may illuminate
important human behaviors that are otherwise masked by the bias of a
dominating culture. A prime subject for one such examination is Mona
Chang, a natural-born American who strives to overcome the cultural
pressure posed by her Chinese immigrant parents so that she may be
accepted by her peers. Appearing in Gish Jen’s Mona in the Promised Land,
Chang finds herself in a situation that tests her identity as an American.
The test, occurring in her adolescence, proves inconclusive. In turn, it
motivates Chang to affirm her identity at the expense of her maturity-a
struggle that continues until she overcomes the factor that initially
questioned her identity. Thus, the cultural backdrop of Jen’s Mona in the
Promised Land provides an excellent basis to study the human character,
from which one may infer that an incident that causes identity confusion
in one’s adolescent life must be resolved before one may reach maturity.
In Chang’s case, her oriental appearance pairs her with Sherman Matsumoto,
the newest ad…
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… one must rely primarily upon the text itself as well as interviews with
Jen. Although few scholarly resources are available with pertinence to
this novel, it is not difficult to make a substantial argument for the
aforementioned themes. Naturally, those themes apply only to adolescents
who have not yet matured fully from a psychological perspective. In
conclusion, the cultural clash in Jen’s Mona in the Promised Land allows
one to discern easily that one must figuratively conquer that which
troubles her sense of identity lest her maturity remain underdeveloped.
April Guest: Gish Jen. McDougal Littell Page. 1999.
Jen, Gish. Mona in the Promised Land. New York: Vintage Contemporaries,
Willy Loman, the Modern Hero in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
In Arthur Miller’s essay “Tragedy and the Common Man”, a picture is painted of a “flaw-full” man, known as the modern hero of tragedies. Miller describes what characteristics the modern tragic hero possesses and how he differs from the heroes depicted by classic Greek playwrights such as Sophocles and Aristotle. In order to understand how drastically the modern hero has evolved, one must first understand the basic characteristics that the heroes created by Sophocles and Aristotle encompass. The Greek tragic heroes, otherwise known as the protagonists, illustrated by tragic Greek playwrights, were never normal people. All heroes were citizens of high class, such as princes. This was due in part because plays were seen as a luxury for refined citizens. Aristocratic citizens did not want to pay to watch plays about the peasants of society. They wanted to relate to the characters; therefore, all heroes of Greek tragedy were elite members of society. An additional distinguishing factor of the Greek heroes dealt with their morality. A tragic hero of this time could not be someone who was morally dislikable, because the audience would not be able to relate to the character. If the protagonist was morally dislikeable, the play’s spectators would cheer during times of character turmoil and would be displeased when the character was in good fortune. Instead, the hero would have to be someone who fell in the middle of the morality spectrum. Midrange was identified as a person who was fairly decent and good, but who could make mistakes that would be considered wrong. A character painted in this light was easily relatable; therefore, the audience would become attached to the character, allowing them to feel the hero’s pain or joy. Most impor…
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…ot to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.”
Willy’s heroism in the face of his life’s mediocrity exemplified his unwillingness to remain inactive while his life slowly crumbled before him. Willy’s death may not have secured him is dignity or everlasting admiration, but he died the death of a salesmen, and for that, what more could he have asked?
Gioia, Dana, and X.J. Kennedy. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print.
Miller, Arthur. “Death of a Salesman.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. Joseph Terry. New York, NY: Pearson Longman, 2007. 1764-1832. Print.
Miller, Arthur. “Tragedy and the Common Man.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. Joseph Terry. New York, NY: Pearson Longman, 2007. 1833-1835. Print.