A major theme in Mona In the Promised Land is the disconnection of Mona from her traditional Chinese culture. The implications of her break with her culture include a salvation through her Judaism, as well as the exclusion from her family as a rebellious younger daughter, destined to fail in the shadow of their Harvard-attendee: Callie. However, Mona learns for herself that there is no prescription family and that her role in her own family is what she defines it to be. This revelation, though, does not come without many doubts and grievances. After beau Sherman Matsumoto, a Japanese student, tells her that "she will need to study how to switch [to be his Japanese wife]" (21) Mona always dwells on where she fits in the classification system of America, and of China, and of Judaism. The Chinese and Japanese have words which define such concepts as "the world of politeness and obligation" and "the world of true feeling, and intimacy -- the world without words" and "the world of what is hidden in the heart," however Mona is neither Chinese nor Japanese. She is a Chinese-American Jew. Where does she fit within these definitions?
On her deathbed, Addie Bundren shares the same kind of inadequacy of words:
Why are you Anse. I would think about his name until after a while I could see
the word as a shape, a vessel, and I would watch him liquify and flow into it like a cold molasses flowing out of the darkness into the vessel, until the jar stood full and motionless: a significant shape profoundly without life like an empty door frame; and then I would find that I had forgotten the name of the jar. I would think: The shape of my body where I used to be a virgin is in the shape of
a [sic] and I couldn't think Anse, couldn't remember Anse. It was not that I could think of myself as no longer unvirgin, because I was three now. And
when I would think Cash and Darl that way until their names would die and solidify into a shape and then fade away, I would say, All right. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what they call them. (Faulkner 173)
For Addie, it is relatively easy to define her place in the world. She is a wife, a mother, a daughter, and she is dying. To define her family without her, however, is where Addie finds herself unable. The words and names she attempts to assign to each of her loved ones becomes a malleable identity with it's own agenda and definitions.
Mona also addresses the split between her Chinese race and her American culture. Because she was born in America, she is American, however her parents insist that she must maintain her Chinese heritage even more strongly than she should embrace her Americanness. The generational gap contributes to Mona's struggle with identity, as well as her social network of a very diverse group of friends. She struggles with the idea that most of the turmoil...