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Monkey Bridge Analysis

2087 words - 8 pages

The fall of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to North Vietnamese force on 30 April 201. This event marked the end of the Vietnam War. On this day Vietnam encounters the largest exodus of immigrants as Vietnam governed by the communist regime. Lan Cao in her novel Monkey Bridge reflects the struggle of the Vietnamese Americans immigrants in America. Lan Cao was born in Vietnam in 1961 and moved to live in America when she was thirteen years old as a result of the Vietnam War. Her novel Monkey Bridge published in 1997, it is a semi-autobiographical story of a mother and her daughter who leave Vietnam and settled in the United States. It considers to be the first novel by a Vietnamese American about the war experience. Monkey Bridge has two narrators. Mai one and a half generation Vietnamese American teenager, who run off to America when Saigon falls in 1975, and her mother, Thanh, who manages to join her daughter a few months later. Mai aims to help her mother to overcome her past. On the other hand, Thanh fells that by keeping her daughter away from the truth of their shameful history, she can protect her from having the same pain and sorrow that she once had. Thanh’s inability to achieve reconciliation with her past and her inability to assimilate in the new world leads her to commit suicide, leaving a message for her daughter to tell her the truth about her past.
Based on Deconstruction theory, Lan Cao’s novel Monkey Bridge depicts the mother-daughter relationship before and after living in exile in terms of language, familial roles and deception.
To begin with, Mai and her mother had a normal relationship when they used to live in Vietnam. Thanh dose not have any language barrier when she used to live in Vietnam. In the contrary, she does not only spoke Vietnamese which was her mother tongue but also her convent school education gave her fluency in French and knowledge of the French literature. However, in America Thanh is just another immigrant who spoke no English. Thanh inability to speak English creates a barrier between her and the others. Therefore, Thanh starts to depend on her daughter to communicate with others as Mai plays the role of a translator for her mother. Due to this language barrier the binary of mother authority vs. child subordination flips. In America, Mai becomes in a power position, she has the authority that her mother once has in Vietnam. She is aware of this power as she states “inside my new tongue, my real tongue was an astonishing new power. For my mother and her neighbors. I became the keeper of the word the only one with access to the light world. Like Adam, I had the God-given right to name all the fowls of the air and all the beasts of the field.” (Cao 37). Mai uses this power to manipulate her mother for her own benefit. In her interactions with the outside world Mai suppresses her mother’s voice through her mistranslation of her mother’s speech to Americans. Instead Mai revises her mother’s...

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