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The Significance Of Fire On Familial Bonds

1724 words - 7 pages

Paradise of the Blind, written by author Duong Thu Huong, describes a 20-year old Vietnamese woman, Hang, in the 1980s on a train ride to Moscow. She reflects on her past, and has flashbacks of her life in Vietnam at the time of the Communist reign. Throughout the novel, Huong describes these events using the help of different motifs. One such motif is the use of fire. Using a variety of diction, interior monologue, and sentence structure, Huong uses the motif of fire in Paradise of the Blind to emphasize Hang’s change in opinion towards familial bonds as she matures into an adult.Fire-related diction contributes to how Hang feels about familial bonds. As a child, Hang succumbed to the authority of her family, especially her mother and Aunt Tam, even though she may have disagreed to a certain degree. On page 100, her mother and Aunt Tam are building an altar in memory of Hang’s father. She says, “I went outside...and lit a sparkler. I watched it flicker in my hand. With the money Aunt Tam had given me, I could buy myself a whole paper house of firecrackers. But for me, there was no joy. Even the air here seemed to shiver with faded voices and unfulfilled promises.” (Huong 100) She feels that life has too many “unfulfilled promises”, that there is basically no point in hoping for change. The “flicker” of a “sparkler” represents a weak form of fire that is premature and lacking in intensity. This shows that at this point in time, her hope for change to break from this familial bond is very weak. She does not actually have the “flame” to create this type of revolt. More importantly, though, is the use of the word “firecrackers” in contrast with Hang’s “sparkler”. Firecrackers suggest a more powerful form of fire. By using firecrackers to show the amount Aunt Tam could afford for Hang, Huong shows that Aunt Tam supports Hang and her desire to break the familial bond with her mother. Yet, Hang said, “there was no joy.” and, at that age, she does not believe in breaking a bond with her mother.However, as Hang grows up, she does not detest fire; she longs for it. Huong again uses fire-related diction, so we can see how Hang changed in her views toward familial bonds. In this passage, when Hang is describing the feeling emitted by a song, she feels that the singer “must have suffered, seen her hopes snuffed out, her passions ground to ash.” (Huong 39) The word “snuffed” is used to describe the life of the singer; yet in most cases, “snuffed” is used to describe the blowing out of a candle or match, creating a loss of fire. “Ash” shows an end state of a “snuffed out” fire, and therefore, passion ground to ash is what happens to a “snuffed out life”. Hang explains these descriptions in a negative way, stating that this loss of fire proves the singer “must have suffered” from loss of hope and...

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