Typical American By Gish Gen Essay

887 words - 4 pages

Gish Jen's Typical American - To what extend did Ralph Chang become a typical American? According to the dictionary: If something is typical it shows all the characteristics that you would expect from a stated person, thing or group. Something which is typical might also show all the bad characteristics that you expect from someone or something, often in a way that is annoying. (Dictionary) Ralph, Theresa and Helen, the main characters of Gish Jen's novel Typical American came to America to seek the American Dream. They were convinced that everyone in the US had a chance to become happy, rich and successful if they worked hard. They yearned for being Americanized; however, there was not their desire to become "typical Americans". In their perception a term"typical American" had a pejorative meaning: "Typical American no-good", ..., "typical American don't-know-how-to-get-along"[,] ..., "typical American just-want-to-be-the-center-of-things"[,] ..., "typical American no-morals"[,] ..., "typical American use-brute-force"[.] (Typical American, 67) In my opinion all of them followed the myth of the American Dream and became, to some extend, typical Americans.When Ralph came to the US he certainly was a Chinese. He did not understand the Americans, he did not have an English name. He asked the secretary of the Foreign Student Affairs to give him the name. "'Ralph,' she said finally. She wrote it down. R-A-L-P-H. 'Do you like it?' 'Sure!' He beamed." (Typical American, 11) The American name was the first step to his Americanization. Even though Ralf came to America to study engineering and was supposed to return to China afterwords, things went differently. When, in 1948, China collapsed and the Nationalists were fighting the Communists, Ralph was not allowed to go back there. However, he was not really sure if he would like to go back. He wondered if he "[w]ould ... have gone back if he could have[.] He wished he knew that he would have risked his life for his family and country - that he loved them the right way." (Typical American, 23) For the next few years Ralph was successful. He did what he was supposed to do according to the Chinese culture. He studied hard, he married a Chinese girl, his sister's friend and they lived together. Then the Americanization came. They did what other American families did: they watched TV, they read American newspapers, they bought a car and then a bargain house in the suburbs. They were happy to have their first baby, a girl.Theresa didn't mind, but Helen and Ralph were disappointed...

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