English 4 Essay 2.docx - Sidhu 1 Prabhleen Sidhu Professor...

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Sidhu 1 Prabhleen Sidhu Professor Diana Firestone English 4 28 March 2016 Typical American By Gish Jen The term, American dream, is used habitually. There is a lot of controversy about what the American dream is. It can be different for each individual. The American dream runs through American history and it reflects culture and traditional values. It is a set of ethics in which freedom, opportunity for affluence and opulence, and an upward social mobility can be attained through hard work. Typical American is a novel by Gish Jen about a first generation Chinese man, Yifeng Chang (Ralph), who emigrates to the United States to study engineering and earn a doctorate. The novel is divided into five subsections, each with titled chapters. Currently in America, people think that everyone seeks money and prosperity, consumerism, and materialism. And while trying to achieve this said ‘success’ it leads Ralph to go against his culture and upbringing and puts money before family. He submits himself to egocentrical ways as a result of bad company. This novel gives a great example of the hardships of assimilation into American culture. It is a strain for each of the protagonists to adapt the western culture into their already familiar traditional Chinese culture. Some themes that were quite significant in this novel were family, mutation, and the differentiation of the pursuit and disillusionment of the American dream/Typical American between Ralph, Theresa, and Helen. The American dream is the true essence of all Americans. It controls the personality and values you identify with. The American dream stands for dreams and goal that can only be achieved in America. It symbolizes the many
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Sidhu 2 doors the United States can open for someone who is ambitious to be successful through hard work and determination. Family is a key theme in this story. Ralph leaves his country based on the idea he will be coming to America to obtain his doctorate and earn money for his family back home. He comes to America with a deep appreciation of his family, and his only priority. He has these set of rules so he will not stray from his goal. “He was going to be the first in his class, and he was not going home until he had his doctorate rolled up to hand his father.” (6) In the beginning of the novel, Ralph can be very naive to think that he will keep his culture and ‘identity’ principally intact. However, that soon changes. During his first year in America, Communist take control of Manchuria, which transfigures China, thus resulting in the separation with Ralph’s parents and cultural traditions. This causes Ralph to feel alone and adrift in his new home. Miraculously one day when Ralph is sitting in the park all alone, he comes across his long lost sister, Theresa, who had emigrated to America before Ralph. Throughout the story, Theresa undergoes success with her career, but downsizes it for the sake of her brother. This is because in traditional Chinese culture, a man’s success has much more significance than a women’s. Theresa had achieved
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