Birthday essay edited 2 - Lee 1 Tom Lee Professor Leong...

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Lee 1 Tom Lee Professor Leong Asian American Study R2A 29 September 2010 In the story “Birthday”, written by David Wong Louie, Wallace, the main character, changes from a person who is blinded by both other’s judgment and his fantasies to a man who can accept the reality and identify himself by his own standards in it. At first, Wallace is blinded the definition of manhood Frank imposes on him. According to “the man”, being Welby’s father will mean being recognized as a man. Stuck with this idea, the narrator tries desperately to prove himself a man with Frank’s definition, even at the cost of deceiving himself. However, he can not see the fact that neither Frank nor time would allow him to reestablish the relationship with the boy. Although the boy is no longer the child he has known months ago, Wallace is unwilling to recognize this change. Nevertheless as the story goes on, Wallace gradually noticed his weak connection to “his son”. In the end, the narrator finally accepts the reality and realizes that it would be better for him to move on. This alter in mind set finally wakes Wallace from his impossible dream and allows him to think rationally. As a result, Wallace stays true to himself and is able to establish an identity that is not defined by others. Louie specifically uses Frank and the law to show Wallace’s initial state of blindness, the child’s room and toys to show the transition state where he struggles to see the truth, and the cake to show his overcoming of both his fantasy and Frank’s definition of manhood. Throughout the story, the narrator is stuck with the idea that being Welby’s father will mean being recognized as a man. That is why he keeps referring Frank, who is the boy’s father by law, as “the man”. This definition is further reinforced by Frank himself. When the two meet,
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Lee 2 Frank said to Wallace, “It’s about time we had a man-to-man” (126). At first glance, this line seems to put the two characters on equal grounds. Indeed, Frank acknowledges that on the previous issues with Sylvie, they are “dead even” (126). However, the in depth look of this line shows that Frank is calling Wallace less of a man than him. According to the definition that fatherhood is manhood, Wallace is not the man, for he does not have any children. In fact, he keeps asking Frank to hand over a child. With Sylvie coming back to Frank, the narrator is further put in a less manly position. Frank is “the man” who has both the child and the woman in his hands, while Wallace is a nobody who has nothing but tries desperately to get something from the established Frank. Based on these circumstances, Frank is really putting Wallace down when he tells him that “it’s about time we had a man-to-man” (126); what he meant is that Wallace should stop trying to bypass him if he wants to become a man by getting the boy. Frank, the one who has the boy, sets up and imposes this definition of “the man” on Wallace. Already overwhelmed by Frank’s definition of being a man, Wallace further blinds
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Birthday essay edited 2 - Lee 1 Tom Lee Professor Leong...

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