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

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Lee 1 Tom Lee Professor Leong Asian American Study R2A 22 September 2010 In the story “Birthday”, written by David Wong Louie, Wallace, the main character, changed from a person who was blinded by both other’s judgment and his fantasies to a man who could accept the reality and identify himself by his own standards in it. At first, Wallace was blinded the definition of manhood Frank imposed on him. According to “the man”, being Welby’s father would mean being recognized as a man. Stuck with this idea, the narrator tried desperately to prove himself a man with Frank’s definition, even at the cost of deceiving himself. However, he could not see the fact that neither Frank nor time would allow him to reestablish the relationship with the boy. Although the boy was no longer the child he had known months ago, Wallace could not recognize this change. Nevertheless, as the story went on, Wallace gradually noticed his weak connection to “his son”. In the end, the narrator finally accepted the reality and realized that it would be better for him to move on. This alter in mind set finally woke Wallace from his impossible dream and allowed him to think rationally. As a result, Wallace stayed true to himself and was able to establish an identity that was not defined by either Frank or the child. In essence, Louie used Frank and the law to show Wallace’s initial state of blindness, the child’s room and toys to show his struggle 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 believed that being Welby’s father would mean being recognized as a man. That was why he kept referring Frank, who was the boy’s father by law, as “the man”. This definition was further acknowledged by “the man” himself. When the two met,
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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 seemed to put the two characters on equal grounds. Indeed, Frank acknowledged that on the previous issues with Sylvie, they were “dead even” (126). However, the in depth look of this line showed that Wallace was less a man than Frank. Since Wallace was the one who kept asking Frank to hand over the boy, he was, by the definition of this complicated issue, not the man. However, Frank, the one who had the boy, set up and imposed this definition of “the man” on Wallace. Due to physical differences, Wallace bought into the imposition. Moreover, Sylvie came back to Frank, further putting the narrator in a less manly position. Based on these circumstances, Frank was really putting Wallace down when he told him that “it’s about time we had a man-to-man” (126); what he meant was that Wallace should stop trying to bypass him if he wanted to become a man by getting the boy. Already much overwhelmed by Frank’s definition of being a man, Wallace further
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This note was uploaded on 02/11/2012 for the course ENGLISH R1A taught by Professor Meganpugh during the Spring '09 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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

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