Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Biker With No-name

In Catfish and Mandala Andrew X. Pham descries his relationship with a homeless boy named, by the tourist, No-name on his biking trip across Vietnam. The relationship develops very quickly and they become close friends both dreading the other's departure. No-name and Andrew are both stuck with people that don't understand them. No-name, because f his inability to speak, is unable to communicate with others and becomes an outcast in his country, Vietnam, and his people. His inability to speak also causes him to develop a special relationship with the tourists as they favor him other other kids This causes the other beggars of Hanoi abuse him and refuse to relate to him. Andrew on the other hand is able to speak the language in both his home country, Vietnam, and his home, U.S.A., but he is segregated in both countries because of his accent and appearance. In America Andrew speaks English with a Vietnamese accent which prevents him from fully assimilating to the country. While in Vietnam he speaks with an American accent which combined with his foreigner look labels him as a Viet-kieu and separates him from the locals. In both cases language causes a separation between the person and their fellow peers. No-name's inability to speak causes him to be an outcast just like Andrew's accent leads to him becoming an outcast in both of his countries.

An important part of being an outcast is the removal of the thing that makes people significant, the name. In the case of No-name his separation from his culture is apparent in the fact that he does not receive an actual name. Instead he is labeled as No-name by the tourists he encounters. A degrading and insignificant label causes the boy to be separated from society. Andrew, too, has a birth name yet people refuse to call him by that name instead choosing to lower him to a label. In Vietnam he loses his name and becomes Viet-kieu. Andrew is fit into a label that Vietnamese locals refuse to change even when he attempts to demonstrate that he is Vietnamese and shares a love for the country. The same circumstance takes place in America where his is labeled such things as Asian and Vietnamese instead of his birth name. In his home he becomes a No-name, putting his naming rights in the hands of other people which refuse to accept that he is more than a label.

In different countries but in similar ways the story of No-name and Andrew are paralleled.  The history of being outcast leads them to develop a close and intimate relationship which Andrew is unable to have with anyone else. The relationship is based on their mutual understanding of each others pain and struggles without having to tell their own stories. No-name is Andrew just like Andrew is No-name, people without proper names in society.

By Oscar


  1. Loss of voice denies both No Name and Andrew the ability to self-define. They suffer hostility from those with whom they would otherwise seek connection. Perhaps, beneath the hostility and resentment they experience, lies a feeling that, by their very presence, they flaunt and waste the advantages gained through their foreign associations. Might others feel that they, given those same advantages, would make better use of them?


  2. Andrew is given his identity by others because he is not aware of his own cultural identity. Throughout the book, he uses the names Andrew and An. One represents his American identity and the other represents his Vietnamese identity. The fact that he switches between the two demonstrates that he not firmly connected with either one. Similarly, No Name is given his identity by others because he is unable to establish anything different.


  3. Not only is the parallel between No-name and Andrew significant, but so is the connection between names and identity. It's not something I thought much about before reading Catfish and Mandala and your analysis. In Western society, the power of having your own name is something you often take for granted; it gives you individuality. When you have no control over what other people call you, others' views have a significant impact on your identity.

    - Hannah

  4. This is an excellent interpretation of the "no name" child. The fact that a name labels a individual with their identity shows the meaning of the way that this child and Pham both are missing a crucial part to their identity.