Friday, May 31, 2013


Chi was doomed to be a failure to her family just by being herself.  Throughout much of her life and even in death, she was regarded as a failure particularly in the Vietnamese culture.  She had been born a biological girl, forced to take on women's roles while feeling trapped in a girl's body.  She would dress like a boy and was viewed by An as more of an older brother than an older sister.  Andrew Remarked that Chi had simply wanted to be male without reaping the benefits of being the eldest son, showing that she had no care for Vietnamese tradition and only wanted to pursue her own desire of being a boy.  She rebelled against her family, receiving many beatings from her father for her insubordination.  After her death, she had been described to be "too American."

Her suicide was seen as a failure by her family in different ways, depending on the family member.  Andrew believed that he had not been there enough for his sister, not having tried to really understand her.  His parents see failure in their inability to raise a proper daughter in housework, caring for the family and being obedient, a submissive woman who valued their culture and family more than herself.  However, she had embraced the American culture, allowing herself to be more free and open about herself and rebelling against her parents and her culture.  She had become "too American," which seems painfully ironic as they had all uprooted themselves from Vietnam to seek better lives in America, and yet she was unable to freely live her life like they had intended.

Gender roles aside, there did not seem to be anything particularly praiseworthy of Chi.  She was mostly left to herself, aside from changing the diapers of her baby sister.  Andrew even mentioned that their father never asked her questions about anything, whereas he and his brothers would be asked about their grades.  He did mention that Chi had inherited all the bad parts of their parents, such as their father's stubbornness, but it was not something that was praised.  The only praises she received was from Andrew, who described her as "handsome." 

By Grace


  1. The idea of failure, especially in regards to Chi, is an interesting way to look at her character. I think it is interesting to look at her character as someone who is not praiseworthy, because although she is a central idea in the novel, she really does not actually too much of anything. I think the notice of her only praise being handsome shows how shallow her character actually is portrayed as and the lack of depth anyone gives her, revealing just how little they knew Chi.
    - Alex

  2. I completely agree with you about Chi being more of a older brother for Andrew than an older sister. I also think you make a good argument that Chi ultimately failed her parents when she commited suicide.She made all the wrong decisions in life and in the end she was left with nothing except feeling guilty and ashamed for her actions.


  3. Grace,
    I agree with the notion that Chi did want to be identified as a male, yet didn't want to be associated with the 'eldest son' role. Very nicely put!

    I also think that the idea of Chi's suicide as a 'failure' is an interesting way to put it. I saw Chi's suicide, in her family's eyes, as so painful and full of regret for each member. I do agree however with your observations about Chi embracing the 'American' culture. I believe, in this case especially, that for Chi, the American culture was about being "free and open" with herself.


  4. I feel her family's lack of knowledge about her is the saddest part about Chi. It did not take her running away for them to not know her, they never did. In that case, it's hard to classify her as a failure because that is only in the eyes of her family; the people who criticized and ostracized her the most. In my eyes she is heroic. She stood her ground against a tyrannical father, saved her family by running away, and chose to live her life the way she wanted to, regardless of what anyone thought. None of those acts made her a failure; it made her family a failure for never recognizing her greatness.