Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vietnamese, American or Both?

A rampant theme throughout Catfish and Mandala is Pham’s struggle to find his national identity. He is shown to see himself as an American misfit and failure while also seeing himself as the lost Vietnamese son. He constantly categorizes the people around him as Americans, Vietnamese, or Vietnamese-Americans. Page 64 describes a scene where the Vietnamese on the plane embarrass Pham and he tries to distance himself from them. He realizes that he cannot do this because by blood, he is one of them. As he was born in Vietnam but is an American citizen, Pham has an innate need to reconcile these two identities. Even when he returns to Vietnam, Pham does not fit in because of the time he has spent in America. In the United States, Pham has a hard time assimilating because of the cultural difference in the home he was raised in. Perhaps Pham should refrain from trying to define himself as either Vietnamese of American, but accept himself as a mixture of both. Human beings are more complicated than the place they call home; therefor defining oneself by national identity alone could never suffice to encompass an individual’s character.

By  Courtney


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  2. Like most people, Andrew wants to fit in somewhere. Unfortunately for him, particularly if he follows his father's advice, fitting into America means conforming to a mold he finds degrading. To compound matters, once he arrives in Vietnam, he has no model to emulate. He has already rejected the image of his father and American cultural icons, especially of Andrew's era are quite often unrealistic swaggering brutes (Rambo, Dirty Harry Chuck Norris). The intensity of his circumstances and dearth behavioral precedents leaves him otherwise rudderless in dangerous waters.


  3. It is very true that An continually classifies people as either American or Vietnamese and he labels himself as a Viet-kieu or Vietnamese American. He understands all the negative associations that come with him being a Viet-kieu yet it is what he is most comfortable being labeled as. An's experiences and initial rejection of the Vietnamese people show how removed he is from the culture because of his time in America. It is true that someone cannot solely being defined by the place they call home. An's struggles and complicated upbringing make the question of where home is even more complex. In the end An needs to accept his dual identity to have any kind of peace and accept that the home that he is seeking may never be found.


  4. The fact that you commented on the fact that An should stop trying to fit in one category and simply accept that he is a mixture of both is extremely perceptive. I've felt this way throughout the entirety of the novel, there is no way of finding a balance in which one should be more loyal to. There is only a balance in accepting oneself the way he/she is and being open to all possibilities--like An is at the end of his memoir.