The alley behind An's childhood house provides an integral medium in which the reader can explore the process of memory. Through An's memory, the reader is able to create mental sounds, smells, and tastes which become visceral components in the visualization of a pre-war Vietnam. The alley both serves as a link, or channel, where the memories of the old world become once again alive, and animated through An's own psyche. They alley also serves as a focal point that portrays the progress social reform in Vietnamese culture, which has been stagnant, before and after the war. There is a portrayal of the congested nature of Vietnam's city life that manifests a certain sickness and moral degradation in An's identity while in Vietnam. The alley way serves both the yearning of An ti rekindle his past but also the means by which inhibit him from attaining a self actualization that his cohesive with his native heritage. The vicarious and symbiotic nature of the alley reminds the reader how fine of a line it is between nostalgia and disgust.