Essay: Monkey Bridge

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Monkey Bridge

Foreshadowing and Characterization

The early chapters of Monkey Bridge make many allusions to future (or past, chronologically speaking) events that are not revealed for some time, in some instances not until the very end of the novel. The secret burdens that Thanh carries around, for instance, form a major part of the action at the very outset of the novel, but the precise nature of this secret burden is not revealed until the climax of the novel. For instance, the line on page four of Monkey Bridge that says that Thanh, "never truly recovered from the mishap that left [her supposed father] without the means to leave Saigon" provides some detail about what has occurred in her life, but without actually revealing the mystery of her relationship to her erstwhile father or her past struggles in leaving Vietnam. Even some earlier actual events in the novel, such as Mai's ultimate failure to carry out her plan to contact Baba Quan, foreshadow the earlier chronological events that are revealed later on in the novels' actions.

Both Mai and Thanh's characters' can be seen fairly clearly in the opening chapters of the novel; Thanh is quite clear not adjusting well to life in the United States and has a deep sense of past guilt, which demonstrates her commitment to traditional Vietnamese values and family bonds as well as her personal integrity. Mai has a certain sense of wonder regarding her family in Vietnam as well as her own future in the United States, and it is in this latter regard that this character is more pre-occupied. Despite her same sense of nameless guilt -- a sense that is far weaker than her mother's -- Kai is a more optimistic and self-empowered character.

Thanh and Vietnam

Thanh's journal entries, which form one major thread of the novel's plot and also serve as a useful device for both creating reality and deconstructing the sense of objectivity in the novel, demonstrate the level of connection she has to her family and her native country and indeed the extent to which her entire sense of identity is wrapped up in her memories and perceived duties to her past. She cannot fully exist outside of Vietnam and separated form the foundational elements of her family just as he feels that Vietnam cannot really live without her; neither one is whole without the other because each is definitive of he other to some extent. Her sense of guilt at leaving her erstwhile father behind and her general sense of loss in the United States as to where to turn and who to be is directly related to these feelings and this ongoing sense of connection. When she recalls a certain myth that the spirit "can only live in the village land," she makes it clear that she is essentially tied to the fate of her country, and indeed that her very existence is dependent on this attachment to her countryside and even the very village of her birth and her growing up (84).

These ruminations make it clear to the reader how much culture can be tied to place, and more profoundly how completely identity is often tied to culture. With the eradication of that culture and/or the removal of the individual form the midst of their culture, the person is often destroyed. Thanh herself learns to come to some form of peace with the course of her life, but also comes to a peace towards her own death and destruction paralleling.

Role Reversal

Cultural displacement is not the only thing that Mai and Thanh had to deal with when they fled from Vietnam and arrived on American shores. Though this is one of the major themes in the book, it also leads to other difficulties and opportunities for the two characters that are not simply and directly related to the loss of culture that they experienced. This mother and daughter pair also undergoes a major role reversal as Mai is much more successful at joining the culture in the United States than is her mother. Thus, rather than Thanh protecting and caring for Mai and explaining the world to her as she did in Vietnam, Mai must explain thing to Thanh and take care of her mother in this strange new place. This has direct and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Monkey Bridge.  (2010, December 2).  Retrieved December 10, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/monkey-bridge/1724763

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"Monkey Bridge."  Essaytown.com.  December 2, 2010.  Accessed December 10, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/monkey-bridge/1724763.