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Prejudice in Mr Sumarsono Written by Roxana Robinson Essay

Stereotype is a largely false belief, or set of belief, concerning the characteristics of the members of a racial or ethnic group (McLemore, 1983). Stereotype may be positive or negative in mind which is based on limited and minimal knowledge about a group of people. Incomplete information, mistaken perceptions, isolation and segregation have resulted many stereotypes. Viewing of a person with oddity based on the stereotype will limit what we expected and how we respond to them.

Prejudice is an unfavorable attitude towards people because they are members of a particular racial or ethnic group. Discrimination is unfavorable action towards people because they are members of a particular racial or ethnic group. (McLemore, 1983). These both are negative manifestations of integrative power. A prejudiced person may not act on their attitude. Therefore, someone can be prejudice towards a certain group but not discriminate against them. Also, prejudice includes all three components of an attitude (affective, behavioral and affective), whereas discrimination just involves behavior and involves some actions.

Prejudice and stereotyping parallels attitudes and opinions or beliefs (Stroebe & Insko, 1989) Prejudice also sustains stereotype, while stereotype is a generalization or interpretation toward a person or group of some physical, behavior, belief or other factors.

For a 10-year-old girl, she must have got a first bad impression to a stranger, especially a foreigner. She spontaneously thought that someone newbie in another country is a kind of alien with different skin, face structure or another physical body. In that point, this attitude includes a racial stereotype which provokes a prejudice side.

Roxana Robinson is a biographer and scholar of nineteenth and early twentieth century American art. She graduated from Buckingham Friends School, in Lahaska, and from The Shipley School, in Bryn Mawr. She attended Bennington College and studied with Bernard Malamud and Howard Nemerov. She received a B.A. degree in English Literature from the University of Michigan. Roxana Robinson is the author of the four novels Cost, (2008) Sweetwater, (2003) This Is My Daughter, (1998) and Summer Light (1988); the three short story collections A Perfect Stranger, (2005) Asking for Love, (1996) A Glimpse of Scarlet, (1991) and the biography Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life, (1989). Mr. Sumarsono is listed as one of the best American Short Stories at 1994.

Statement of Problems:

1. Why do Susan and her sister give bad impression toward Mr. Sumarsono?

2. Why did Mrs. Riordan welcome Mr. Sumarsono warmly?

3. What is the cultural aspect of this short story? What is the connection with it?


Mr. Sumarsono is a worker in UN which involved many Western people in it for a long time. Because of the environment, he tried to adapt the style like an American. According to the story, both daughters of Mrs. Riordan, Susan and Kate, with Mrs. Riordan herself fetched Mr. Sumarsono in a Trenton Station in New Jersey and they saw him for the first time with bad impression and underestimate toward Mr. Sumarsono. However, at that time, he was clothed as an American businessman.

“Mr. Sumarsono was wearing an neat suit and leather shoes, like an American businessman, but he didn’t look like an American. The suit was brown, not gray, and it had a slight sheen. And Mr. Sumarsono was built in a different way from Americans: he was slight and graceful, with narrow shoulders and an absence of strut.” (Page 265 line 1)

“Kate and I stood next to my mother as she waved and smiled. Kate and I did not wave and smile……” (Page 265 line 11)

In this case, it proved that both sisters didn’t like and give bad thought for Mr. Sumarsono because they didn’t know who actually Mr. Sumarsono was, since Mr. Sumarsono had an Asian figure with pale brown skin. Besides, there were few Indonesian that came to America, or else almost never. Mr. Sumarsono was the only Indonesian who arrived in New Jersey.

“It was 1959, and Mr. Sumarsono was the only Indonesian who got off the train in Trenton, New Jersey.” (Page 264 line 25)

Next on, the displeasure of the sisters continued until they were in way home. They were acting like they didn’t need a middle-aged Indonesian in where were they belong to. Moreover, they avoided the lunch time which their mother prepared for them and Mr. Sumarsono. And also, they showed an impolite attitude toward Mr. Sumarsono in the table.

“We were going to watch the mallard nesting, and I hope we didn’t have to include a middle-aged Indonesian in leather shoes”(Page 267 line 1)

“Dev-il,” Kate said, Speaking very loudly and slowly. She pointed at the eggs and then put two forked finger behind her head like horns, Mr. Sumarsono looked at her horns. (Page 269 lines 25)

Another evidence occurred at the dinner time when Susan saw her mother wearing a pink dress. She thought her mother’s dress was overlooked just for dinner with a stranger who can not understand their language.

“I was irritated to see that she had put it on as thought she were at a party. This was not a party: she had merely gotten hold of a captive guest, a complete stranger who understood nothing she said.” (Page 270, line 12)

Although they kept underestimate him, they were quite surprised that Mr. Sumarsono wasn’t someone like usual Asian guy they were thinking about. He was different in presence. Not only the appearance of him but also his gesture was shown when they were already at home. Somehow, The stop! gesture was making the sisters wondering what makes that Indonesian was different. This gesture is shown by Mr. Sumarsono when he tried to prevent his suitcase as Susan offered to pick up upstairs.

“What struck me was the grace of his gesture. His hand extended easily out cuff and expose a narrow brown wrist, as narrow as my own. When he put his hand up in the Stop! gesture, his hand curved backward from the wrist, and his fingers bent backward from the palm. Instead of the stern and flat-handed Stop! that an American hand would make, this was a polite, subtie, and yielding signal, quite beautiful and infinitely sophisticated, a gesture that suggested a thousand reasons for doing something, a thousand ways to go about it.”(Page 267 line 13)

On the other hand, Mrs. Riordan was greeting him cheerfully. She showed an excessive behavior since Mr. Sumarsono decided to spend his weekend in New Jersey. Furthermore, he stayed in Riodan’s as well. Mrs. Riordan tried to catch attention from Mr. Sumarsono. Apart from being dressed in pink, she treated him as best as she can.

“Oh, I’m glad we’re having rice!” she said suddenly, pleased. “That must make Mr. Sumarsono feel at home.” She looked at me. (Page 273 line 7)

She also thought that Mr. Sumarsono was far from his family and being lonely, Mrs. Riordan conclude that he was missing them and she tried to give something that Mr. Sumarsono would feel like he came back to the warm atmosphere when a family was gathered supposed to be. It is shown when Mrs. Riordan asked Mr. Sumarsono to show his wife and children photograph. She saw a strange condition on Mr. Sumarsono with complicated and unfinished look when she asked and he even wanted to take a picture with them.

“The poor man, he must miss his wife and children. Don’t u feel sorry for him, thousands of miles away from his family? Oh, thousands. He’s here for six months, all alone. They told me that at the UN. It’s all very uncertain. He doesn’t know when he gets leaves, how long after that he’ll be here. Think of how his poor wife feels.” (Page 272 line 24)

As from the both sisters misjudged all about Mr. Sumarsono and what they have done, they thought that they would feel ashamed, instead of underestimating him. Their prejudice has made them blind to not know who actually Mr. Sumarsono was. Beside it was from their mother, they also felt embarrassed him because they can not be an appropriate hostess to him while Mr. Sumarsono showed his unruffled courtesy. Although Mr. Sumarsono couldn’t speak English well and only responded all Mrs. Riordan and her daughters with simple nodded and smile, at least he knew what attitude he supposed to do when he was visiting people’s house in other country.

“I was embarrassed not only for my mother but also for poor Mr. Sumarsono. Whatever he had expected from a country weekend in America, It could not have been a cramped attic room, two sullen girls, voluble and incomprehensible hostess. I felt we had failed him, we had betrayed his unruffled courtesy, with our bewildering commands, our waving forks, our irresponsible talk about lizard. I wanted to save him. I wanted to liberate poor Mr. Sumarsono from this aerial grid of misunderstandings.” (Page 274 line 24)

This story is pertaining aspect of prejudice side. Therefore, prejudice has both cognitive and affective components. Affective component is the positive or negative attitude or feeling while cognitive component contains stereotypes. Stereotypes are beliefs about people based on their membership in a particular group. Stereotypes can be positive, negative, or neutral. Stereotypes based on gender, ethnicity, or occupation are common in many societies. Stereotypes often results from, and leads to, prejudice and bigotry. The reasons appearing of stereotype is variable, It occurs When people encounter instances that disconfirm their stereotypes of a particular group, they tend to assume that those instances are atypical subtypes of the group. Second, People’s perceptions are influenced by their expectations. And last, People selectively recall instances that confirm their stereotypes and forget about disconfirming instances. As a branch from stereotype, prejudice is a destructive phenomenon, and it is pervasive because it serves many psychological, social, and economic functions. It allows people to bond with their own group by contrasting their own groups to outsider groups.


This short story which Roxana wrote showed about an experience of Indonesian immigrant who visited and spent the weekend at one of New Jersey’s families, Riordan’s house. Based on discussion above, it is described that the two daughters, Susan and Kate had first bad impression toward Mr. Sumarsono as a strange foreigner. This signs that their attitude showed the prejudice aspect of the racial differences.

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