Hwangs trying to find Chinatown version4 Essay
Hwangs trying to find Chinatown version4
Race has been a root of a lot of discords and wars for many centuries. From the past to the present, the world has been divided into different sides just because of this. However, the conflict that is caused by ethnicity is not only between people. Oftentimes, it is also between a person and himself. Many people from marginalized ethnic groups face internal struggles due to their incapability to accept their history, status and nationhood. They cannot accept their identity as a member of a certain race.
However, people should accept their identity as a person belonging to a certain group of people. The reasons for this are numerous. First of all, acceptance of one’s own identity helps make a person satisfied and happy. Second, a person who cannot accept his identity is ashamed, not only of his race, but also of himself. Third, failure to accept identity prevents people from uniting and advancing a certain cause. Last and most importantly, of all aspects of identity, ethnicity, whether by blood by culture, is something that cannot be changed forever.
These arguments will be explained in the following paragraphs using the experiences and opinions of Benjamin and Ronnie, as expressed in the play Trying to Find Chinatown. First, acceptance of one’s own identity helps make a person satisfied and happy. This is because that person has less to desire or wish for. On the contrary, a person who cannot accept his own identity is often dissatisfied and unhappy. Aside from the things that he need and desire such as money, food, success, popularity and friends, he will have an additional desire that is difficult to obtain.
He will want to escape his own race and be part of another, which he believes to be better and more superior. This may be shown by the attitudes of Ronnie and Benjamin in the play. Of the two, Benjamin seems to be happier and more satisfied. In fact, he is more at peace. He is able to achieve this happiness from simple things such as the sounds of screaming in Cantonese and Sze-Yup in Chinatown (Hwang 1484). He is happy remembering his father chasing the boys who was shouting to him, “Gook! Chink! Slant-eyes” (Hwang 1482).
He is also at peace sitting on a stoop on Chinatown while sucking hua-moi because he feels at home and he is happy to China as his home (Hwang 1484). This is the exact opposite of how Ronnie feels. He views himself to be nobody (See 1484) because he thinks his ethnic group is not important in the world, thus he cannot get a sense of pride for just being a part of it. While it takes simple things to make Benjamin happy, it also takes simple things to make Ronnie unhappy. He is unhappy using chopsticks, seeing ducks hanging on windows of restaurant and eating dim sum (See Hwang 1483).
It is true that there are other factors like wealth and education that determines a person’s happiness and satisfaction. However, what differentiates a person who accepts his race from the one who does not is that, for the latter, satisfaction is always not possible. Despite his riches and the things he achieved, he will always have that secret desire to have a different identity. Second, a person who cannot accept his identity is ashamed, not only of his race, but also of himself. He will always be in denial of what he is.
For example, in the play, Ronnie repeatedly denied being a part of the Chinese community such as that one that may be found in Chinatown. For him, such types of places do not tell anyone anything about who he is (See Hwang 1483). He takes any association of himself with his ethnicity as an insult. In the beginning of the play, Benjamin asked Ronnie where Chinatown is and the latter got mad because he though the former chose him to ask because he is Chinese (Hwang 1480). He even tries to hide his ethnicity through his clothes (See Hwang 1480).
On the other hand, no trace of this shame as regards his race may be found on Benjamin. In fact, he is the one who tells people that China is his roots (See for example Hwang 1481). He takes pride of his history and his ancestors. Such pride in his background helps him to be proud of himself. Third, dissatisfaction with ethnicity prevents people from uniting and advancing a certain cause. On the contrary, satisfaction will help people achieve unity. Even just between Ronnie and Benjamin, this inability to unite is evident.
Instead of being on the same side, they argue on the worth of being Chinese. Ronnie finds being part of a community that has opium dens, chopsticks, ducks, Ms. Saigon and dim sum is not something worth being a part of. On the other hand, Benjamin defends Chinese communities based on these features and more; like the sweets, the railroads and the workers. (See Hwang 1481, 1483-1484) If they cannot unite as between themselves, it is very difficult to imagine them fighting for the cause of their community together.
This may be compared to the group of Asian students in the Midwest who went on hunger strike despite the probability that they have not experienced directly the evils they are fighting against (Hwang 1481-1482). Due to their acceptance of their ethnicity, they were able to identify with each other and unite to fight for a cause. Last and most importantly, of all aspects of identity, ethnicity, whether by blood by culture, is something that cannot be changed forever. It is ingrained in the way one talks, speaks and lives everyday.
Even for someone like Benjamin who is not ethnic by blood, the Chinese culture has been ingrained in him from his childhood. Therefore, this culture becomes rooted in him too deep that it becomes a part of his identity. This cannot be uprooted easily. As a consequence, the dissatisfaction, shame and other things that arise from dissatisfaction will also stay. Therefore, a person like Ronnie may be able to assimilate to another culture and lead another mind. However, deep in the recesses of his mind, and in his heart, he knows that he does not belong and that there are people who will think such.
Therefore, he will always be defensive of his status and ashamed of his past. In conclusion, people should accept the fact that they belong to a certain ethnic group. First of all, this will help them become satisfied and happy. Second, a person who cannot accept his identity is ashamed, not only of his race, but also of himself. Third, failure to accept identity prevents people from uniting and advancing a certain cause. Lastly, ethnicity, whether by blood by culture, is something that cannot be changed and will remain as part of a person’s identity forever.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 19 April 2017
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