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The book “American Born Chinese” by Gene Yang covers a lot of issues that affect our current society. The topics it covers include family, culture, identity, race, gender, and social class. Although the book mainly is about Jin, it begins with a story about the Monkey King. The book then proceeds to Jin's story in the second and third chapter. This essay is going to analyze how identity relates to social class. The Monkey King is not content with his identity, he wants to move a step in the social class.
When we first meet him, he is and has been a ruler of his people for a long time and seems to be satisfied with his position. But, is he satisfied with the position he has? He knows his Kung-Fu and has mastered all the knowledge required of him to become a god. However, his satisfaction disappears when he learns that he will not be accepted as a deity into the heavens because of being a monkey.
The monkey king does not take the identity the society has placed on him. What does our Monkey god do? Our monkey king does the unimaginable, he goes uninvited into the party of the gods? As if the crashing is not enough, he begins a fight with one of the gods in the party. As a result of his mischief, he is banished from the heavens.
The monkey god now seeks to want to force the gods to see him in a new identity.
The monkey god goes around beating all the gods, goddesses, spirits and demons to assert his identity. Disgruntled with the decision of the gods, he sets on a mission to demand the recognition of those who had demeaned him. The primary motivator to his mission is the self depreciation that stems from his belief that he is not sufficient to become a god. In the rest of the story, he sets out to make the gods accept him. To reinforce the issue of identity, Gene Yang makes the Monkey King appear in the form of a man and terrorize all those individuals who refuse to acknowledge him. The gods then complain to emissaries sent by Tze-Yo-Tzu, the creator of all things. There is an attempt to counsel the Monkey King to accept his identity as an animal that he had abandoned. What happens to individuals who do not obey authority? Of course, you guessed it right. They are imprisoned under a mountain full of stones for five centuries!
The second individual in the novel with an identity problem about societal classes is Jin Wang. Jin Wang is of a Chinese ethnicity but was born in America. In the story, his family moves from a Chinese community in San Francisco to an unspecified Anglo community. Jing tries to survive excluscion and racist bullying while at the same time looking for a identity in a school dominated by white students.to deal with the exclusion and racism he decides to transform himself into Danny. When we first meet Danny in the novel, we do not yet know he is Jin. He has good prospects with a beautiful white girl named Amelia, and he is just to fit with the popular kids in school. However, there is one problem, his cousin Chin-Kee. Chin-Kee according to Danny is destroying his identity in the school with the popular kids. He does unimaginable acts like peeing in one of Jockes can of coke. Ultimately, he is faced with a conflict of how to combat stereotypes that Chin-Kee displays.
The Monkey King offers a parallel story to Jin's story. “it's good to be a monkey.” And what is the equivalent of “a monkey” for Jin? What defines Jin Wang's identity? Is it his gender, his being human, or some special powers? No. the thing that makes him great is that he is the first and last minority just like the Monkey King is the first and last a monkey. In the end, our heroes, the Monkey King and Jim learn that it is good to be in the minority. Unfortunately, or let's just say, fortunately, the story does not end with the Monkey being in a party or being a god, nor does it end with Jin winning over the girl he has a crush. The story concludes with the great Monkey King being a servant to humanity and Jin Wang self-segregated from the large community. Just like the monkey king is referred to as “a silly little monkey” (69), Jin Wang is also left as a "silly little Chinese" among the so-called relevant ethnic groups. Such an ending seems like Lan Dong is directly telling us that what matters most in our identities is the way we see ourselves, not the way society places us to different classes because of our skin color or body form.
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