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Paradise Of The Blind Essay


Duong Thu Huong writes Paradise of the Blind intending to expose the poor workings and of Communism and demonstrate the adverse effects felt by the people effected. Huong's sees that Hang's self discovery and acceptance of her dissatisfaction with life heavily characterises the novel's final passage. By the end of the passage Hang has come to terms with her place in her Vietnamese culture deciding she will 'leave all this behind'. Huong establishes this decision through the use of contrasting natural imagery. The characterisation of the man who visits Hang act as a metaphor for a tainted Vietnam and subsequently allows her to gain greater knowledge of herself. The author then creates the feeling of hope as Hang moves forward from the looming 'shadow' that is her culture, her family and responsibility in the final passage.

Huong employs natural imagery in the final passage to bring focus and show contrast between Hang's past and present, while simultaneously aiding the decisions of her future. Hang recalls the 'beauty' of the 'swans as they floated, regal and serene across the rice paddies', she is then abruptly interrupted as a 'screech owl cried' making her 'jump'. These examples of natural imagery provide a sudden shift to the present supporting Hang's belief that beauty 'existed only in her memory'. When Hang returns to the present where there is clearly no mention of 'greenness warming the gold at dusk', instead these luscious images are juxtaposed with the unpleasant sound of 'croaking bullfrogs' and 'paths' that 'snaked through the graves'. These images are used by Huong to demonstrate the stark difference not only in physical features of each place but also of Hang's psyche as she focusses on either the negative or positive aspects of both. The uninviting image of the 'stagnant water, stinking, bloodied by the sunset' further contributes to Hang's desolate present, further giving her the incentive to escape her surroundings. Natural imagery is also used to help reflect on mood and atmosphere. As Hang decides to leave behind 'the legacy of past crimes' the moon reaches it's 'zenith', suggesting that even nature is supporting her decision to move forward. No longer is the 'fog rolling in' symbolising the 'shadows' of her past, it is replaced by the 'full moon' at it's peak representing hope and a new beginning. With this Hang has escaped the foggy confusion and entered her new chosen future.

The characterisation of the man wanting to buy Kim Thanh's gold acts as a metaphor for Vietnam while enabling Hang to reflect on certain aspects of her past and how she has changed. The author characterises the man like that of Vietnam, or at least how Hang feels towards it. She comes to realises through this mans presence 'what had suffocated her' as she see that her hostility towards the man was perhaps unwarranted, and that 'he wasn't guilty of anything'. She then states that 'his ugliness was only a cipher, the key to [her] own despair', suggesting that the 'cipher' is in fact Vietnam, realising that perhaps Vietnam and Communism that is responsible for her 'despair'. Despite Hang's epiphany, it is clear that she is not completely bitter towards her country, acknowledging that 'somewhere in [her] heart' she 'was always grateful to him'. Through the characterisation of the man Hang's personal development is seen as she feels her 'body tense with anger'. Not allowing herself to be walked over any longer she stands her ground announcing she would 'not [be] selling'. This shows how much she has achieved personally, showing belief in herself. Ultimately the characterisation of the man provides a vessel for Hang's realisation of her place in Vietnam. Only once it is realised that Vietnam is tied to her 'despair' can she move forward from the past.

The author creates the feeling of hope as Hang moves forward from the looming 'shadow' that is her culture, her family and responsibility in the final passage. Symbolic imagery of the shadow is tied with the characterisation of the man visiting Hang, with his introduction having him step 'out of the shadows' and after he leaves he is still seen lingering 'there in the shadow of the door'. These references to 'shadows' not only help accentuate the metaphor of the man representing Vietnam, but highlight the engulfing shadow that has been brought over Hang's life. Hang's decision to move on with her life comes as 'a few starts shimmered', conjuring the image of an open and vast sky, like a new life full of new opportunities. She states that she 'can't squander [her] life tending these faded flowers'. Faded flowers symbolising relatives and traditions past she does not wish to continue controlling her life. She longs to escape the bounds of her culture, to find a place where there is 'not a shadow anywhere', or at least the 'cool shade of a university auditorium'. As the 'full moon' rises and reaches it's 'zenith', shining 'through the dark crown of the trees' it illuminates the shadows. This implies that Hang's 'dreaming of different worlds' are not so far fetched and that her shadow of Vietnamese obligation has been escaped.

While Paradise of the Blind can be seen as a political statement, it still holds true to a powerful story about the pressures of family and culture. Through this personalised story of a young girl the reader sympathises with Hang and her struggles. In the final passage of the novel a combination of naturalistic and symbolic imagery as well as characterisation are used to impact the reader and contribute to ones understand of Hang and her development from the novels start to end. Huong creates the man who visits Hang to symbolise the communist tainted Vietnam she has returned to. The contrast of beauty and ugliness is used to highlight some of beauty of Vietnam and it's culture and the results of communism. Although some beauty is expressed the reflective tone of the narrator ensures that when Hang makes the decision to not 'squander her life' the reader is filled with a sens of hope. This hope is amplified by Hang's choice not to see 'time passing' but to act, perhaps even make 'the stars quiver'.

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