Gish Jen a novelist and short story writer writes in his book Typical American, a story of three young Chinese immigrants who, after moving to America, gradually adopt new living style and undergo an interesting transformation process. The author describes the cultural diversity and ethnic identity of Chinese American lads, who are shown in the novel as main characters, adopting foreign culture, foreign language and foreign life style. The story is about Yifeng who comes to America to become an engineer and return to china. Yifeng gradually changes his name and becomes Ralph Chang. His sister Theresa also joins him along with Yifeng’s beautiful wife Helen. The novel is indeed an American story described in an irresistible heartrending and funny manner.
The characters experience major changes in their lives, when the main character decides to change his name, which depicted the changes in his mental outlook and desire of looking like Americans. His living style, wearing of clothes, gait and manners too undergo changes in an unassuming manner. The desire of becoming rich by the Chinese was primarily because they wanted to fully absorb in American society without having financial constraints. When they made money in fast food, bought a house in the suburbs of New York and undertook number of excursions, it reflected of their seriousness to mould into new culture.
The Chinese are originally Asian, with the deep imprints of Asian culture and the psychological problems related to closeness of their society. Theresa, sister of Yifeng remained typical of a Chinese girl, very different to normal American girls. She was sensitive, caring and shy of doing many acts which American women, would have done very conveniently, other immigrants too, could never become confident like common American. Trio of young Chinese immigrants although slowly transformed into American style but still could not break psychological barriers.
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It is a million dollar question that how to keep one’s ethnic identity and still become an American. America is an open society, it does not warrant, foreign immigrants to give up their national and ethnic identity and completely transform into American society. Once, there is no pressure from the host, why should any immigrant feel the need to change his original believes, culture and language. The environments within house can be kept as original as possible.
The dresses, customs and following of tradition within foreigner’s respective community can be kept intact by strictly adhering to rules of motherland. One can become American by loving America like Americans do. Rules, regulations and laws of the land be followed strictly, code of conduct at respective workplaces be followed and struggle to one’s best abilities to develop America, are essential ingredients of becoming American. The great country doesn’t want the immigrants to change their ethnic identities but wants them to become American in spirit not in appearance.
Gish, Jen, Typical American, Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
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