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Since the theme of the book goes against the nationalist sentiment of the novel’s...

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alexlieb | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 12, 2011 at 6:03 AM via web

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Since the theme of the book goes against the nationalist sentiment of the novel’s title, what is the overall significance of this?

I am curious about the differing, contradictory descriptions of America in this novel and wish to hear further analysis of this

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted January 2, 2012 at 6:46 PM (Answer #1)

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As for other immigrants, to Bulosan America represented a land of opportunity where to pursue a better and wealthier life. The fact that the narrator encounters several obstacles on his way to upward mobility, including racism and discrimination, does not make the novel less American. On the contrary, as you can see from the reference links, America Is in the Heart has been compared to the quintessentially American autobiography, that of Benjamin Franklin. Although it is not a linear, rags-to-riches story as Franklin's, Bulosan's text eventually shows a narrator who is successful in entering the American mainstream. So, the title does not simply point to a nationalist sentiment, but also to the myth of America that every immigrant has and to the consequent clash between this image and the harsh realities on the way to become an ethnic American citizen. For this contrast, the book has also been compared to other autobiographies by ethnic authors such as Mike Gold's Jews Without Money and Richard Wright's Black Boy.

The image of the heart also ends the narrative and becomes a symbol of America itself, a huge heart that gives the immigrant a warm welcome. Yet, because of all the obstacles that the narrator has encountered along his way, one is left to wonder whether this conclusion is the result of his effective participation in American life or of his dream/mythic image of the country as land of opportunity.

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