China Men Themes

Themes

The nature of reality, the flux of time, and the power of language remain Kingston's themes in her second book. Memories and legends of China sustain many of the emigrants and refugees who leave their homeland believing the stories about the Gold Mountain. Others quickly grasp the new realities of America and discard many of the old ways and allegiances, like an uncle in The Woman Warrior who, when his family follows him to America, tells them to go away, that he is a different person and they "became people in a book [he] had read a long time ago."

Many were enticed to come to America by the tales of Gold Mountain sojourners who "were talking about plausible events less than a century old." Once here, locked in a brutal struggle for survival, they realize that time, inexorable and slow, will not hurry to keep pace with their desires. The present moment, the present life, is but a small part of the pantomime. The author recalls her father telephoning the recording which gives the exact time; unlike most people, the "Time Lady... distinctly names the present moment, never slipping into the past or sliding into the future."

(The entire section is 198 words.)