Rainsford Chan, the narrator and main character of the novel, reveals the process of his struggle for identity as he lets the reader know his thoughts. His development occurs rather quickly as readers realize, rather instantly, that he is “American” in every way. Only Rainsford himself is unaware of this. Moreover, as he tells of events and episodes in his family history, it is clear that other family members before him have already made the transition. Rainsford’s struggle and characterization is understood by the reader not so much through his actions (he does little more than drive around in his car at night, and he seldom engages in conversation) as through his thoughts about the past.
Rainsford’s father is dead, and they never knew each other as adults. Fixed only and eternally in memory, the father nevertheless exerts tremendous influence on the youth. “Bobby,” which is a mispronunciation of “Daddy” by Rainsford as a toddler, is the only character in the work to have a name (except Rainsford himself). Bobby, it is recalled, had spent much time with Rainsford when he was young; the things the child remembers all reflect the father’s overt intention to Americanize his son. Through teaching him American games, songs, and traditions, the father effectually denies the Chinese heritage of the family.
Of all these unnamed, dead characters, Rainsford’s grandfather is perhaps of most importance. Again, the reader, like the narrator himself, knows little of the grandfather’s actual life. Perhaps the most significant fact is that the grandfather had once returned to China but then...
(The entire section is 665 words.)