Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Rainsford Chan’s story is one of finding himself. He must determine his identity and meaning as a person, a man, and an American. Of these three, only the second one (that is, his identity as a man) presents few problems; remarkably, he experiences less of this struggle than a reader might lend plausibility. He is athletic and likes girls, cars, war films, hamburgers, and milkshakes; hence, there is rather an absence of problems.
His struggle to find himself as a person revolves mostly around the fact that his parents are dead. This works in the novel not as a Freudian formula; rather, it serves as a way for the novelist to emphasize that Rainsford’s background and heritage—even his parentage—are dead. His realizations are never quite made from an existential context, and yet he does discover and define meaning from within the self.
It is the problem of his identity as an American that is of most concern to the novelist and reader. Slowly, Rainsford learns that he is and always has been American, that the problems surrounding him because of his biological ethnicity are not only irrelevant but nonexistent. Wong emphasizes this most especially in the “speculative flashback” technique he uses in telling the stories of Rainsford’s parents, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. All of their experiences as Chinese stand in direct, perhaps even stark, contrast to those of the young narrator. Rainsford’s problems are never their...
(The entire section is 399 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Homebase Themes. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!