Even the title of Duong’s third novel, Paradise of the Blind, is itself an attack on the Communist government which took over Vietnam after the country’s war with the United States ended in 1975. The novel has no “paradise” but exists only as a dystopia, and not one of the characters is blind. The title refers to Communist leaders, who publicly spoke of and pretended to create what they called a “peasants’ paradise” or a “workers’ paradise,” but were clearly failing in Vietnam, as they were in other Communist countries. There is no paradise; there are only blind people promoting a paradise based on a flawed political theory, which can never succeed.
Duong constructs this novel as a political allegory around the three main characters. Hang, the young girl who is experiencing a coming-of-age, represents postwar Vietnam, and the two women who control her represent the political struggle occurring in Vietnam after the Vietnam War. Hang’s mother, Que, is the traditional Vietnamese who has “lost” after acquiescing to the circumstances of the war by giving herself over to the will of the Communists. She does this literally in the plot when she sends her husband off into hiding. The other woman, Aunt Tam, the sister of Hang’s exiled father, represents capitalism and democracy, but she also cannot succeed; she can only maneuver and buy into the corruption and bribery of the political and economic system in various ways as the plot enfolds.
At the end of the novel, Que loses her leg in a freak accident that is not her fault, and is left handicapped forever. Tam simply dies from hard work and her inability to make peace and survive within the Communist system. Both women spend their lives hating each other and maneuvering for the love and attention of Hang, and in so doing they destroy any chance Hang has for a successful, happy, and peaceful future. Such is the state of Vietnam.
Similarly, the two main male characters in the novel are also allegorical figures. Hang’s father, Ton, is an honorable, French-educated, intelligent, handsome, and resourceful schoolteacher. He is the French-American male power figure who would change...
(The entire section is 895 words.)