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In Paradise Of The Blind, we read about the lives of three Vietnamese women during and after the Vietnam War. The story is an allegory: Hang, the main character, is a young girl caught between post-war Vietnamese values and the two women in her life, her mother, Que, and her aunt, Tam. Que represents the values of traditional Vietnamese culture prior to the Communist takeover, and Tam represents the Western values of capitalism and democracy. Both Hang's mother and aunt Tam find it hard to navigate the new domain of post-war Vietnam. They both fight for influence in Hang's life but do not succeed; Duong shows us that the Western values of capitalism and democracy, while praiseworthy, cannot be imposed on Vietnamese society without making exceptions and considerations for the culture. Tam dies from overwork; from her story, we see that the communist ideology is a failed political ideology and will never lead to peace, prosperity and a healthy society. Que loses her leg in a freak accident; her story is an allegory for the old Vietnam, with its traditional values revered by centuries of Vietnamese people. This Vietnam has been crippled by Communist rule and cannot survive the ruthlessness of totalitarian government replete with the wholesale murder, torture and merciless annihilation of the old values of trust, filial respect and reverence for family.
Chronicle Of A Death Foretold is a story about the death of Santiago Nasar at the hands of the Vicario brothers, Pedro and Pablo. The brothers aim to avenge the dishonor of their sister, Angela, when she maintains that she lost her virginity to Nasar. After Angela's husband, Bayardo San Roman, sets her aside because he thinks he has been defrauded, the Vicario brothers set out to kill Nasar with butchers' knives. The traditional values of defending the honor of a woman are central to this story. In many cultures, the virginity of a new wife must never be called into question as this could bring disgrace to her whole family. The values of a society are also scrutinized in this story. Despite making their intentions known to quite a few people, the Vicario brothers still manage to carry out their vengeance against Nasar for this supposed wrong done to the family's honor. The fact that the police officer, the Colonel, the butcher and even Clothilde Armenta (proprietor of the milk shop) and the local priest know of the brothers' intentions, and still do nothing to stop them, is nothing short of incredible. Could it be that the practice of defending female honor was so prevalent in this society that talk of such impending action was deemed not worthy of apprehension or outrage? Could Marquez be trying to portray this defense of female honor as an ingrained moral value in Latin America? The narrator states that his friend, Bedoya, tried to warn Nasar of his impending doom, but did not succeed in saving Nasar's life. Although Nasar's mother is a dream interpreter, she fails to warn her son of his impending doom because of her failure to correctly interpret Nasar's dream. Here, we see the limitations of traditional belief in dream interpretation.
In the two novels we are presented with two different cultures and two different sets of traditional values. Yet we see a cross-cultural reference between Vietnamese and Latin American values. Both cultures value the traditional roles of women and the reverence for family integrity as the basis for strength in society, yet only one of the cultures is able to protect these values while the other struggles to make sense of a new paradigm. Angela's virginity was to have been bartered for a better quality of life for her and her whole family. Her brothers defend this virtue with violence. Hang visited her treacherous Uncle Chinh while a guest worker in Russia out of a sense of familial obligation after he summoned her. Yet he leaves her unprotected in a room, presumably to be raped by a group of Russian men. Chinh is a symbol of the corruption of Communist ideology, which presents none of the values of protecting female honor that are present in Marquez's Latin American culture. A woman such as Angela losing her virginity would mean unsuitability for any future marriage proposals, a fate which would have left her poor family despairing of ever being able to improve the quality of their lives. At the same time, we can see that the old Vietnamese values of female docility and submissiveness have no place in the new Vietnam, battered and bled dry by horrific Communist atrocities. There is no longer any power structure to protect female chastity and honor. The new Vietnam is bereft of the ability to protect the fragility of the survivors; someone like Hang must survive as best she can despite her disillusionment and grief. Caught between the Western values of capitalism/democracy (foreign ideals both confusing and threatening to an already oppressed and bloodied Vietnam), and the old Vietnam, Hang is left to start a new life based on new dreams. She must try to forget the past in order to forge a better hope for her future. In the meantime, Bayardo returns to Angela; he is convinced of her love because she writes to him every week for seventeen years. His forgiveness forges the start of their relationship.
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