Trying to Find Chinatown

by David Henry Hwang

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From Ronnie's opening response to Benjamin in Trying to Find Chinatown, we learn that Ronnie is quick to anger. Write the words that reveal Ronnie's hostility towards Benjamin.

David Henry Hwang’s play, Trying to Find Chinatown explores the complex interaction between Chinese-American violinist Ronnie and tourist Benjamin. After Benjamin praises Ronnie’s “fiddle” playing, Ronnie unleashes an angry, curse-ridden diatribe. He uses specific words like “wuss,” “hick,” “dipshit,” and more to insult the unsuspecting Benjamin.

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In the play Trying to Find Chinatown, David Henry Hwang shows the complicated interaction between Ronnie, a Chinese American violinist, and Benjamin, a white tourist. Ronnie is playing a rock 'n' roll riff on the streets of New York when Benjamin passes by and compliments the “fiddle” music. After Ronnie pointedly clears his throat, Benjamin sheepishly stops and pulls out a few coins; Ronnie clears his throat again, and Benjamin feels pressured to donate bills instead.

Quick to anger, Ronnie delivers an opening response that reveals his hostility towards Benjamin. Instead of thanking Benjamin for the donation, Ronnie immediately admonishes him with, “And don’t call it a ‘fiddle,’ OK?” Exploding the stereotype of the quiet, polite, non-threatening, and meek Asian male, Ronnie himself assumes that Benjamin is the stereotypical Midwestern hayseed. He acts judgmental and defensive right from the get-go, before he even knows anything about Benjamin.

Ronnie ridicules Benjamin’s unassuming and innocent word choice; Benjamin does not intend to condescend or tease with the word “fiddle” instead of violin. Nonetheless, Ronnie angrily tells Benjamin that he comes across as or sounds like “a wuss. A hick. A dipshit.” Ronnie insults Benjamin’s masculinity (“wuss”), identity (“hick”), and intelligence (“dipshit.”)

Even worse, Ronnie takes Benjamin’s compliment as a personal insult and then turns it around to mock Benjamin by saying,

If this was a fiddle, I’d be sitting here with a cob pipe, stomping my cowboy boots and kicking up hay. Then I’d go home and fuck my cousin.

The cob pipe, cowboy boots, and hay are direct references to Benjamin as a wide-eyed out-of-towner, as if he were a naïve country boy visiting the big city. Ronnie’s statement that he would have sex with his cousin refers to some northern urbanites’ belief that incest runs rampant among kissing cousins in the rural countryside. Ronnie seems to be unloading repressed anger, resentment, and his own prejudices on poor Benjamin.

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