Paradise of the Blind

by Duong Thu Huong, Thu Huong Duong

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What happens to Hang during her trip to Kiev in chapters 1-3 of Paradise of the Blind?

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As Hang is traveling through the country, she is visited by memories and introspects on her own history in the novel "Paradise of the Blind". As she travels with her friend, she is mentally recounting the stories from her childhood—and they are not happy memories.

She reminisces back to the depressing state of affairs in which she began her life: her mother was impoverished and she had no knowledge of her father. Her mother had traveled similarly to Hanoi to make a new life there, but she ended up living in a slum, barely avoiding homelessness, and working on the street to earn money. The repetition of the ideas of train rides and travel tie the stories together, and Hang details her loneliness, as well as her pleasure at no longer being in those conditions.

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It is as Hang travels herself across Russia to Moscow that she remembers the trip she made with a friend to Kiev a while back. This in turn prompts her to remember another chapter in her family narrative that is interspersed with the present in the novel. She tells us the story of how her mother leaves the village and moves to Hanoi, and how she inhabits a slum and is forced to make a living as a street vendor. It is into this environment that Hang herself is born ten years later, and her early childhood memories of being reared in a squalid and miserable existence are narrated. Hang is shown to be a child who is miserable and lonely as she knows nothing of her background, origins, or most importantly, her father, as her mother refuses to tell her anything about him.

It is the memory of the train trip Hang made to Kiev that therefore prompts Hang to tell us the next chapter in her own story and background, as the theme of travelling is shown to be something that is part of both Hang's life and of her mother's story. Hang's trip to Moscow reminds her of another trip to Kiev, which in turn echoes her mother's trip to Hanoi.

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