Using the story "The Boat" as a starting point, explore the memories that will stay with Mai when she leaves the boat.

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"The Boat" is one of seven short stories in this collection by Nam Le.

In the story, the sixteen-year-old Mai is on a boat and headed away from Vietnam. Many of the refugees are either headed for Australia, Malaysia, or even western countries like Canada and the...

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"The Boat" is one of seven short stories in this collection by Nam Le.

In the story, the sixteen-year-old Mai is on a boat and headed away from Vietnam. Many of the refugees are either headed for Australia, Malaysia, or even western countries like Canada and the United States. Mai experiences extreme dangers during her journey at sea. The memories that will stay with Mai when she leaves the boat will likely be horrific ones. However, she will also have beautiful memories of her parents (especially her father) and of her former happy life in Vietnam.

Mai's experience on the boat is often harrowing, and conditions are appalling. She finds herself sandwiched between at least a hundred people and is often splashed with vomit from sick passengers. The beleaguered people experience hunger, thirst, sickness, and death during their journey at sea. They struggle to conceal themselves from armed Vietcong soldiers, who are on the prowl for victims. Mai will likely remember the fear associated with such tense situations.

She will also have frightening memories of desperate fellow passengers who commit suicide at sea. At one point during the journey, Mai is so thirsty that she drinks the ocean water—only to be rewarded with an intense, unbearable burning in her throat. It is her newfound friend, Quyen, who stops Mai from drinking more of the seawater. Mai will likely have memories of her conversations with Quyen, who tells her that she will meet her husband at a Malaysian refugee camp. The couple intend to go to the United States with Truong, their six-year-old son. Unfortunately, Truong dies on the day that the boat comes within sight of land.

More than anything, Mai will likely remember the mythic haze above the ocean, the "plots of ocean where thousands had capsized with their scows and drowned." Memories of the so-called watery grave will remind Mai that many did not make it to safety.

Mai will have memories of many things from her time on the boat. She will remember the resilience of many of her fellow passengers, the desperation of others, the fears she had for her life, the deaths of innocent children and the elderly, and her hope for a new life away from the atrocities of war.

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