What are the main plot points of the book?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Typical American tells a story of three individuals from China who immigrate to America due to instability in their home country. Ralph, his sister Theresa, and her friend Helen (who later becomes Ralph’s wife) arrive in America and go through some hardships but eventually emerge successful and earn their membership among the country’s middle class.

The plot is developed through significant events and narratives that the author brings out in the story. To explain the sociocultural conflict, the story narrates the main characters’ upbringing in China and their confusion within the American environment. The three find some American practices distasteful and employ phrases such as “typical American” to express their disdain. After a while the three begin to conform and realize the opportunities that are available to them. They go ahead to take advantage of these opportunities and develop careers that help them earn a living and they begin to view America differently.

The plot of the story seeks to explain the internal and external challenges that face the trio, but also shows their strength and the opportunities that exist in their environment. Internal challenges occur when each one takes to pursuing their personal agendas. External challenges are seen through individuals such as Grover Ding, who nearly wrecks the family’s relationship. It is through their family unity that they are able to overcome these challenges and show their strength, which earns them collective success in America.

In summary the plot points are:

  • Ralph, Theresa, and Helen's upbringing in China
  • Immigration to America
  • Sociocultural conflicts in the new environment
  • Opportunities in America
  • Negative influence (Grover)
  • Family unity
  • Success in a fast-paced and different environment
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Typical American

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