Paradise of the Blind

by Duong Thu Huong, Thu Huong Duong

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What is the setting of Paradise of the Blind?

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The setting for a nonfiction or fictional narrative is the specific time and geographical location where the story takes place. The setting is crucial for the mood and overall backdrop of the story. Paradise of the Blind follows three Vietnamese women and recounts their lives in the capital city of Hanoi and in a small northern village. Hang is the main character and protagonist of the story. Que is her mother and a supporting character. Hang is caught between her mother and Aunt Tam, the third important figure. The narrative is set up against the political turmoil of postwar Vietnam, Communist ideologies, and women's struggle with subservience to men at the time. The novel starts in the 1980s as Hang is currently working in a factory and living among other emigrants in the provinces of the Soviet Union. The time ranges from the 1950s to the 1980s as Hang revisits old childhood memories of Vietnam throughout the novel.

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The action in Paradise of the Blind is set against the backdrop of Communist Vietnam. Hang, the protagonist, is a young lady who grew up in the slums of Hanoi and is now making her way to Moscow to visit her Uncle Chinh, who is sick. As she does so, she reminisces about her childhood in Vietnam. Paradise of the Blind, the first Vietnamese novel to be published in the United States, is strongly critical of the country's Communist system of government, to the extent that the book is currently banned in Vietnam.

Hang's reflections on her early life and those of her family cause her to acknowledge the enormous damage that Communism has inflicted upon them. In particular, the radical program of land reform initiated by the Communists has reduced the family to poverty. The lives of the book's three female characters are inextricably bound up with the involvement of Uncle Chinh in the Communists' land distribution program. The appropriation of their land and their subsequent impoverishment have robbed them of a sense of place. Yet they each, in their own individual ways, retain an unbreakable connection to the land of their birth despite the enormous hardships they continue to endure.

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