Trying to Find Chinatown

by David Henry Hwang

Start Free Trial

Why does Ronnie tell Benjamin not to call his musical instrument a "fiddle" in Trying to Find Chinatown? What does Ronnie's understanding of Midwesteners reveal about him?

In the play Trying to Find Chinatown, the first line Ronnie speaks is his criticism of Benjamin for calling his violin a “fiddle.” He tells Benjamin that using the word “fiddle” makes him look like a “wuss,” “hick,” and “dipshit.” These insults plus another hostile line that Ronnie delivers reveal how he has a limited understanding and stereotyped view of Midwesterners.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the play Trying to Find Chinatown, Chinese-American street violinist Ronnie admonishes Midwestern tourist Benjamin for calling his violin a "fiddle." Ronnie’s reaction reveals his own limited understanding and stereotyping of Midwesterners.

The play opens with Ronnie playing a rock ‘n’ roll riff on the streets of New York. Walking by, Benjamin pauses to listen and then enthusiastically compliments Ronnie’s playing of the “fiddle,” which he has heard only at “square dances” and on country music radio stations. After guilting Benjamin into donating money, Ronnie scolds him. Instead of thanking Benjamin for the donation, Ronnie immediately admonishes him with, “And don’t call it a ‘fiddle,’ OK?” Even after Benjamin assures Ronnie that he did not mean to insult him, Ronnie ridicules Benjamin’s word choice. He says, “You sound like a wuss. A hick. A dipshit.”

This line illustrates Ronnie’s own superficial judgment of Benjamin; he insults the tourist’s masculinity (“wuss”), identity (“hick”), and intelligence (“dipshit”) just from the innocent use of the word “fiddle.” He knows nothing about Benjamin but assumes the tourist is a hayseed. Ronnie then reveals his own limited understanding and stereotyping of white non-New Yorkers with

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.

He mocks Benjamin's wide-eyed attitude and naiveté by treating him like an unsophisticated, inbreed country boy. The cob pipe, cowboy boots, and hay are all stereotypical tropes of the world Ronnie thinks Benjamin comes from. Ronnie's statement that he would have sex with his cousin conjures another cliched image of rural, uneducated, kissing cousins.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team