Donald Duk is, among other things, a story of initiation in which a young boy overcomes the devastating racial stereotyping of his people and grows up to be a Chinese American true to his cultural heritage. In this respect, it is an intriguing novel for young Americans from different racial groups, for they all have to confront, in one way or another, the stereotyping of their own races. The book contains a number of subthemes, all related to racial issues: prejudice, exclusion, alienation, the preservation of one’s racial identity, and what it means to be an American.
The structure of the novel as a story of initiation consists of three phases: trauma, dream, and wake-up. When Frank Chin’s young protagonist first appears in the novel, he feels bitter and restless, suffering from low self-esteem. As a Chinese American, he resents everything Chinese and desperately tries to distance himself from his own people. As Frank Chin shows in the psychological portrait of his young protagonist, Donald is simply traumatized by the prevalent misconception of Chinese Americans in mainstream American culture. He has been told again and again at school and by the media that Chinese Americans are devoid of the very qualities that define American heroism and ambition, that they are traditionally passive, submissive, and effeminate.
What brings him out of his resulting sense of alienation are his dreams of his great-great-grandfather and other...
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