Last Updated September 5, 2023.
F.O.B., which stands for "fresh off the boat," is a play about the conflicts and contrasts between first-generation, second-generation, and newly arrived Asian Americans.
The play starts with one of the main characters, Dale, described as a "second generation American of Chinese descent," entering the stage with a blackboard and proceeding to tell the audience his opinion on F.O.B.s.
F-O-B. Fresh Off the Boat. FOB. Clumsy, ugly, greasy FOB. Loud, stupid, four-eyed FOB. Big feet. Horny. Like Lenny in Of Mice and Men. FLoods Like Lenny in Of Mice and Men. F-O-B Fresh Off the Boat. FOB.
Though Dale has become very Americanized, it seems to have been at the expense of his own identity.
I have friends now. Lots. They drive Porsche Carreras. Well, one does. He has a house up in the Hollywood Hills where I can stand and look down on the lights of L.A.
He has grown to hate his Chinese heritage.
My parents—they don't know nothing about the world, about watching Benson at the Roxy . . . They're yellow ghosts and they've tried to cage me up with Chinese-ness when all the time we were in America.
Grace represents the first generation of Asian Americans. She has struggled to integrate, but, as she states, this struggle was more with her own people than with the white Americans. It was, she claims, the Chinese Americans who would make fun of her clothes and accent when she first arrived.
You know, when Mom could finally bring me to the U.S., I was already ten. But I never studied my English . . . There were a few Chinese girls . . . but they were American-born, so they wouldn't even talk to me. They'd just stay with themselves and compare how much clothes they all had, and make fun of the way we all talked. I figured I had a better chance of getting in with the white kids than with them.
At one point, she says, she even bleached her hair in an attempt to make friends with white people.
I figured I had a better chance of getting in with the white kids than with them, so in junior high I started bleaching my hair and hanging out at the bleach.
Due to their struggles, both of them react with envy and suspicion toward Steve—a new, rich Chinese emigrant who has apparently come to America to study rather than to live. From the beginning, he shows himself as very arrogant and full of self-confidence.
Silence! I am Gwan Gung! God of warriors, writers and prostitutes!
Dale in particular takes a dislike to him. In his opinion, Steve is using America as his playground. Dale thinks he will either go back to China and run a business or stay in America and live a comfortable life.
You feel like you're an American? Don't tell me. Lemme guess. Your father . . . sending you here so you can get yo'MBA, den g back and covuh da world wit' trinkets and beads.
However, due to that fact she is closer to her heritage than Dale and is still struggling to integrate, Grace begins to identify herself with the newcomer. At the end of the play, she asks Dale to leave so she can spend time alone with him.
Good. Eat it all down. It's just food. Really. Feel better now? Good. Eat the bing. Hold it in your hands. Your hands . . . are beautiful. Lift it to your mouth. Your mouth . . . is beautiful. Bite it with your teeth. Your teeth . . . are beautiful. Crush it with your tongue. Your tongue . . . is beautiful. Slide it down your throat . . . Your throat is beautiful.