Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Using the form of the sketch that lacks the depth of a short story, Sui Sin Far stresses the psychological atmosphere surrounding the mother’s deepening depression. As is appropriate in a sketch, an economy of incidents combines with an ironic ending. The author’s journalism background gives a documentary mood to this short work. This format, with its air of topicality, suggests that the story is drawn directly from actual events. Sui Sin Far’s characters are an ordinary family, law abiding, unassuming, gentle, and passive. “In the Land of the Free” contains a basic human theme: parents’ love for their child. By careful manipulation of this theme, she elicits the reader’s sympathy. Unlike Bret Harte and others who depict Chinese characters from a European American perspective, Sui Sin Far gave American readers the Chinese perspective.

Sui Sin Far avoids a didactic, confrontational tone to protest the legal outrages committed against the Chinese. However, the horror of a child taken from its parents is forceful and convincing. She lays out the situation in which she has placed her characters, and the reader comes to the conclusion that the immigration laws were unfair to the Chinese. Though at times the portraits of Lae Choo and Hom Hing may seem humorous and picturesque, they are not mere caricatures from local-color stories, such as those written by Bret Harte. Sui Sin Far’s intention is unmistakable: to portray the humanity of the...

(The entire section is 454 words.)