Paradise of the Blind

by Duong Thu Huong, Thu Huong Duong

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What global issue connects the novel Paradise of the Blind and Diego Rivera's mural Man at the Crossroads?

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The novel Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong and the mural Man at the Crossroads by Diego Rivera both present the struggle between communism and democracy/capitalism. Let's look at both works to help you get started on this assignment.

The novel presents an allegory of the communism versus democracy/capitalism struggle. It is set in Vietnam, and its characters represent both sides of the issue. The young woman Hang, representing Vietnam itself, is caught in the middle of them and harmed by their conflicts. Hang's mother, Que, and Que's brother, Chinh, symbolize communism, while Hang's father, Ton, and his sister, Aunt Tam, symbolize capitalism/democracy. They all compete over Hang, clouding her past, making her present miserable, and seriously endangering her future. Within the novel, look for quotations, perhaps from Chinh and Aunt Tam, that support this allegory.

Now let's examine the mural. It is filled with symbolic images that represent communism (notice the red flags and the portrait of Lenin on the right side) and capitalism/democracy (look at the diversity of the people and the machines on the left side). The mural is designed to show the struggles between the two systems and the human cost those struggles bring.

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Find a global issue or thesis statement that is exemplified in both the novel Paradise of the Blind and Diego Rivera's mural Allegory of California. With a specific key extract, explain how the global issue or thesis statement is showcased throughout both works. Provide details to back up the reasoning.

A global issue or thesis statement exemplified in both the novel Paradise of the Blind and Diego Rivera's mural Allegory of California might relate to the crucial role of women.

In Duong Thu Huong's book, women are front and center, as the narrative revolves around Hang and her relationship with the women in her family—mainly, her mother and aunt. In Diego Rivera’s mural, a woman takes center stage, since the artwork prominently features the tennis player Helen Wills Moody. Thus, in both works, there is significant pressure on women to hold up the world that's presented. A thesis statement might read something like In both works, women and the fundamental roles and complex identities they inhabit are foregrounded and examined. As Hang says early in the novel, "Unhappiness forges a woman, makes her selfless, compassionate."

An alternate way to unite these works via a thesis or global issue is to focus on resources. Throughout Hang's life, she and her family deal with making ends meet and trying to help others get by. In Rivera's work, the importance of resources is noted by the fruit Wills holds in her hand. A thesis on this topic might read something like Rivera's mural and Huong's novel address issues of scarcity and abundance across time and nations.

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