Paradise of the Blind

by Duong Thu Huong, Thu Huong Duong

Start Free Trial

How does Duong convey the theme of disillusionment in the last two pages of Paradise of the Blind?

Expert Answers

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

In the last pages of the novel, Hang realizes that the memories she had of Vietnam from her childhood were actually an exaggeration and even a distortion of reality.

When she thought of Vietnam, she saw in her mind beautiful, picturesque landscapes, flowery gardens, wonderful nature, greenery and vegetation, golden sunsets, and a nation full of culture. Surrounded by winter landscapes and the "hallucinatory whiteness of the Russian snow," she yearned to see and feel the beauty and warmth of her home country again.

Returning to Vietnam from Russia helps Hang understand that these memories were nothing but a product of the nostalgia she felt, a mask that hid the reality of the situation.

How many times, huddled behind my shutters, watching the hallucinatory whiteness of the Russian snow, had I dreamed of these fields, of their greenness warming to gold at dusk, shivering under a caress of wind. I would remember the cry of birds at dawn, the shadow cast by swans as they floated, regal and serene across the rice paddies, the rustle of bamboo. But that beauty, welling up from nostalgia, existed only in my memory.

Behind the paradise she so vividly remembered was a nation filled with suffering, struggles, poverty, dirty politics, and corruption. Hang's realization reflects the sense of disillusionment. The man she sells her late aunt's gold to only reminds her of this, as well as the "despair" she feels.

This man's appearance only made things clearer for me, helped me recognize what had suffocated me. He wasn't guilty of anything: His ugliness was only a cipher, the key to my own despair. I saw his horsey face again. ... Somewhere in my heart, though, I was grateful to him.

In the end, it is implied that Hang, now clearly wiser and no longer disillusioned with reality due to distorted memories, naivete, innocence, and childish ideals, decides to start a new chapter in her life—she plans to sell her aunt's house and leave everything behind, refusing to fall victim to the destructive and restrictive social environment.

Forgive me, my aunt: I'm going to sell this house and leave all this behind. We can honor the wishes of the dead with a few flowers on a grave somewhere. I can't squander my life tending these faded flowers, these shadows, the legacy of past crimes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is the global issue of disillusionment, or the idea of appearance versus reality, portrayed in Paradise of the Blind? I know that Hang reminisces about the lost, faded beauty of Vietnam, but I need a key extract with rich authorial choices (figurative language, motif, narrative structure, etc.) that supports this global issue.

A key extract with rich authorial choices that supports the global issue of disillusionment or appearance versus reality could relate to the “cripple’s” song or the purple flowers in the pond.

At first, the “cripple’s” song appears lovely to Hang. She describes it in figurative language: “Day after day, his falsetto voice spilled into the streets.” Of course, the song doesn’t literally spill into the streets, but the symbolic language communicates that this powerful song can’t be contained. Its enchanted quality overflows and mixes with the rest of the city.

As an adult, Hang becomes disillusioned with the song. Once again, she uses figurative language, but now the language focuses on the harsh reality of the song. Here, Hang says the song belongs to a “life snuffed out, aborted, without a whisper of a dream.” No longer is the song filling the streets with its wondrous sounds. Instead, the song represents death and hopelessness.

Something similar happens with the purple flowers. At first, Hang is enchanted by them. “I gazed at the flowers, spellbound,” she states. She says the purple flowers “bloomed out of this blanket of green.” Again, Hang uses figurative language, with the blanket of green representing the lush, verdant landscape.

As an adult, Hang becomes disillusioned with the flowers. Now, the purple flowers aren’t a part of a pleasant landscape but “radiant in the middle of the filth.” As with the “cripple” and his song, the flower is an “atrocious ornament of a life snuffed out.” Thus, not for the first time, something that at first appears charming confronts cruel reality, which results in bleak figurative language and a gloomy tone.

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
Last Updated on