Paradise of the Blind

by Duong Thu Huong, Thu Huong Duong

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Did the Communist Party fulfill its initial objective of "leveling" society in Paradise of the Blind?

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Authors Duong Thu Huong and Nina McPherson use the first chapters of their novel Paradise of the Blind to show just how unsuccessful the Communist Party's attempts to level society were just after the Vietnam War. She particularly emphasizes the failure of what the Party called land reform.

In Chapter Two, Hang's Uncle Chinh explains the process of land reform to his sister Que, Hang's mother. Chinh had been chosen by the Party to lead the land reform campaign in their village. He had already worked with the authorities and "finished classifying the people" in the village (p. 22). By "classify," he means that he picked out those who could be considered a threat to the peasantry, those who can be considered, as he phrased it, "an exploiter." Exploiters are specifically landlords. Chinh had identified Hang's father Ton as an exploiter because he comes from a family of landlords since his family "hired farm labor," which would be the peasants (p. 22). Hence, the Party sees landlords as those who exploit the lower class, the peasantry. During the land reform campaign, the officials would force "these criminals to kneel" in front of the peasants and "confess their crimes" (p. 23). The process of course increased feelings of anger and hatred and resulted in humiliating decent, peaceful members of the village; it often even resulted in violence. Essentially, it tore a village completely apart so that the village was no longer peaceful but instead lived in fear and hatred. Also, many of those accused of being "exploiters," like Ton, were driven into exile to escape, just as Ton escaped.

Not only did the Communist Party create fear and enmity in the villages, though they promised more financial equality, all the Communist Party really did was create even greater poverty and force peasants to work even harder. The authors blame the increase on terrible working conditions and poverty on the Party's own greed and corruption.

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