Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Vincent’s first speech as Sergeant Moto in interlude 1 evokes the “evil empire” and the gross distortions of Asian character by American propaganda during World War II. Moto’s speech and the trite image of the vicious Japanese soldier are repeated with variations throughout the play, but Sergeant Moto breaks the stereotype by directly questioning Americans about their inability to truly see and hear him. Moto’s appeal to be seen and heard—to be recognized as a human being—resonates in every scene.

The play also suggests, through the personal and professional struggles of Vincent and Bradley, that being identified as Asian American can cause one to be unseen and unheard. Philip Kan Gotanda suggests that being identified as a minority in the United States can be an unsatisfactory and limiting designation, perhaps just as debilitating as racist film stereotypes like Sergeant Moto. Both Vincent and Bradley are painfully aware that “Asian American” implies otherness, not American, or worse, less than American. The term “Asian” is itself a confusing conflation of many cultures—Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Indian, among others, and this conflation erases individual character and personal history. In the play, the shared experiences of Vincent and Bradley serve to criticize recent decades of American history and indict one-dimensional depictions of people of color, which persist in contemporary media and continue to exclude...

(The entire section is 536 words.)