Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

In The Year of the Dragon, Frank Chin shows the detrimental effects that ethnic myths can have on a people. The Eng family attempts to exploit these myths for their own financial gain. For this end, however, they must pay a high price—the loss of their dignity. The Eng family have supported themselves by pandering to the expectations of tourists who have come to see the realization of myths about Chinese Americans. As guides, Fred and Johnny intentionally bastardize the English language and emphasize those features of Chinatown—exotic foods, strange sights, and alien social customs—which fit its stereotypical image. Although Sis criticizes her family’s business, she too uses the popular image of Chinatown for her own gain. She perpetuates the myth in her Mama Fu Fu cookbook because she recognizes that the image can enhance sales.

The perpetuation of these myths takes its toll on the family. Knowing the tourism business perpetuates a sham, Johnny readily accepts the company of those involved in illegal activities because he can see little difference in the moral standards of the two enterprises. Sis shows a lack of ethnic pride and self-esteem by having married a man who, despite his cultural studies, displays an ignorance of her heritage and tends to exacerbate those conflicts which are tearing apart the family. Pa enjoys the financial rewards of the tourism business, yet he will not publicly acknowledge his eldest son because their...

(The entire section is 434 words.)