In “Shrapnel Shards on Blue Water” by Le Thi Diem Thuy, the narrator expresses her longing for Vietnam, her home country, and how she feels that she and other Vietnamese people represent “fragmented shards” in the American culture- isolated members of a foreign culture. She portrays her emotions almost as if she is pursuing an actual person by using the pronoun “you” in the first stanza to address the actual country of Vietnam. Also, the author highlights the issue of trying to reconnect with her ethnic culture by contrasting an activity performed by her mother in Vietnam with an activity undertaken by her father in the United States.
Essentially, the author asserts her position that the only solution to overcoming this sense of disconnection from the American culture is by convincing the American people that there is more substance and depth to the Vietnamese culture as compared to the mainstream Vietnamese culture most familiar to Americans through the Vietnam War. The narrator conveys her desire to escape American culture, but she realizes that the path to Vietnam is, indeed, long and difficult.
Initially, the narrator expresses intense longing for her home country by stating, “every day I beat a path to run to you.
The imagery that is associated with this description depicts the narrator’s conflicted feelings of yearning to travel to Vietnam, a place where she would not feel like a “fragmented shard. ” The narrator’s difficulty in achieving this goal is exemplified in the imagery of how her path to Vietnam “winds and unwinds. ” This imagery conveys the idea that the path to Vietnam is complex, further supporting the author’s position that traveling back to Vietnam would entail a difficult journey.
Essentially, the author expresses her wish to travel to Vietnam and to escape the “signposts marked in another language” of the United States, signposts that remind the narrator of the difficulty of belonging to a foreign culture. She establishes her position that running away from her problems and escaping to Vietnam will not solve the issue at hand: overcoming the obstacles that prevent Vietnamese immigrants from integrating with American culture. Furthermore, the narrator uses the descriptions of her mother in Vietnam and f her father in the United States to exemplify the difficulty in trying to integrate Vietnamese culture into American society.
The narrator describes her mother’s task of “carrying food to sell at the markets” in Vietnam to contrast the difficult situation of the narrator trying to assimilate into American society. The narrator describes how the mother “carried her empty baskets home” after her day’s work, and would “travel towards the still waters of the south china sea. The serene picture painted of this body of water symbolizes the peaceful nature of one rightfully belonging to his or her community, and this image of tranquility is immediately contrasted with that of the father trying to catch fish in the “restricted part of the water in southern California. ” The “restricted” characterization of the Pacific Ocean and the description of how the father’s boat “crashed against the rocks” signifies the difficulty of the family in assimilating their culture into a foreign society.
The push of the Vietnamese people to assimilate into American culture is compared to an ocean tide and how it “surges forward, hits the rocks, strokes the sand,” and then “turns back into itself again. ” The tide represents the Vietnamese people, the sand relates to cultural activities of Vietnam, and the rocks represent the dominant American culture. Also, the description of how the tide surged and hit the rocks signifies the constant push of the Vietnamese people to assimilate into American culture.
The narrator further highlights the difficulty of assimilating into a larger community when participating in activities that are very much related to living in Vietnam, such as fishing. By drawing these contrasts between the work of the mother and the father, the narrator successfully points out that trying to incorporate certain elements of Vietnamese culture into American society can hinder the process of repairing the “fragmented shards” that make up the Vietnamese community.
Ultimately, the author acknowledges that attempting to travel back to Vietnam or participating in activities commonly found in the East Asian country would be futile attempts to become fully integrated within the American community. Moreover, the narrator acknowledges that there is more to the Vietnamese community than just refugees from the Vietnam War. The main point that the author is trying to make is that although the war may have been a significant part of the lives of the Vietnamese people, the war itself does not define the Vietnamese people.
Additionally, the author supports this idea that the war does not define the Vietnamese community by saying that “Vietnam is not a war” but that it “is a piece of us. ” Basically, the stereotypes formed by American society regarding the culture of the Vietnamese people should not be based on the actions of a devastating war. In essence, by stating that Vietnam represents “a word, a world, a love, a family, and a fear,” the author makes the point that the culture and country of Vietnam represents many things other than the Vietnam War.
The narrator asserts her position regarding the importance of convincing the American society to overlook the way it stereotypes the Vietnamese community and analyze the many factors that add to the depth of this East Asian culture. Instead of running away from this problem, the difficulty of the Vietnamese culture assimilating into the American culture, the author makes an attempt to confront these stereotypes and redeem the name of the Vietnamese people. Overall, the narrator asserts that assimilating into American culture requires convincing the American people that there is more substance and depth to the Vietnamese culture.
This assimilation process will prove to be difficult, but it will be more effective than fleeing back to Vietnam. The ultimate goal of the narrator is to ensure that there are no wrongly held views regarding the Vietnamese people and that the Vietnamese people should be not stereotyped according to judgments formed through the Vietnam War. Essentially, there is always more to a culture than what meets the eye, but integrating a foreign culture into a larger, more dominant one can be a difficult process: a process that can result in the loss of many native customs and traditions.