In the novel Paradise of the Blind, Doung Thu Huong explores the effect the Communist regime has had upon Vietnamese cultural gender roles. During the rule of the Communist Viet Minh, a paradigm shift occurred within which many of the old Vietnamese traditions were dismantled or altered. Dounh Thu Huong uses the three prominent female characters – Hang, Que and Aunt Tam – to represent the changing responsibilities of women in Vietnamese culture. Que, Hang’s mother, represents a conservative, orthodox Vietnamese woman, who has a proverb-driven commitment to sustaining her manipulative brother, Chinh. Aunt Tam embodies a capitalistic struggle against the new communist regime and using her entrepreneurial wealth to further the bloodline through Hang. Hang, the central character, is subject to the influences of both Que and Aunt Tam as significant female role models in the shaping of her aspirations, struggling to form her own values and way of life.
The traditional Vietnamese familial structure is largely based around the Confucian ideology within which familial relations and order are central. Que as the eldest female has a maternal duty towards her brother Chinh. Que is established as a character who lives “according to proverbs [pg 14]”, her values representative of traditional Vietnamese principles. Furthermore Hang describes Que as “selfless [pg 14]”, living by the maxim “Unhappiness forges a woman [pg 14]”, which is evident as Que supports Chinh’s family to her own physical and mental detriment. This service to Chinh’s family is largely due to the Vietnamese familial structure, wherein male children are considered i...
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...fulfills a traditional expectation to honor both Aunt Tam and Que with proper funerals, her choice to ultimately abandon the ancestral house is a representation of the culmination of both females values in Hang’s principles.
The author Duong Thu Huong creates female characters that, through their actions, simultaneously fulfill and go against their gender roles in Vietnamese society. Each characters inability to successfully fulfill all of their responsibilities is due to the conflict between ideology and tradition, and outlines the heavy burden placed upon females to fulfill their responsibilities. Furthermore Aunt Tam and Que’s fight for control and influence over shaping Hang’s values and future is symbolic of the political unrest in Vietnam, impacting greatly on Hang’s freedom to make her own decisions and seeks to undermine Hang’s own unique sense of identity.
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