Dragonwings by Laurence Yep

Dragonwings by Laurence Yep

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Immigrants' lives become very difficult when they move to a new country. They are often discriminated against due to their race and/ or nationality. This problem occurs many times throughout Dragonwings, a book by Laurence Yep. In his book, the Chinese characters who immigrate to America face many challenges in their new lives. They are thought of as inferior, have to endure many hardships, and become lonely due to the fact that they must leave the majority of their families in China. In this book, the immigrants face multiple difficulties and challenges in the new world they know as the Land of the Golden Mountain.
One challenge that the immigrants face in this story is that they are thought of as inferior by Americans, or "demons" as they have begun to refer to them. Demons are not accepting of differences; therefore the Chinese are looked down upon, and don't get equal rights and privileges. For example, Moon Shadow's grandmother tells him that his father traveled to America to work as a laundryman before he was born. She tells Moon Shadow that gold, in the Land of the Golden Mountain, is everywhere and men can scoop it up by the bucket-full. When he asks why his father does not get enough gold to return home, his grandmother replies, "Demons roam the mountain up and down and they beat up any of our men who try to get the gold" (6). She mentions that they are allowed to take only a small pinch of it, and only if they do all of the hard, grueling labor that they are told to do. This quote proves that Chinese (Tang) people are belittled. They are forced to work like slaves. Good-paying jobs are very difficult for them to find. They must also be careful when choosing them. Moon Shadow states, "There was plenty of money to be made among the demons, but it was also dangerous" (1). This states that though there are many job opportunities in America, the lives of Chinese people are sometimes put at risk. This would almost certainly not have been the case if an American were to have the same job. This demonstrates the prejudice which exists against Tang men. The book also mentions that Americans often assume Chinese people are greedy, that they are after Americans' money.

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This fact is proven when Windrider stops to help a man, Mr. Alger, fix his car. After he mends the automobile, Mr. Alger automatically pulls money out of his pocket to tip him. Windrider says modestly, "' No tip, just happy to look at horseless'"(57). Mr. Alger assumes that Windrider only stops to help because he wants money. Moon Shadow goes on to say that "the demon stopped and studied Father as you might look at a dog that had suddenly said he was going to the opera" (57). This demonstrates Moon Shadows knowledge that white people think Chinese cannot possibly get high-paying jobs due to their lack of skills or importance. These immigrants have to bear much racism and scrutiny--and the insecurity that goes with it--in their new homeland.
Immigrants also have to face and live in many harsh, new conditions. For example, they have to put up with stereotypes and stories about them. This is proven when Moon Shadow is traveling by ship to America to meet his father for the very first time. Moon Shadow is told a story "about how the [Tang men] had slept upside-down on top of their heads with knives between their teeth, and so on" (11). This shows that the white people are very cruel to the Chinese, even if the story stretches the truth. To make up a story of this violent nature means that it is not far beyond them to do it. Americans also force the Chinese immigrants to live with the constant threat of violence. On one occasion, they go out with the intention of hurting the Chinese, simply for the pleasure of it. Black Dog, a relative of Moon Shadow, states, "'The demons are all getting drunk and getting ready for beating up Tang men. The word is to stay inside'" (29). This further shows that the Chinese must face violence, a new element, in their everyday lives. Last, they must endure harsh conditions when arriving in America for the first time, going through immigration. This is a very long, torturous process. Moon Shadow explains, "The demons kept us locked inside a long, two-story warehouse for a week before it was our turn to be questioned" (11). This illustrates the fact that life is hardly bearable for them in the Land of the Golden Mountain. Things are very difficult, especially because of the way they are treated.
The last and one of the most unbearable elements of all for immigrants is loneliness. Families are separated. Moon Shadow's father leaves his wife, mother, and unborn son in China when he goes to live in America. He leaves with the expectation that he will be able to see his family in approximately five years, as most can. Moon Shadow notes, however, "though there were longer separations, as with Mother and Father" (3). This proves that families can be forced to endure long periods of time without seeing each other. As one might imagine, they become very lonely. Also, they often miss the appearance of the elaborate architecture and color used on buildings in China. San Francisco looks very drab to them in comparison. Moon Shadow thinks, "Walking up the street, I nearly lost heart. To me, the wooden houses seemed like shells of wood which terrible monsters had spun about themselves" (18). Since he is not used to the box like American homes, they seem quite foreign and even intimidating to him. He misses the familiarity of his home. Moon Shadow also shows signs of loneliness when he says, " I did not go to school during the daytime like demon children because the demons would not allow me to go to any of their schools just a few blocks away" (50). He does not have any Chinese friends to play with, and he does no get much contact with white children. It is plain to see that Moon Shadow and his relatives face much loneliness in their everyday lives in America.
The characters in this book have very difficult lives in their new "home," America. They are burdened with many challenges and hardships. Because of this, their lives in America cannot be carefree and happy. Instead they are filled with sorrow, pain, and scrutiny. They must endure the racism and cruel stereotypes that are targeted at them by Americans. They must work extra hard to find and keep good jobs. It becomes evident that their lives so far away from home are barely endurable.
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