Cultural Identity in Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee

750 Words3 Pages
When asked to define ones cultural identity people usually take the path that leads to their country of origin. They describe their beliefs and tradition which mirrors the values of people within that geographic location. But what about the people who are torn between two cultures? How would they define their cultural identity? This is the problem faced by Henry Park, the protagonist of the book Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee. Originally from Korea, he immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was little. However, his struggle of trying to find his acceptance into the American culture still continues. The book outlines his endless uncertainty of trying to define his cultural identity and his feelings as an outsider to the American Culture. Not being able to commit to either of the cultures leaves Henry confused regarding his true Cultural identity which Chang very artfully presents as a fuzzy line between the American and Korean Culture. Chang portrays the complexity of Henry’s character by showing the conflict that he faces both in his personal and professional life. His confusion towards his own Cultural identity is noticed in his relationships with his co-workers as well as with his family. His personal relationship with his family, especially with his father and his wife exemplifies the clash between the two cultures which seems to tear Henry apart. Leila, Henry’s wife, seems to epitomize the traditional American Culture which Henry tries very hard to be a part of. Her forthright nature along with the independence and individuality contradicts the stereotypical qualities of an Asian wife. However, Henry’s desperation is seen in his forgiving attitude towards Leila’s action and behavior. His deter... ... middle of paper ... ...a of what his life would have been had he been born and raised by an American Family. This shows that he has been trying to run away from the shadow of his own Culture in an effort to gain acceptance in the American Culture. However, his unruly behavior might have resulted due to the lack of support from his family especially his father. His father’s determination of trying to keep him bounded to the Korean tradition and values might have what actually pushed Henry away. For example, when Henry decides to take an American girl to the Spring Dance, his father justifies her interest in her son due his financial background. He says to Henry, “You real dummy, Henry. Don’t you know? You just free dance ticket. She just using you” (Pg. 74). This illustrates that Henry has been struggling to gain his father’s respect and approval in him but was never able to achieve that.

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