Themes of Language and Racial Identity in Native Speaker, By Chang-Rae Lee

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Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker expresses prominent themes of language and racial identity. Chang-Rae Lee focuses on the struggles that Asian Americans have to face and endure in American society. He illustrates and shows readers throughout the novel of what it really means to be native of America; that true nativity of a person does not simply entail the fact that they are from a certain place, but rather, the fluency of a language verifies one’s defense of where they are native. What is meant by possessing nativity of America would be one’s citizenship and legality of the country. Native Speaker suggests that if one looks different or has the slightest indication that one should have an accent, they will be viewed not as a native of America, but instead as an alien, outsider, and the like. Therefore, Asian Americans and other immigrants feel the need to mask their true identity and imitate the native language as an attempt to fit into the mold that makes up what people would define how a native of America is like. Throughout the novel, Henry Park attempts to mask his Korean accent in hopes to blend in as an American native. Chang-Rae Lee suggests that a person who appears to have an accent is automatically marked as someone who is not native to America. Language directly reveals where a person is native of and people can immediately identify one as an alien, immigrant, or simply, one who is not American. Asian Americans as well as other immigrants feel the need to try and hide their cultural identity in order to be deemed as a native of America in the eyes of others. Since one’s language gives away the place where one is native to, immigrants feel the need to attempt to mask their accents in hopes that they sound fluent ... ... middle of paper ... ...silenced in this country, in order to have voice and be visible in society, one must strive to be a white American. They feel the need to embody and assimilate to whiteness because the white race has a voice and is seen, rather than silenced and unseen, in society. They are privileged with the freedom of not having to cope with the notion of being marked, silent, and unseen in society. This creates pressures for Asian Americans and immigrants to suppress their own cultural identities and assimilate to whiteness in an attempt to potentially be able to prosper and make a life for them in America. Asian Americans feel as though being who they truly are and express their unique cultural identities will alienate themselves even more than they already are. Chang-Rae Lee Works Cited. Lee, Chang-Rae. Native Speaker. NewYork: Riverhead Trade, 1996. Print.

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