What’s In a Name?
“If you wake up in a different time, in a different place, can you be a different person?” The narrator Edward Norton in the infamous movie Fight Club posed this question. This quote relates directly to the poem “Lost Sister” by Cathy Song where a young girl struggles to find an identity in China, and believes America may be able to provide what her homeland could not. Cathy Song wrote “Lost Sister” in 1983. This poem has deep connections to Song’s ties to her Asian culture. Cathy song was born and raised in Hawaii however her Asian roots influence many of her poems including “Lost Sister”. This poem deals directly with the culture clash of two separate worlds, Chinese culture and the shift to an American way of life. “Lost Sister” is a five-stanza two part poem which depicts two very different worlds. Traditional China is juxtaposed against a modern America, allowing for the separate challenges of each society to be revealed. The dynamics of individuality in a society that demands conformity come to light in Song’s poem. The theme of identity is examined in great depth, revealing that one cannot shed one’s own skin no matter how many miles from home one travels. While the sister in the poem breaks from her expected role in China, she is overwhelmed by the lack of an identity she was longing for in America. “Lost Sister” deals with conflict between belonging, individuality and ultimately finding the balance between the two.
China is illustrated as a land of uniformity, and thus represents a large group of girls, as a single existence under one name, to create the notion that conformity is the only option. The first lines are perhaps the most instrumental in establishing this level of one identity for all Chinese girls. They read, “In China / even the peasants / named their first daughters / Jade” (lines 1-4). The idea of first daughters being named Jade creates the conformity, while the addition of the peasants notes that this tradition is...
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