Literary Analysis

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"First day of school!!," I shouted with nervous excitement as I jumped out the car to attend my first day at an American school. My anxiety was building high – everyone said this would change my life. They say this is good for me; that my life will be better by starting school in America at such a young age. But all I felt was separation, and hunger – as I sat on the "redpainted benches in the fall chill of noon" and last night's caldereta hiding beneath me, securing away any small differences that may betray me more than my face already has (Gloria). As the weeks passed, the "scattered rice – beneath the length of that redpainted bench – blackened with the schoolyard's dirt" as I sat and ate my turkey sandwich with my best broken English (Gloria).

This scene from Eugene Gloria's poem, "Assimilation," describes a young Filipino's loss of ethnic identity when, at school, he hides the lunch his mother prepares for him. The ‘repainted benches' signifies his difference among the other kids – he is colored while his school peers where majority white. The ‘fall chill of noon' not only describes the climate, but in a deeper sense, the emotional state that the young boy is feeling. Reacting to this notion of being an outsider, this young boy does all he can to challenge this state of being. He is ashamed to even eat the Filipino dish his mother prepared for lunch, and hides it from his schoolmates. As described in the poem, the rice was ‘scattered' and no longer in unity as it ‘blackened' with the schoolyard's dirt. The rice, usually the color of white, is no longer its original color, signifying how the young boy is no longer like his origin. He has conformed and is now living among the American ways. The following days, he tries to fit into the typical American lifestyle, as he knows it, by eating a turkey sandwich cut into two triangles with a Glad bag of chips, ultimately assimilating himself from the Filipino culture in order to blend and gain acceptance in his new American life.

Ben, from the movie film "The Debut," and Leila, the main character of the novel Bone, are examples of this assimilation. Ben takes it more to the extreme, readily wanting to be a part of the dominant culture in America. Leila, on the other hand, is stuck between the need of emotionally staying within her culture to support her parents while wanting to escape and live her life through the American lifestyle she has been brought up in. Both the novel and film raise social and cultural issues in the story about Asians in America. Within this analysis, I will be comparing and contrasting how the main characters deal with the issues of being an American-born Asian living in America and how they achieve a sense of balance between both cultures by reconciling with their generational and family conflicts. Ben and Leila achieve this balance through different strategies – whether through confronting the past or attending a traditional cultural party – and eventually gain a sense of resolution among their cultures, family, and themselves.

The main crisis present within the movie "The Debut" is the main character's inability to accept his own heritage. This can be shown through his un-involvement with his sister's debut, a traditional Filipino party to celebrate a young woman's 18th birthday. This party is usually very family-involved and consists of traditional food, family reunions, and traditional Filipino dances. Instead of being a part of this world, Ben has excluded himself entirely from the festivities and puts in extra hours at his work in order to earn money to put a down-payment in his school of choice (to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist). This poses another conflict between Ben and his strict immigrant father, Roland, a postal worker intent on seeing Ben become a doctor. Roland, like any natural father, strives to give his children a better life than he had and the only way he sees that happening is through a successful career. Ben,...
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