On Gold Mountain by Lisa See

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Can you imagine moving to a different country and trying to raise a family in a country that is not your homeland? Many people make this decision on a daily basis. However, which traditions and values would you choose to teach your children? Would you teach your children their homeland traditions or their new country traditions? In the book, On Gold Mountain by Lisa See, Fong See struggled in being accepted publicly as a member of American Society and he also struggled with trying to keep his Chinese traditions and values with his families. In his second marriage, he succeeded in being accepted by the American society, but was not as successful with his Chinese traditions. However, in his third marriage, he was successful in maintaining all his Chinese traditions, but even though he was accepted by American society, he tried to lose his American ways.

Fong See was publically accepted as member of American society, but it did not happen overnight. It took many years for Fong See to be accepted by American society. American society only accepted him because he had reached great wealth, he was a successful business man and he married an American girl and adapted to her ways.

When Fong See came to America he was only fourteen years old and had to deal with the struggles of being discriminated against because he was of Chinese decent. In the late 1800’s, Chinese were looked down on and Americans really did not give them the respect they deserved. Fong See took over his fathers business, however he wasn’t very good at being an herbalist. He started selling things door to door and at the age of seventeen, he opened his own shop. Fong See had started to dress western, just like the Americans did to fit in. He changed his name and changed his company name many times in order for it to be easier for Americans to pronounce it, because he wanted to be accepted by American society, so he did anything possible to make that happen.

By the end of the story, Fong See had a total of four wives, which is a Chinese custom. His second marriage was to Letticie Pruett, an American woman. Letticie was the only woman that Fong See married out of real love. In this marriage, Fong See struggled with trying to keep his Chinese traditions, values and heritage alive within his family. Letticie did respect some of Fong See’s traditions and values. However, Letticie felt that their children were still children, which is an American view and she felt their children should be able to go outside, play and roller-skate. Fong See felt that his children should be studying calligraphy. He also felt that his daughter, Sissee, should be doing needle work. Letticie had her children enrolled in calligraphy and Chinese schools that Fong See accepted, however when they punished her child by hitting him in the hand with a bamboo stick, a Chinese tradition, Letticie pulled her children out of that school. Fong See felt that Letticie babied the boys and that they needed to be men. Chinese see men as independent and the men are the sole providers, it is this tradition that See wanted to raise his sons by. However, Letticie felt that a mother should show that kind of nourishment, sympathy, affection towards her child and should protect them by all means. There were many things that Fong See and Letticie disagreed on, so in order to please both Fong See and herself, Letticie would do things behind Fong See’s back, like letting the children play with roller-skates. By these examples, you can see that Fong See was trying to maintain his traditional Chinese customs with his family, however his wife Letticie would interfere with that, since she was raised different. Even though Fong See tried his hardest, it is impossible to have Chinese traditions when someone is going behind your back and teaching your children opposite or a different custom, maintaining Fong See’s Chinese traditions with his wife Letticie was unsuccessful.

See family celebrated many American and...
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