Politics and Emigration Paper Based on Jen Sookfong Lee’s the End of East

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In Jen Sookfong Lee’s The End of East, the dreams and hardships of three generations of Chinese Canadians settled in Vancouver are explored profoundly. One dominant notion that is ever present is what leaving home symbolizes for Seid Quan – the first immigrant, Pon Man – his immigrant son and his youngest Canadian born granddaughter, Samantha. Leaving home for Samantha not only meant freedom from her own family, but also facing similar adversities like making countless sacrifices and enduring numerous obligations which both Seid Quan and Pon Man underwent as well. Although they are generations apart, they lived their lives in parallel lines; however, since they were not at ease with their own identities, they could not communicate with each other past their differences. Seid Quan was very sceptical from the beginning of his journey to Canada and all the opportunities that lie ahead of him. On the boat he hears, “… but there would be jobs, good paying jobs, jobs with which you could feed your family for a year with two month’s pay and in a place with that kind of opportunity, the going could only be easy” (Lee 15-16). Even these words of promise couldn’t assure him as he clearly observed that he doesn’t see any rich man on the boat. Later, he is reminded by other immigrants that he can doubt all he wants, but remember how much money the people in his village saved to send him to this golden mountain (Lee 16). At that point he realises the moral obligation towards the villagers and prepares himself for the sacrifices he will need to make. Therefore, he picked up any work that came knocking i.e. cleaning at a tailor store. To deceive himself he would say, “As long as I can send money home, that’s enough for me” (Lee 29). For Seid Quan, leaving home meant an opportunity, a chance to end poverty for his family and the villagers back in China but at the cost of being lonely. Not only was he lonely from leaving everyone he knew behind; he never got the sense of belonging in Canada even after working hard, “They are not citizens and they do not vote, so, like the generation before them who died, weathered and forgotten, on the cold rail lines, their suffering is barely noticed” (Lee 44). For Pon Man, leaving home wasn’t a choice; rather it was imposed on him by his parents. Even though it wasn’t his preference, he had high ambitions and expectations from Vancouver, Canada. On the contrary, his dreams start to tremble since the very first day as he says to his father, “I don’t see anything worth money here, just a room we have to share.” Disregarding the fact that Pon Man grew a teenager without even seeing his dad, he did not like his father for plenty of other reasons. For example, he loves to draw on the sketchbook which was a go away present from his mom but according to Seid Quan, “this drawing is a waste of time, time that could be spent on working hard and helping me save.”(Lee 87) Secondly, he never liked working at the barber shop which his father owned, “Pon Man gagged whenever he had to touch the wet clumps of hair that gathered in the corners of the shop and collected in the sinks.” (Lee 75). He did not like that his life was totally governed by his dad every step of the way. However, he clearly remembers his obligations towards his dad from his mother saying, “You must do what your father tells you, even if you don’t like it or don’t want to do it…. He’s your father and deserves your obedience.” (Lee 80) Thus, leaving home for Pon Man not only meant leaving China where he lived for the first fifteen years of his life but also breaking free from the invisible shackles that bound his dreams and ambitions to his father. Home for Samantha was something she was frightened of, as she says, “But really I am simply afraid… with my mother’s footsteps coming up quick behind me, I know that I have irrevocably returned” (Lee 3). Samantha’s mother Siu Sang was very controlling of her daughters and would expect nothing but perfection...
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