The Price of Indebtedness in May-Lee Chai's "Saving Sourdi"
Whether stabbing a man with a paring knife or getting a friend to punch her sister's husband in the face, Nea always manages to start trouble for her and her sister, Sourdi. She doesn't do it on purpose, it's just that Nea will do anything to protect her older sister. The issue stems from when the family lived in their native Cambodia; Nea was only four and Sourdi carried her across a minefield on her back. Ever since that moment, Nea has felt indebted to her older sister and has been determined to protect her at all costs. However, the costs seem to be high as her identity has become tied to this notion of debt. In May-Lee Chai's "Saving Sourdi," Nea's identity is shaped by her feeling of indebtedness to her sister Sourdi, which compromises her ability to grow and objectively see the world. The cause behind the story's central conflict lies in Nea's devotion to Sourdi, which in turn was caused by a distant memory. "Once upon a time", Nea recalls, "Sourdi had walked across a minefield, carrying me on her back" (Chai 140). With the terrible war background on the Khmer Rouge-era in Cambodia as an exposition, Nea recalls her sister Sourdi carrying her across a field by stepping on countless dead bodies to avoid the mines. This is something that Nea views as secret between just her and her sister, one she will never reveal to another soul. It is because of this single incident that Nea vows to "walk on bones" and "rotting flesh" to "save Sourdi," which itself foreshadows events to come (Chai 140). It is this event that defines Nea and motivates her actions throughout the story. It is because Nea's identity is derived from this debt to her older sister that causes Nea to respond in such a haphazard manner. Not only do her responses create tension in the story, but they further develop Nea as a character. "I would walk on bones for my sister, I vowed. I would put my bare feet on rotting...
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