The Pursuit of Self-Identification

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In the novel The Jade Peony, author, Wayson Choy, intelligently writes about two siblings who struggle in the pursuit of self-identification. Their struggles vary as they do not share the same problems during this tough period of their lives. This leads to the debate, whose childhood experiences will affect them more as an adult? Although Jook-Liang had to go through the tough situation of always being under prioritized and always being undermined, her childhood troubles and experiences could never truly be compared with the experiences of Jung Sum. To put it bluntly, Jung Sum’s childhood experiences will affect him more as an adult than Jook-Liang’s experiences would. The reason for this is because, firstly, Jung Sum, as a child, was never truly showered with love, neither was Jook-Liang, but she did not have to suffer the pain of losing her birth parents as Jung Sum did. Also, Jung Sum had to experience the pain of losing a treasured person or pet multiple times, and while Jook-Liang did lose a person close to her heart, she only experienced it once. Finally, as both Jook-Liang and Jung Sum struggled with identification, Jung Sum was met with problems while identifying his sexual identity, which was not accepted by any society at that period of time. On the other hand Jook-Liang was only required to identify culturally which would cause problems but eventually allow gain acceptance into at least one society. To start with, Jung Sum never had the privilege of being showered with love during his childhood and even though Jook-Liang was greatly oppressed and unfairly treated by people around her, such as Poh-Poh, she would still ocassionally be loved by those surrounding people. This is evident when Poh-Poh helped Jook-Liang to tie her shoelaces while she was getting ready to dance for Wong Suk (Choy 30). As for Jung Sum, although he was only a child, his birth father would violently abuse him and his mother when he was drunk. The quote “I waited for Daddy to get up from the kitchen floor, half-drunk, waited for him to beat me with his belt.” (Choy 96) clearly shows that Jung Sum had to face the unlucky circumstances of child abuse, something Jook-Liang had the privilege of avoiding as her family never resorted to physical abuse. It would be a scarring memory to be violently abused by ones’ own father as a child, a memory that could be carried for a lifetime. This may affect Jung Sum in his latter years as he may recall the abuse of his father and feel dysfunctional. These unresolved issues could cause a severe case of depression in his life. Furthermore, as Jung Sum was adopted into a new family, he immediately felt like an outsider. “He thought I was too weak to be his brother, a real brother,” (Choy 93) shows that Jung Sum clearly felt marginalized by his new older brother, Kiam. To be adopted into a family full of new and unfamiliar faces and be rebuked immediately by his own “brother” was a tough situation to be in, especially after losing both his parents. Jook-Liang did not have to go through the process of being adopted into a new family or having to lose her family members prematurely while Jung Sum did. This could possibly go on to affect Jung Sum and make him feel as though he had no one to rely on but himself, possibly causing him to have a lack of trust for other people in the future. Additionally, his childhood experiences may lead him to develop into an adult influenced by those experiences. These unresolved child issues could dwell within him and could cause him to either be more aggressive or more reserved as an adult. He may recall those experiences when dealing with his own children in the future and could possibly treat them the same way his own father treated him or otherwise, might not even attempt to have a close relationship with them. As Jook-Liang did not undergo any extreme circumstances of child abuse, she would probably be less affected as an adult when compared to Jung Sum. Therefore, Jung Sum...
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