“Hunger”, by Lan Samantha Chang, is a cautionary tale of an immigrant Chinese family in this complex story about unrelenting hunger, oppression, love and loss. Narrated by Min; the deeply unhappy and obedient wife of Tian, a gifted violinist, finds work as a music teacher in New York, but ultimately fails to land a permanent job at the school. Driven by personal failure and his unrelenting hunger for the violin Tian cruelly forces his two daughters, Anna and Ruth to play the violin, so they can follow in his footsteps. Tian’s inability to separate himself from his violin ends up destroying his family. Chang uses Tian’s obsessive hunger for the violin as a symbol of his identity, showing us that we must be careful not to become so focused on one thing that we lose all sense of self and family.
Tian’s violin is everything to him, it is his destiny, his hope and his future; it is his one true love in life. Chang uses foreshadows when Min seats Tian at the restaurant she works at she notices that he has “placed his violin case in the opposite chair…facing him like a lover” (13) and she finds herself “[envious of] the violin case, dark and slender, curved like a woman” (13). By sexualizing the violin Chang is allowing us a glimpse of the importance this violin will play in their lives and the envy that Min will feel throughout their marriage. In trying to explain why he doesn’t want more children, Tian tells Min, “sometimes there is only one thing-that a person must do…It is what he hungers for” (28). He explains to her that he gave up everything when he left China including his family. As he left his father told him “You forget about us…this family is no longer your family. I am no longer your father” (28). Tian then goes on to say “I know that there is only one thing in life that I permit myself to do. Anything else-frightens me. I am not allowed to have it”. Chang is using this dialog and flashback to show the double-bind that is...
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