The Similar Effects of Audience Reception in Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity-Narrative and Equiano’s Slave-Narrative.
Captivity and slave narratives allow insight into the trauma that the victim experiences; however, the victim’s narrative is often influenced and therefore, altered, to conform to the society’s pressures at that time. Focusing on the reception of the audience creates a struggle for the writer which is seen in Mary Rowlandson’s captivity-narrative as well as Olaudah Equiano’s slave-narrative. While it is clear that Rowlandson’s captors are quite generous, Rowlandson is forced to conform and portray the natives as the Puritan community views them: as inferior savages. There are many instances in Rowlandson’s narrative where her statements are extremely contradictory, showcasing the striking difference between what Rowlandson actually experiences and how she writes it to appeal to her audience. Equiano faces a similar struggle. He writes his slave-narrative to demonstrate the inhumane struggles that black slaves face and to address the notion of integration instead of segregation. Equiano understands that his narrative must appeal to white audiences and therefore embellishes his story by adding untrue facts and conforms to ‘white culture.’ Both Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative, “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson,” and Olaudah Equiano’s slave narrative, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African, Written by Himself,” are similar in the way that they both aim to please the primary audience for whom they are written, resulting in contradictory statements, embellishments, and conformity to society’s expectations of that time.
Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative is full of opposing statements, a clear indicator that her actual experience is altered to appeal to the readers to whom she is writing this for. Michelle Burnham states that “[the] curious split in the narrative tone of Rowlandson’s narrative makes it seem as though the… observations of her physical journey were recorded by one voice, and the spiritual quotations and conclusions drawn from her experience recorded by another” (Burnham 61). Burnham also declares that Rowlandson’s inconsistencies are a result of “the individual psychology of the captive and the demands of Puritan society” (Burnham 61). Rowlandson’s account of her captivity is greatly influenced by the society surrounding her, forcing her to alter the way in which she writes her experience.
The difference between Rowlandson’s ‘two voices’ within her narrative is extremely important in analyzing her purpose for writing this narrative. Kathryn Zabelle Derounian states that there are two types of narration: “empirical narration… defines the author’s role as a participant, while rhetorical narration… defines her role as an interpreter and commentator” (Derounian 82). Derounian also concludes that Rowlandson’s differing voices are a symptom of “[conforming] to the Puritan doctrine of providential affliction” (Derounian 83). Clearly, Rowlandson’s native captors are quite generous as they “[carry her] poor wounded babe upon a horse… then they set [Rowlandson] upon the horse’s back with [her] wounded child” after getting tired (Rowlandson 260). The natives understand that Rowlandson and her child are wounded and tired. Instead of allowing Rowlandson to suffer, her captors generously offer her rest and help her make the journey easier. She illustrates the generosity of her captives again in another encounter that she writes about, stating: “I was fain to go and look after something to satisfy my hunger, and going among the wigwams, I went into one and there found a squaw who showed herself very kind to me, and gave me a piece of bear… In the morning I went to the same squaw, who had a kettle of ground nuts boiling. I asked her to let me boil my piece of bear in her kettle, which she did, and gave me some ground nuts to eat with it: and I cannot but think how pleasant it was to me” (Rowlandson 269). Rowlandson is clearly being treated with humanity and, more importantly, recognizes it. The “squaw” gives Rowlandson a piece of bear to eat, despite the fact that there is seemingly not a substantial supply of food. The natives she travels with are constantly scavenging for food in order to sustain themselves and yet, this woman selflessly offers Rowlandson some of her own food – an act of pure generosity. Despite addressing these hospitable acts of kindness, Rowlandson is constantly telling her readers that her captives are “barbarous creatures” (Rowlandson 259) and “inhumane creatures” (260). Rowlandson goes so far as to compare the Natives’ way of living to “a lively resemblance of hell” which is completely contradictory to what she actually describes (259). Rowlandson writes about her real experiences with the Natives, showing that they are generous and kind to her, yet she continuously refers to them in derogatory ways in order to appeal to her Puritan readers. Rowlandson is so concerned with audience reception that she includes these contradictory statements, whether unconsciously or consciously, and even over compensates by continuously referring to her experience as a religious test to guarantee the approval of her Puritan audience.
Rowlandson, on a number of occasions, refers to her experience as a religious journey or test. Derounian states that “as a Puritan writer, [Rowlandson] possessed the added responsibility of turning personal experience into public ideology” (Derounian 85). This part of Rowlandson’s narrative, in Derounian’s terms, is her rhetorical narrative. Rowlandson attempts to find meaning in her experiences and ultimately uses the Bible to do so. She writes with the purpose of appealing to the Puritan community and to do so, she must conform to the ideals imposed by the Puritan community. Rowlandson repeatedly quotes the bible and refers to her experience as a test from God. In the end, Rowlandson thanks God for “carrying [her] through so many difficulties, in returning [her] to safety” (Rowlandson 288). Rowlandson also turns to scripture countless times and makes a point to write about this fact. Rowlandson understands who her audience is and she knows that the only way they will accept her captivity-narrative is if she compliments her and her society’s religious beliefs. Rowlandson’s narrative is morphed into a spiritual journey in order to appeal to the public, the same way Equiano morphs his experience into more of a heart-wrenching slave-narrative.
Equiano adds false statements to his slave-narrative in order to appeal more towards his audience. Equiano’s aim is to show the Americans that enslaving black people is unjust. One way Equiano does this is by dramatizing his own personal experience in order to showcase just how terrible and gruesome so many other’s experiences are. Equiano’s journey from Africa to America is the most important dramatization. Ronald Paul writes: “Equiano was not in fact from Africa but born and raised in South Carolina, albeit as a slave” (Paul 848). Equiano could have written his slave narrative from his own real experiences of being born in America; however, he decides to incorporate this fabricated information. This is important in analyzing how Equiano gets his point across to his readers. Equiano writes with the same focus in mind as Rowlandson: audience reception. The suffering of the slaves who actually are forced to take the trip from Africa to America is a gruesome one. Equiano describes ‘his’ experience on the ship, stating that: “The stench of the hold… was so intolerably loathsome, that it was dangerous to remain there for any time… The closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us… the air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died… The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable” (Equiano 697). Despite this being a fictional experience to Equiano, it is something very real that happens to many slaves during this time. By incorporating this detail, Equiano is able to resonate with the readers. When reading this section of his slave-narrative, Equiano’s audience is able to fully understand the horrors that the slaves undergo and therefore feel more inclined to join the abolitionist movement. By stating that these horrors the slaves withstand in their travel from Africa to America are “almost inconceivable,” he makes sure that his readers know that he is not exaggerating – that these horrors which people believe to be unimaginable actually happen. To add on to this, Equiano opens his slave narrative by introducing his family and culture – his fictional life in Africa – in order to humanize black people to his white readers.
Equiano’s entire life in Africa is completely fictionalized; however, he incorporates what many slaves would have experienced before their capture for a very important reason. As Marc Hewson explains: it is difficult to ignore a person’s humanity when their life runs parallel to yours. This is exactly why Equiano incorporates the segment revealing many of the African slaves’ experiences in their homeland. Although the culture that Equiano describes is quite different from the white American culture, for example, “cutting the skin across at the top of the forehead” as a type of tradition, there are many similarities amongst the two cultures (Equiano 689). Equiano acknowledges the differences between the black slaves and the white people while simultaneously drawing similarities and running parallels between them. Equiano emphasizes the fact that the slaves who are kidnapped from Africa have families, traditions, dances, music and poets, just like the white Americans do (689). In this way, Equiano forces his readers to see him and the people of his culture as humans and makes it impossible for them to justify the treatment and oppression that Equiano and all black slaves face. Equiano knows that he must show his readers that black culture is just as legitimate as white culture; however, he also knows that he must appeal even more so to his white readers by actually being them.
Equiano conforms to the white culture that he is immersed in for the same reason that Mary Rowlandson adopts a cruel outlook towards the natives: to appeal to their intended audience. Susan M. Marren states that: “By referring to the enslaved Africans as his countrymen and suggesting that his own life has been violently disrupted by the slave trade, Equiano impresses the members of Parliament with the devastating impact their inattention to the abolitionist cause would have on countless individuals much like himself. At the same time, he flatters the Englishmen’s notion of the inherent superiority of their culture. This is a shrewd rhetorical gesture: recognizing that he must please the cause of abolition on and in the dominant culture’s terms, Equiano argues that the slave trade merits abolition because he… can appreciate the superiority of white, Western culture” (Marren 96). This is especially important when examining Equiano’s purpose in writing his slave-narrative. As previously stated, Equiano’s main goal is to abolish slavery and in order to do that, he knows that he must attract white readers by flattering them and reinforcing the idea that they are the “dominant culture.” Equiano even writes that he believes the white men to be “superior to [the black race]; and therefore [he] had the stronger desire to resemble them, to imbibe their spirit, and imitate their manners” (Equiano 703). Ronald Paul addresses the fact that Equiano is attempting to “not only… ‘imitate’ his former White masters but even ‘resemble’ them in every way” (Paul 848). The quote above from Equiano’s slave-narrative proves that his aim it to reach out “toward a White readership” (Paul 848). Examining this segment deeper, it is clear that Equiano is attempting to compliment white society. This may seem strange considering the fact that Equiano writes about so much suffering that he and many others endure at the hands of the white slave-owners; however, Equiano does this because he knows that if he attacks his white readers, he will lose his fight against slavery. Equiano is smart: he understands that, in order to achieve his goal of ending slavery, he must pick the right audience and alter his writing to appeal to them, the same way Mary Rowlandson does. Equiano continuously reminds his readers that he believes white people are superior, not because he believes it but because it is the only way to effectively achieve what he sets out to do in writing this narrative.
At first glance, Mary Rowlandson’s and Olaudah Equiano’s narratives appear to be completely opposite. Rowlandson’s aim in writing “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” disguises itself as a rationalization for the oppression of Natives as well as a spiritual journey focusing on the positive aspects of Puritanism. On the other hand, Equiano’s narrative, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African, Written by Himself,” appears to have the sole intention of abolishing slavery. Upon closer reading and analysis, both of these seemingly different narratives have one important aspect in common: they aim to appeal to a specific audience and are therefore altered to adhere to that. In a world dominated by Puritanism and rejection of Native culture, Mary Rowlandson must petition to her Puritan readers. This results in contradictory statements, making it unclear how Rowlandson actually feels towards her captors. She illustrates multiple instances in which she exposes the kindness and the generosity of the group of Natives with whom she is travelling with while simultaneously bashes them. Equiano, on the contrary, incorporates false stories into his narrative as well as compliments the white, Western society in order to ensure his likability amongst this ‘dominant’ race. Both of these narratives are forever altered in order to meet the needs of the society at the time of publication, proving that these narratives are actually quite similar in terms of their intentions.
1. Burnham, Michelle. “The Journey between: Liminality and Dialogism in Mary White Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative.” Early American Literature, vol. 28, no. 1, 1993, pp. 60–75. www.jstor.org/stable/25056920.
2. Derounian, Kathryn Zabelle. “Puritan Orthodoxy and the ‘Survivor Syndrome’ in Mary Rowlandson’s Indian Captivity Narrative.” Early American Literature, vol. 22, no. 1,1987, pp. 82–93. www.jstor.org/stable/25056648.
3. Equiano, Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African, Written by Himself.” The Norton Anthology American Literature, Edited by Nina Baym. 8th ed., vol. A. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012, pp. 688-721.
4. Hewson, Marc. American Literature, 11 October 2016, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON. Lecture.
5. Marren, Susan M. “Between Slavery and Freedom: The Transgressive Self in Olaudah Equiano’s Autobiography.” PMLA, vol. 108, no. 1, 1993, pp. 94–105. www.jstor.org/stable/462855.
6. Paul, Ronald. “‘I Whitened My Face, That They Might Not Know Me’: Race and Identity in Olaudah Equiano’s Slave Narrative.” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 39, no. 6, 2009, pp. 848–864. www.jstor.org/stable/40282603
7. Rowlandson, Mary. “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.” The Norton Anthology American Literature, Edited by Nina Baym. 8th ed., vol. A. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012, pp. 256-288.
Manipulation of the Spy Novel in Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker
Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker describes the difficult and oftentimes discouraging assimilation of a young Korean American, Henry Park. Throughout the novel, Henry struggles to find his true self in either Korean or American culture. His effort to mold an identity in a foreign country leaves him an “emotional alien…stranger [and] follower,” often feeling like he is invisible to those around him (5). Similarly, Chang-Rae Lee manipulates common Asian stereotypes to aid his novel’s purpose. It is not a coincidence that the sneaky, reserved, private, and secretive traits required of a spy are also fitting of American expectations for immigrants. Indeed, Lee’s choice to assign Henry the career of a spy is a cultural convention in itself. Ultimately, Henry’s role as a spy serves as a symbol for the American immigrant experience. Chang-Rae Lee moves beyond the one-dimensionality of a traditional spy novel and, instead, uses Henry’s career as a vehicle to express the fractured and conflicting identities induced by assimilation into American culture.
A Korean native, Henry is the perfect candidate for his occupation. While exact details of his work are never fully expressed, we learn that he is employed by Glimmer and Co., a shady information firm specializing in gathering secret and beneficial data on individuals in immigrant communities. Undoubtedly, Lee is playing on stereotypes defining Asians as sneaky, quiet, and deceptive. Henry’s appeal to spying stems from the “cultural legacy of silence” learned from his parents who were authentically Korean (Chen 639). Almost inescapably, Henry finds that his “truest place in the culture” is his job, especially since his boss “bemoaned the fact that Americans generally made the worst spies” (118, 160). In order for his work to be effective, Henry must devise fictitious narratives for himself so that he will remain undetected when faced by his clients. As a result, the line between Henry’s true self and his portrayal to outsiders is often indistinguishable. Similarly, Lee draws on parallels between Henry’s physical position as an outsider and spy and his position as an emotional or cultural outsider resulting from his immigrant status. Also, the nature of impersonation required of a spy echoes the immigrant inclination to present a front to those considered “more” American than immigrants themselves. The invisibility Henry practices as a spy “coincides with the in/visibilities of race” (Chen 645). After all, even Henry is familiar with “that secret living” practiced by foreigners in America (163). For example, his childhood is plagued with memories of customers at his father’s grocery shop who “didn’t seem to see [him]” and “didn’t look at [him]” because he “was a comely shadow who didn’t threaten them” (49). In this way, Henry and his career become a metaphor for immigrants more generally. Furthermore, for someone who has ambiguous self-perception and identity, it is ironic his work at Glimmer and Co. requires him to investigate, dissect, and sum up the identities and intentions of others. While Henry’s career requires him to explicitly describe others’ identities and invent multiple identities for himself to accomplish this goal, he is completely dependent on those around him to shape his personal identity. His “inability to divorce personal problems from professional obligations” leaves him searching for self-definition and validation through others’ eyes. As an end result, his professional secrecy bleeding into personal relationships contributes to his already fractured identity.
By the end of the novel, Henry realizes that his deceptive acts and false identities as a spy have personally compromised him. His performance as a spy has deeply affected his sense of self and his personal relationships. In general, his “co-mingling of reality and illusion” comes to represent a larger immigrant struggle between American assimilation and ethnic allegiance (Chen 653). Indeed, these struggles become evident in his personal and professional relationships with his wife, Lelia, and his subjects Doctor Luzan and John Kwang. For instance, the story begins with a list of descriptors that Lelia has left for Henry before she leaves him for the islands, adjectives like, but not limited to, “surreptitious, illegal alien, emotional alien, stranger, follower, spy” (5). This list is what initiates Henry’s internal conflict about his true identity and leaves him realizing he does not know who he truly is or which culture he belongs to. Lelia’s list reveals Henry’s lack of self-agency and more generally: “[she] symbolizes his general willingness to let someone else determine who he is” (Chen 165). Instead of protesting Lelia’s unflattering descriptions of him, Henry accepts her assessment and spends their separation living up to or being defined by her perceptions of who he is. By engineering this element of the narrative, Chang-Rae Lee illuminates the struggle that immigrants experience in resisting outside ideas of who they are and what defines them as “American.”
In general, Henry’s identity crisis is caused by his “inability to divorce his personal problems from his professional obligations” (Chen 644). During his separation from Lelia, Henry is assigned coverage of a psychoanalyst, Dr. Luzan. In order to gather information successfully, Henry must create a pseudo-self, or a “legend,” as he refers to it (22). However, when Dr. Luzan asks Henry, “Who, my young friend, have you been all your life?” during the therapy session, Henry realizes that he is “stringing the legend back upon himself” (205, 22). Thus, Henry’s “true” personal narrative becomes intertwined with the fictitious Henry Park, causing him to “becom[e] dangerously frank, inconsistently schizophrenic” (22). He explains: “When I was in the chair across the desk from Luzan I completely lost myself” (22). In this moment, Chang-Rae Lee attempts to illuminate the result of being from two different cultures yet belonging to neither. Since Henry can commit to neither his authentic self nor his fictional narratives, he is left feeling completely isolated and “othered.” Additionally, Henry’s relationship with another assignment subject, John Kwang, reveals the same sort of ambiguity. If it is Lelia who represents to Henry everything American he aspires to be, then it is John Kwang who represents the most cherished aspects of Korean lifestyle and culture. Although Kwang ostensibly represents the same type of American-ness as his political opponent, he is still able to retain his inner Korean heritage. For Henry, Kwang embodies the kind of seamless assimilation that he is unable to achieve. As with Dr. Luzan, the “legend” that Henry writes for himself becomes unravelled as his admiration for Kwang grows. Henry eventually “succumbs to the illusions of his own performances,” and his relationships with both Dr. Luzan and John Kwang signify his inability to separate his fictional self from his “real” self (Chen 644).
Henry’s role as a spy ultimately serves as a symbol for the American immigrant experience. Despite the ability of those around him to easily define his role in America as a non-native speaker, Henry is never quite able to reconcile his Korean background with his American residence. In short, Chang-Rae Lee’s deliberate career choice for Henry draws on parallels between Henry’s physical position as an outsider and spy and his position as an emotional or cultural outsider, an alienation resulting from his immigrant status.
Chen, Tina. “Impersonation and Other Disappearing Acts in Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 48.3 (2002): 637-667.
Lee, Chang-Rae. Native Speaker. New York: Riverhead, 1995.
The Relinquishing of Roots
Does assimilation into American culture occur easily for immigrants or individuals with foreign-born parents? As the characters in Chang Rae Lee’s novel, Native Speaker, demonstrate, adjusting to the Western world comes with great difficulty and often ultimately results in a sense of alienation and shame. The narrator, Henry Park, a Korean-American suffering from an identity crisis, reveals the resentment he feels for his parents who relinquish their Korean roots in an attempt to attain the typical American dream.
Throughout the novel, Henry Park’s attitude is critical, frequently finding fault with others. Differing from both of his parents who lack pride in their Korean heritage and instead try blending in with the Americans, Henry personally resides more in a territory of uncertainty, unsure about the classification of himself as a Korean or an American. For this reason, Henry comments:
I remember thinking of her, What’s she afraid of, what could be so bad that we had to be that careful of what people thought of us, as if we ought to mince delicately about in pained feet through our immaculate neighborhood, we silent partners of the bordering WASPs and Jews, never rubbing them except with a smile, as if everything with us were always all right, in our great sham of propriety, as if nothing could touch us or wreak anger or sadness upon us (52).
He openly questions his mother’s hesitancy and shame associated with her Korean background when he says, “I remember thinking of her, What’s she afraid of, what could be so bad?” (52). The partial italicization of Henry’s scrutiny profoundly exemplifies the stigma Mrs. Park feels associated with her status as a Korean-American immigrant. Lee’s sparing use of italics dramatizes her embarrassment and heightens the moment in the work. Henry’s reference to his family’s life as a “great sham of propriety” heavily attests to his objections for the front his family put on after immigrating. The extent to which the Park family goes in order to gain acceptance, such as hiding all negative emotions and instructing Henry to “show them how well [he] spoke English, to make a display of it,” clearly exhibits the difficulties that accompany assimilation into the American culture (53).
The Parks maintain an outsider status in their neighborhood. Due to the Park’s pride associated with independence and unreliance on others, Mrs. Park would discontinue cooking mid-recipe rather than borrowing the necessary ingredients”My mother…would gladly ruin a birthday cake rather than bearing the tiniest of shames in asking her next-door neighbor and friend for the needed egg she’d run out of, the child’s pinch of baking powder” (52). Even such a small thing that carries no consequence brings shame upon her. By sharing this memory of his mother from the past, Henry allows the reader a greater understanding of the struggles his family underwent in the United States where they were viewed as complete foreigners in spite of attempting to relinquish all of their Korean ties. Henry’s critical tone illustrates his disapproval of his parents’ complete loss of their Korean identity, despite being born there, following their relocation to North America.
After moving to the United States and devoting his whole self to chasing the American dream, Henry’s father’s life not only revolves around money but also around the exploitation of his workers for his personal benefit. Henry’s cynical question “What belief did I ever hold in my father, whose daily life I so often ridiculed and looked upon with such abject shame?” highlights the rocky relationship he had with him his entire life, cultivated by Mr. Park’s failure to fulfill the typical paternal role (53). By questioning, “What belief did I ever hold in my father?” and employing the words “ridiculed” and “abject shame,” all of them with such strong negative connotations, Henry enables the reader to easily perceive his critical attitude towards his own father. With the lack of respect that Henry holds for Mr. Park, he surely does not find a role model in him and makes no effort to conceal his disdain from anyone, including his father. In addition to the people in his community who estranged Mr. Park, his own son also alienates him “for the way he had conducted his life with [his wife,] and then his housekeeper, and his businesses and beliefs” (49). As Henry reflects on his upbringing, he allows the reader an opportunity to partially understand the personal impact that the lack of acceptance into one’s community has on his or her identity. After coming to America, Mr. Park found himself as a minority lacking all standing despite his degree in industrial engineering. In an attempt to regain the dignity he loses as a foreigner in the United States, Mr. Park turns to making money. The Parks’ lifestyle significantly changes from their initial existence as the traditional immigrant family in America living off of each day’s profit and dealing with very cramped living arrangements to trying to blend in with the upper class and repressing their Korean roots. Henry’s desire for his father’s temperament to revert back to being in generally better spirits is apparent when he remarks,
I wondered if my father given the chance, would have wished to go back to the time before he made all that money, when he had just one store and we rented a tiny apartment in Queens. He worked hard and had worried but he had a joy then that he never seemed to regain once the money started coming in (51).
The alteration in his father’s disposition is evident to Henry, who in the past remembers his father dancing to music, working on his car, and socializing with other Korean friends. Henry notices these sources of joy in his father’s life disappear following his great influx of money. By musing about the past, as evidenced when he says, “I wondered,” Henry manifests how capitalism and “America, the brand of culture we had to live in,” adversely impacted Mr. Park’s quality of life and ultimately the entire family (103). Henry reflects on the level of his father’s happiness prior to falling victim to America’s materialistic nature as demonstrated through Henry’s observations of his father’s customers as “blue-haired matrons…[with] fancy dogs, and the sensible young mothers pushing antique velvet draped prams, and their most quiet of infants, and the banker fathers brooding about annoyed and aloof and humorless” (53). Henry recognizes through his father that tangible items and attaining the American Dream, in Mr. Park’s case becoming very wealthy, affording his family the opportunity to live in a big house with a big yard, own fancy cars, and join the exclusive pool and tennis clubs, rarely result in contentment unless surrounded by a strong network of family and friends. Mr. Park evidences that an individual who completely rejects the core of his or her being in an attempt to integrate one’s self into another culture loses his or her true identity and struggles to find happiness.
As exemplified through the Park’s experience as Koreans in a new place, although immigrating to the United States affords new opportunities, obstacles such as discrimination can result in cultural alienation. Henry’s critical tone throughout the work imparts the hardships that immigrant families undergo as well as his discontent for his parents’ absence of pride in their heritage. Ultimately, the Park family will remain lost in America until they defend their Korean roots and find pride in their background.