People tend to hide their true personality from the exterior. Some individuals do it to keep their weaknesses or flaws hidden while others are reluctant to show their true self to prevent any harm that might externally or internally attack them by resulting from displaying their real personality. However, when a person is met with pressure or force, the depiction of their true personality is uncontrollably revealed or magnified. This behavioral knowledge is presented by Ralph Chang in Typical American where his true, inner personality slowly surfaces as he faces external and internal pressures. In “Typical American”, Ralph Chang deals with family pressure, adjustment to American society, and business failure which reveals his passive personality and incompetence.
The family pressure, especially coming from his father, exhibits, Ralph’s passive and incompetent personality. Growing up in the midst of smart and talented sisters, Ralph was loaded with heavy burden by his parent’s high expectations as the only son in the family, but failed to be the paragon whom his parents imagined him to be. Jen writes, “A fellowship from the government! Field training! His on an advanced engineer… Of course, in the end, Yifeng(Ralph) did come to the United States …on the way to America, Yifeng studied” (Jen 5).Ralph is suggested to be sent to the United States by his father to prolong his educational studies in a higher quality environment by rigorous teaching because his father foresees that Ralph’s degeneracy will only worsen by studying in China. Ralph, however, does not resist nor rebel against his father’s decision on sending him to study abroad in the United States for graduate study. This reflects Ralph’s weak opinion portrayal to speak for himself that he is discontent and uncomfortable about his father’s pressure and force to study in America because of his poor academic performance, according to Ralph’s parents’ standards. Ralph’s inability to confront his father with a strong and aggressive attitude in objecting to studying abroad and subserviently following his father’s decision reveals his passive and incompetent personality.
Evidently, Ralph is met with problematic situations that compelled him to live in America and forcibly adjust to the American society and culture. While studying in America, Chinese Communist Revolution of 1949 occurs which cuts all transportation and travel to China. Ralph finds no way to go back home and is left alone to somehow survive in the foreign country but as expected, he is met with hardships due to language barriers and clashing disparity between traditional Chinese and modern American societal culture. Jen writes, “Being Chinese, he had thought the safest place to work would be in Chinese restaurants… he tried asking in English, but it was no use” (Jen 43) and soon, “he had stopped going to work… and lay waiting to see what happened. Anything could happen, this was America. He gave himself up to the country, and dreamt” (Jen 42). Ralph was a part of the exclusive, outer circle of the American society because he was in immigrant that did not speak fluent English nor was he fully adapted to the American culture that was profoundly and frequently colliding with the old-world, fixed Chinese cultural principles Ralph held. His inability to speak English perfectly and the unwelcoming attitude of the American people towards foreign immigrants limited the opportunity and possibility of acquiring a job which made him strenuous to earn money in order to financially support himself and tough for him to well-adjust into the American society. However, instead of fighting out and overcoming the deteriorating difficulties, Ralph resigns at his pitiful and rough situation and gives up trying to pave his survival pathway in America by self-quitting his work and just hoping for any circumstances to come around that will displace him from his misery. Incapable of assimilating to the American culture and adapt to the American society, Ralph faces despondency and despair, but he stays passive and ceases effort to ameliorate his pitiful situation depicting incompetence of his personality.
Ralph leaves his permanent post as a college professor to find his own American identity of self-prosperity by setting up his own business. He cooperates with Grover Ding, a rich Chinese-American acquaintance of Ralph, to open a chicken restaurant, but as constructional problems occur and Grover’s affair with Helen, Ralph’s wife, is disclosed, the restaurant business goes downhill and ralph fails at succeeding his own business and is left unemployed. Because there is no money coming in as the restaurant has closed down and Ralph’s tenured position is no longer available, the family falls into a financial crisis and the relationship between Ralph and Helen sparks disharmony. While being jobless after his business died, Old Chao calls Ralph “asking me to come to work, inviting me”, but Ralph replied, “I said no” (Jen 258). Furthermore, Ralph says, “You can pay for it since this is your house” (Jen 261) to his wife in the matter of paying the mortgages for their house and in response, “she called him a failure, a failure” (Jen 263). Ralph is apathetic to his duty as the father to revive his family and resolve the financial issues produced from his business failure. Even though he is in need of work, Ralph denies the offer to accept the help of regaining back his professional occupation which exhibits Ralph’s true intention of avoiding work because his low confidential determination to successfully address the problems he created. He pushes his responsibility to Helen to be in charge of the family’s economic activity to pay for debt and mortgages, so that his burden will lighten, but as woman can only earn limited money, the family is helplessly forced to sell their house and move into an apartment as they still lacked money to maintain their current welfare. Ralph’s irresponsibility to escape the financial stress and his role, as the roof and the pillar of the family, to protect his beloved ones from trouble reveals his incompetence and passive personality.
Ralph, throughout the story, faces external and internal pressures like learning how to adapt and associate in the American society and overcoming family and economic problems which expose his true personality in depth. Ralph does not portray determined voice in behalf of feeling dissatisfied and discontent nor does he try to the end to resolve or at least relieve the intensity of the problems created by his business failure. His fragile persistence to fight against the running forces towards him reveals his incompetent and passive personality. The hardwired tendency to reveal one’s true personality is found increasingly in today’s society. As more complexions are produced and the more sophisticated the current society has evolved into, the pressures attacking the individuals living in this society has also become more forceful that dealing the pressures are beyond the control of the individuals. The friction to overcome the pressures unknowingly displays one true personality as the individual must come to the finish lines to end the pressures.