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Reconstructing The Past To Change The Future: An Analysis Of Character Development In When Heaven And Earth Changed Places And Journey From The Fall

1749 words - 7 pages

Reconstructing the Past to Change the Future: An Analysis of Character Development in When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Journey From the Fall
While the characters from When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Journey From the Fall move on to a life of "comfort and safety" in the US, unsettling memories of the war resurface that force them to revisit their pasts. In order to reconcile their regrets, they must reconstruct memories from their past and address their guilt. This essay follows the journey that the characters Le Ly Hayslip and Mai take from Vietnam to the US and provides examples of how the two women attempt to forget their previous existences, create new ones, and ...view middle of the document...

Similarly, Mai in Journey From the Fall flees from Vietnam because of the physical danger present. However, for Mai there is not as much of the aspect of interpersonal hostility in Vietnam; based on the movie, she does not experience uncomfortable ties with anyone in Vietnam. Saigon fell and communism is about to take over the government. In the movie, it shows scenes of the aftermath of the fall of Saigon; there is chaos on the streets: fires, dead bodies, and people screaming and running about. Due to the government takeover, it is not safe in Vietnam, so with the insistence of Long, Mai takes her family to escape.
For both Mai and Le Ly, they do not want to raise their families in the ashes of the Vietnam War, which is why they seek more comfortable and safe conditions in the United States. Thus, their goal is to start a new life, and in order to do that, they must first forget the troubles and perils of Vietnam. However, Mai and Le Ly achieve different success with this aim. Le Ly has an easier time adjusting, while Mai finds difficulty forgetting the past.
For Le Ly, she almost instantly moves on from the past once she lands in America. The culture shock takes her mind off of her worries. She sees an abundance of food, peaceful suburbs, and numerous non-Asian people. Her surroundings are able to distract herself momentarily from the troubles she experienced in Vietnam; Le Ly is able to thrive in the American environment. She starts a business, makes money, learns the ways of American culture, and has a good time. Le Ly’s willingness to explore the new possibilities in her life demonstrates that she has moved on from her past, because if her mind was still on Vietnam, she would not be able to think about other things such as furthering her entrepreneurial interests. Based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, before someone can be free to pursue her interests, she has to first satisfy her safety and survival needs. In Le Ly’s case, since she is now living comfortably in America with no want of food or shelter, she can focus her efforts on finding hobbies and having fun.
In addition, I believe that a factor that compels Le Ly to eagerly move on from her past is the repression she experiences in her youth and adolescence. She never has much of a say in what happens in her life up to the point when she arrives in America. She is raped, exiled, and even kicked out of Anh’s house when Lien discovers that Le Ly is bearing his child. In the exchange between Lien and Huyen, Le Ly’s mother, Huyen belittles and depreciates Le Ly in an attempt to continue living in Anh’s house, and throughout Huyen’s plead, Le Ly must stand on the sideline and absorb the insults. Le Ly cannot defend herself and her only option is to keep her mouth shut. Also, due to her bad experiences with men, Le Ly does not wish to give in to prostitution. However, when she is low on money and Big Mike, an American GI, offers her a substantial amount to sleep with two...

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