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Perspectives in Fae Myenne Ng’s “Bone” Essay

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Updated: Apr 1st, 2020

Fae Myenne Ng is an author of a brilliant and deep story called “Bone”, which contains a variety of levels and can be interpreted from the points of view of different perspectives. The writer expands some of the sentences of her writing by adding symbolic meaning to some of the concepts.

This technique makes her writing very interesting for the reader to explore. The story by Fae Myenne Ng is appreciated from various perspectives. First of all, its cultural perspective is easy to identify for the mainstream readers, the writer sheds the light to the life of a family of the Chinese immigrants and their descendents. Besides, the author presents her characters and the events of their lives from the psychoanalytical perspective, revealing various unusual angles, factors and reactions.

This perspective is also very clear to the mainstream reader, and it is also very valuable because the fictional and artistic writing is mainly appreciated for its dramatic effect. Finally, there is a historical perspective. Even though the main events of the story in “Bone” are happening in the present, the narrator’s storytelling often refers to the past, analyzing various memories that serve to deepen the symbolic meanings of some concepts and the overall vividness of the text.

The author’s cultural perspective touches such aspects of the Chinese family’s life as their languages and communication, their self-identification, their cultural and ethical values, their spirituality and religious beliefs. This kind of exploration is interesting to read for the diverse individuals. The American society consists of various nations and cultures that moved to this country and then assimilated becoming American citizens.

Families of immigrants from all cultures share one feature – they have a layered self-identification, which means that they consider themselves as Americans, yet they still remember and preserve their special cultural traits that remained in their families ever since the times when they lives in their countries of origin. The cultural reality of the characters in “Bone” is depicted through the memories of Leila, the narrator, her stories of childhood and all the little aspects of her family’s life such as food, special words in “Chinglish”, habits and traditional attitudes.

The author subtly demonstrates the adjustments the Chinese made after moving to the United States and the impacts their new home had on them. These influences and cultural changes they caused are shown through the generation gap between the parents that were born in China and the daughters that are the descendents of immigrants. The mentalities of the two generations are very different, yet all of the family members stick to their Asian roots.

Psychoanalytical perspective employed by Fae Myenne Ng is the most visible when the narrator’s sister commits suicide. Leila’s emotional condition as affected immensely by her loss. The narrator experiences sadness and mourns her sister. It is interesting to notice that the story is written in rather melancholic key, but at the same time its emotionality is quite restricted.

Fae Myenne Ng manages to show the narrator’s emotional side even though Leila rarely shows her true feelings openly. Mourning and melancholia showed in the story should not be mixed up. This perspective would be hard to recognize for the mainstream readers that do not know the difference between the two concepts.

Mourning is a conscious and temporary state, while melancholia is unconscious; it is dangerous because it often brings the inability of getting attached to anyone (Wei, par. 4). Such state results in psychological isolation and inner loneliness that is very difficult to resolve.

The author’s historical perspective is shown though her tours to the narrator’s childhood memories, her narration is so subtle, it basically makes Leila invisible at times and helps the reader percept various points of view objectively (Feng, par. 1). This allows the reader to compare the perceptions Leila has in the present days and the ones she experienced decades ago.

Besides, her parents and other elderly characters serve to create an interesting contrast of points of view on life shared by younger generation and their parents or grandparents. The older generation is showed as the carrier of the Chinese ancient wisdom that was passed from parents to children through centuries.

The young people born in San Francisco, California, and their interactions with the ancient knowledge and beliefs of their parents, the impacts it makes on their lives in the twentieth century are fascinating to observe for the readers (Cheng, 111). Such strategies enrich the story with wider views upon various moral and ethical events such as love, grief, death, bad luck, hope for the best, generosity, and spirituality.

What makes the characters of “Bone” special is their never ending struggle to identify themselves in the confusing world of Chinatown – the home of many bilingual and bicultural people. Leila together with her sisters and other younger people are in the constant search for the truth, the best and most suitable ways of understanding the world they live in, people around, and their own feelings, duties and obligations.

The author employs various perspectives to show how deep and complicated the lives of the Chinese immigrants and their descendents in San Francisco are. Most of these perspectives are quite clear for the mainstream readers, but some of them are quite specific and would be understandable only for the individuals sharing similar backgrounds to the author.

Works Cited

Cheng, Alen. . 2011.

Feng, Pin-chia. “Teaching Bone: A Taiwanese Perspective”. American Book Review 31.1 (2009): 7-8. Print.

Wei, Lu. Melancholia and the Reconstruction of Subjectivity in Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone. 11 Apr. 2014.

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