Identity in Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son
Filipinos migrate to the United States in order to become closer to the better life, to realise their dreams, and receive the chance to change their reality. In fact, Filipinos become the victims of the racial discrimination and begin to suffer from the impossibility to determine their national and cultural identity. From this point, those children who are born in multicultural families also begin to suffer from inability to find the right place in the society where people are not ready to discuss them as the real Americans.
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Furthermore, the problem of identity and transnationalism is often associated with a range of other problems typical for teenagers and young adults. Tomas and Gabe are the protagonists of Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son. These young men experience the difficulties of being the children of the American father and Filipino mother while living in the USA and observing the other Americans’ making their dreams real.
The situation is complicated with the fact that boys are brought up without their father. Thus, Tomas and Gabe have no opportunities to orient to the male role model developed in the family because those behaviour patterns which they remember as typical for their father are rather violent and racist, and as a result, boys have the erroneous vision of masculinity.
It is possible to pay attention to Tomas and Gabe’s visions of masculinity referring to the ideas developed by Tomas in relation to the question, to the opinion which is characteristic for Gabe, and to the male role model which is typical for the behaviour and attitudes of the boys’ father.
On the one hand, the image of Tomas can be discussed as the embodiment of masculinity because of his appearance. Thus, the young man’s muscles are covered with “gangster tattoos”, his head is “shaved down to stubble”, and moreover, Tomas is “really half white, half Filipino but dresses like a Mexican” (Roley 15).
On the other hand, the brutal behaviour of Tomas and his attitude toward his relatives and other people cannot be considered as the embodiment of the real masculinity. Tomas is inclined to misinterpret the notion of masculinity and act as a cruel man. The actions of Tomas can be explained from the point of his desire to determine his role in the society which is rather holistic in relation to the minorities. Moreover, brutality is the only behaviour pattern which is associated with the boys’ father.
Tomas as the elder brother should become the main man in the family. That is why, Gabe is affected significantly by the particular features of the elder brother’s influence (Roley 18). Later, Gabe even reflects the peculiarities of the young man’s behaviour in spite of the previous disapproval of the position supported by Tomas.
In spite of the fact that the life conditions and environments are the same in relation to both brothers, Gabe grows as a quiet boy who does not want to create new problems for his mother because she has to bring up two boys without the help of her husband. However, Gabe also has no correct vision of masculinity.
Gabe is inclined to act under the influence of his brother Tomas, and his image becomes the embodiment of masculinity for Gabe in spite of all his attempts to reject these behaviour patterns. Gabe experiences brutality, hostility, and discrimination almost in all the spheres of his life.
From this perspective, the absence of the male role model and the racial issues make the young man find his own identity and place within the American society. The particular features of the family relations and the problematic racial questions affect Gabe’s vision of masculinity which becomes the reflection of the visions which are characteristic for Tomas.
Tomas and Gabe are brought up by the Filipino woman, but they do not want their peers to see her communicating with the boys. The problem is in the boys’ perception of their identity and ethnicity. Nevertheless, the problem is also in the vision of the role of woman in the house and in society. This vision is the heritage of observing the definite male role model used by the boys’ father.
Gabe describes the situation when “dad stood over her making fun of Filipinos and her family and looked as if he was about to hit her, and my brother dragged him outside and tossed him onto the acorn” (Roley 24). Tomas and Gabe cannot define masculinity correctly because even those insignificant details remembered about the attitudes of the father toward the Filipinos and women cannot provide the boys with the examples of the behaviour which should be characteristic for the real man.
As a result, Tomas and Gabe experience a lot of difficulties, trying to find their place in the American society. These young men are not ready to adopt their ethnicity, and they are inclined to feel shame because of their mother Asian ethnicity (Roley 24). Furthermore, Tomas and Gabe have no male role model to help them to survive in the world full of ill-wishers. The only way to survive in this society is to act brutally and reveal the masculinity with references to violent actions.
That is why, Gabe is inclined to follow the life of violence because this model is more familiar for him depending on the experience of his father and brother. The inability of many Filipinos as any other migrants to build the life of their dream within the American society makes them feel frustrated, especially in comparison with the more successful representatives of the American majority. Thus, aggression becomes the only way to demonstrate the people’s dissatisfaction regarding the situation.
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In Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son, Tomas and Gabe have no opportunity to reflect the male role model of their father because the boys are not brought by the man. That is why, boys are unable to create their vision of masculinity which can be based on the positive examples of their father behaviours. As a result, Tomas and Gabe develop their vision of masculinity with references to the realities of the American society which is rather unfriendly and even hostile toward Filipinos.
Thus, Tomas is inclined to mask his problems choosing brutality and referring to the ‘gangster’ image, and Gabe intends to hide his difficulties with identity using the advantages of the non-Asian appearance. The young men’ behaviours cannot be discussed as the reflection or embodiment of masculinity, but they are affected by the absence of the father in the boys’ life.
Roley, Brian Ascalon. American Son. USA: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. Print.