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The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Lê Thi Diem Thúy Essay

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Updated: May 4th, 2021

How does “entrapment” figure into Le’s novel? What are some examples of this experience?

Entrapment has been featured in Le’s novel, “The Gangster We Are All Looking For”. According to the novel’s plot, the narrator’s family is among many Vietnamese immigrants who settle in a new country and are expected to adapt to the new environments with minimal resources. The Vietnamese family, which settles in San Diego, has to survive in a new political and social environment, which hinders their attempt to increase resources and experiences. The entire setting represents the lives of individuals confined within the limits of new environments. They are expected to improve their lives with limited resources. In addition, there is the challenge of breaking away from haunting memories. In addition, Ba, the narrator’s father, is psychologically held to the Vietnamese war, especially after having fought on the losing side. He is unable to break away from his past and appears disturbed by memories of Vietnam. The narrator cannot break from her fantasies because she tries to understand every member of her family without success. While the family migrates to America in search of greener pastures, it finds itself in similar circumstances of poor wages, poor living conditions and family conflicts.

Describe the brother’s presence in the novel. What happened to him? How does his death affect the family? How does the sister relate to him? Why do you think the parents do not talk about him?

The brother is among the family members rarely featured in the family discussions and activities. Unlike the narrator, who is the only remaining child, and who accompanies her parents to San Diego, her brother is kept out of the picture in most occasions. However, his memories are active in his sister’s mind, since the narrator, talks about how they used to play when Jehovah Witnesses failed to pass by their home, and these memories are hard to lose. In addition, the brother to the narrator appears to have been courageous and a risk taker. He drowned while the family was still in Vietnam, after falling from a boat while jumping from one boat to another. His death seems to have devastated the family because, in some essence, the migration caused his death. The family finds it hard to feature him in any family conversation as his reference generates sad feelings. The brother was the only person, who mingled freely with the narrator. This is because their parents were engulfed in personal problems and could not accommodate her feelings. The parents want to cut ties with the past, and hence do not talk about their lost son. In addition, they fear that by talking about him, they might start shifting blames on who was responsible for his death.

What are the different forms of migration, or “movement” in the novel? How does it relate to nation and belonging? Home? How does the author’s use of short stories and a non-linear timeline reflect experience of migration and movement?

There are two types of migrations in the novel. The first is international migration, which is represented by the movement of the family from Vietnam to America. This migration occurs at the beginning of the story. It is meant to provide a brief history about the origin of the family members, and some of the challenges faced while moving from Vietnam to San Diego. The other form of migration is internal migration, which occurs after the family arrives in America. The family is forced to shift from one apartment to the other depending on the cost of living and the price of the apartments.

This is mainly caused by lack of enough funds to cater for daily expenses like food and shelter. In California, the family moves from one area to another after either being evicted, or after realizing that their budget cannot sustain the financial demands of a given area. These migrations, especially the internal migrations demonstrate that although people may claim to be legal dwellers, the ability to adapt and embrace the challenges within such region differs from experiences of their original home. Despite the challenges in Vietnam, life in California proves quite hard, triggering memories of home among the family members. Home can be defined on the context of satisfaction and ability to embrace challenges in any environment. The use of non-linear timelines makes it possible for the reader to get an experience of both regions, Vietnam and America, by drawing comparisons to the social, political and economic perspectives.

What is the significant of the “American dream” in the novel? How is this term broadly defined in American culture? How are the characters working towards attaining it? How might this dream fall apart for some of them?

The family demonstrates the concept of “American Dream” by a show of resilience and dedication when the members decide to migrate illegally to America in order to improve their lives, have freedom of expression, and escape the fighting in Vietnam. The term, American dream, is used to represent empowerment of communities by liberating them from oppression, wars and injustice. In the novel, the narrator finally decides to run away from home in order to break from her past. In addition, Ba takes odd jobs in order to provide for his family while waiting for an opportunity to be a gardener. Although the narrator spends most of her time analyzing the activities of other family members, she soon realizes that unless she takes action, she would remain hopeless like her parents. Ba’s dreams might fall apart since he cannot break away from his past. He concentrates on his jobs, but eventually becomes an alcoholic and turns violent against community members. His attitude seems to hinder his empowerment since he clings to the Vietnam War and fails to take charge of his life. His violence and detachment from new experiences makes it hard to achieve the American dream.

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