It is a fact that sons usually seek positive and desirable roles in their lives. The most influential people in these roles are their fathers. A son will view the world from his father's perspective. Fathers' obligation is not only to play positive roles in their sons' lives but also recognize their sons' world. They need to understand that when children grow up, times do change. Therefore, they do not need to impose the same views they have on their sons. There are two father-son relationships in Jamie's Novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet; The relationship between Henry and his father and the one between Henry and his son Marty. They differ on various aspects but at the same time, they are similar.
A father has a great impact on the kind of a person his son will be. For example, if the father is strict, their sons will in turn be strict. Therefore in the novel, Henry and his father have a distant relationship. Later in life, Henry gets a son and their relationship becomes distant too. Although we only find a few examples of similarities and differences in the relationships in this novel, there are many more examples in this book that shows how a father impacts how his son will turn out to be. Henry and his father come from different generations, we see that they both similar worries of issues in their lives. Both fathers are worried about their sons acquiring a good education. For example, Henry's father puts in more effort so that Henry could learn at Reiner Elementary school, despite the fact that Henry was on a scholarship. On the other side, Henry also struggles to ensure his son gets a good education. He took a second mortgage out so that he could pay school fees for his son.
Another similarity we find in this story between father-son relationships is that in both cases, there is a woman figure that intervened in case of a conflict or a misunderstanding. The woman plays the role of a mediator to ensure that the father and the son are always talking. For example, in the relationship between Henry and his father, Henry's mom was the one that resolved their conflicts. His mother told him that Henry's father hated explaining himself and also, he disliked talking about his past life. Samantha also contributed to mend the relationship between Henry and his father. In Henry and Marty relationship, there was Ethel who made Henry talk to his son. In the book, it is mentioned that when Ethel died, their relationship grew apart. Since Ethel's funeral, they had not talked much (Ford 9).But years later, Samantha appeared in their lives and we find that their relationship starts to develop again.
The relationship between Henry and Marty is not that smooth but it has more positive moments than the relationship between Henry and his father. Marty developed modernity while Henry was more traditional due to the difference in their upbringing. Due to this difference, we realize that their way of thinking is not the same. For example, when Ethel, Henry's wife falls ill, Henry wished to keep his wife at home since her days were coming to an end yet Marty could not understand the reason. He was of an opinion that Henry should take Ethel in a hospice home. He felt that their home was not very good and that Ethel would wish to die in a nice place. After some time, Marty came to realize the reason why Henry insisted on keeping his wife home. The reason to keep her home was the fact a person ought to feel nice at home despite the conditions of the place.
Another difference that we see in these two relationships is that Henry's father was very traditional, thus, he was not willing to allow anything to take place in his home that would not adhere to the traditions of the family. On the other hand, Henry held onto the traditions that he was taught. But he was more willing to allow change with time especially when it was something to do with his son. For example, it was not possible for Henry's father to approve his son's relationship with Keiko because she was not a Chinese and it was unheard of according to tradition. Then a time came when Henry was required to approve his son's fiancee. It did not matter to him that Marty's girlfriend was not a Chinese. He let that aspect of traditional way go. Henry approved of the Irish girl that Marty decided to marry.
There are also turning points in the father-son relationship. In the novel, Henry discovered that Marty had a fiancee called Samantha. Marty was afraid to tell his father about the fiancee. He was sure that his father will reprimand him because the girl he wants to marry was not a Chinese. Marty explained to his father the reason he thought that he will not approve it. He told his father that when he got married to his mom, he did all the traditional requirements for the wedding. Henry also send him to a Chinese school just like his grandfather did to him (Henry), and that Henry would regularly tell him to find a Chinese girl to marry (Ford 81).Henry was calm and did not reprimand him for having a fiancee that is not Chinese because he knew what it felt like. So he was flexible and could handle people with a different origin. Henry accepted Samantha as his daughter-in-law and that's when the relationship between Henry and Marty started to grow again.
Therefore, a father-son relationship is usually enjoyable but in this book, the relationship is both sweet and bitter. The reason for it being sweet is that Henry accepted his son and never imposed anything to do with traditions to him. On the other hand, it is bitter because the father never recognized his son to appoint of disowning him. Also, the father never approved anything from him like his relationship with Keiko resulting in a division between him and his son. Henry's father strictly follows the many Chinese traditions and cannot come to terms with that his son has acquired modern ideas. While Henry accepts his son's modern developments because he understands Marty was brought up in a different environment.
Ford, Jamie. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Songs of Willow Frost: Two Bestselling Novels: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Songs of Willow Frost. Ballantine Books, 2014.
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