Children as Enemies - Book Review Essay Example

Published: 2022-10-05
Children as Enemies - Book Review Essay Example
Essay type:  Book review
Categories:  Culture Parenting
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1436 words
12 min read

Children As Enemies is a book that highlights the cultural differences between the American and the Chinese nationals. It is evident in the family setting of the narrator, who is from a Chinese background and thus holds his conservative opinions and wishes to pass the same to his grandchildren. The grandchildren, on the other hand, seem defiant according to him because they do not seem to accept and acknowledge anything Chinese rather than some foods (Jin 78). They are desperate to get assimilated to the American culture and consequently gain acceptance in American society. In his opinion, they have abandoned the Chinese culture and embraced the American one which angers them to the point of moving out and never coming back. His son Gubin and his wife seem content with the Americanization of the children which bothers the narrator and his wife.

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Notably, the narrator and his wife have sold all their belonging back at home to come live with their only son and his family not only for closure but to ensure the pass the relevant cultural aspects to their generation. Contrary to their expectations, the grandchildren feel that they are intruding on their personal space and are limiting their liberty to opinions. It is through the author that one can see and feel the difference between how the elderly are treated in the two countries. While in most societies people get to gain respect as they advance in age, it seems different in this case as the narrator and his wife appear to be more of a burden especially to his son who is torn between supporting the ideas of his aging parents and his young family. While the grandchildren feel that they are entitled to their opinions in some matters, the narrator feels that they do not respect him and his wife showing how easy it is for a conflict in generations to arise. For instance, the grandchildren feel that is okay to change their names to suit their American society and reduce ridicule from their peers in school, but the narrator does not agree to this. He is surprised that their parents engage in searching for alternative names. He holds his opinion that their names, according to their culture are a matter of fortune and fate which the grandchildren disregard and view as ancient (Jin 78). In my opinion, names are a source of identity but do not determine a person's fate.

Through the narrator's perspective, one may feel that he seems to seek sympathy but looking at the grandchildren perspective, they would be justified to fight the ancient culture being imposed on them by the grandparents. Gubin and Mandy too, having lived in America, they do not seem to disregard the Chinese culture but want their children to live in a manner that does not subject them to inadequacy which may lower their esteem (Jin 80). However, in my opinion, to gain recognition, one does not have to change their names but should be proud of their origin and encourage those around them to embrace diversity.

In as much as the grandparents seem to dictate the lives of this young family, I support their idea of encouraging them to retain their family name which is a reflection of their culture. In their case, Gubin is their only son, and by refusing to take up the family name, it will imply that their generation will be forever forgotten. For instance, the grandchildren are embarrassed to associate with their grandparents in public because they do not want to be labeled Chinese; thus the narrator is concerned of what will happen when they die and will not be around to defend their name and culture. It is vital to adapt to the culture of a host country, but I feel that one should not disregard their cultural values as they guide and shape ones' judgments and opinions as well as providing a sense of belonging (Zhai 328).

Besides, the narrator notes the discrepancies in the approach towards education between the two cultures. In the United States, education focuses on developing a student holistically and is more focused on the practical aspects which are not the case in many other countries China included. He observes that the students are burdened with a lot of projects which he views as less of homework and is disturbed that his son has to help their children in researching for the projects (Jin 78). Gubin seems more involved in helping the children do their homework which is not appropriate for children their age. The narrator seems to disapprove the American education system as it is different from the Chinese system which emphasizes sciences and arithmetic failing to identify and develop student's talents.

In his opinion, one has to study such topics to become successful in the later life. While that could be true, I believe that children should be allowed to pursue the subjects and aspects they feel are comfortable in but should seek guidance from their instructors and guardians. The narrator opines that for one to be competitive in the global economy one had to learn the aspect of being ahead of the rest and thus he is concerned that the education system in America does not grade students.

Additionally, the narrator pities his son's family especially the children as they desperately try to get assimilated to the American culture which impossible regardless of the time they have spent in America. He even thinks that his son has become voiceless and has no opinion in their marriage compared to the time he lived in China. Therefore, he thinks that he has changed to seek societal conformity. He feels that even though he has achieved much in his profession, the society will still regard him as a Chinese and thus he should not fight or forget his culture (Jin 82). It pains him to see their culture going down the drain as they opt a more westernized way of life. He feels that Gubin does not live as a man because he listens to the opinions of his wife and children without opposing. It seems in Chinese culture, a man of the family has to assert authority be considered a man enough. In my view, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and it is the role the parents to guide and shape the opinions of their children until they become of age to make independent decisions. Also, in a marriage, the husband and the wife should be equal partners with shared responsibility as opposed to making the man feel more superior.

In the Asian culture, the elderly population receives mandatory assistance from their children, family members, and the government. Also, they are a respected lot as they are believed to possess the wisdom that guides the population (Zhai 330). Due to the communal lifestyle, the elderly become a responsibility of all. It is, however, a different situation in America as the lifestyle is more individualistic and the elderly become a burden to the societal especially due to the diseases associated with aging. In some instances, they are required to fend for themselves as it is not mandatory for children to take care of them. It becomes challenging if one is an immigrant.

The narrator and his wife had sold their property and had hoped that his son and his family would take them in and care for them as it is their tradition. However, they seem unwelcome in their son's house especially by their grandchildren who feel they are meddling in their nuclear family affairs. Matt tells them on their face that that is not their home and Flora adds that they are their guests suggesting that they should not spend more time in their house(Jin 84). They eventually leave for good. The narrator feels the difference in the way the elderly are treated in both countries and even though their son assists in paying for their apartment, and it is not the case for all the elderly in the United States. They feel that here, the older you grow, the more the society seems to alienate you. I feel that it should not be the case as the elderly need more assistance at this juncture where they are not in a position to work. They should be taken care of by their family members and society as well just like it is in the Asian and other cultures (Zhai 335).

Works Cited

Jin, Ha, " Children as Enemies," A Good Fall, pp.77-86

Zhai, Chan. "Cultural Diversity in the World and Socialist Culture with Chinese Characteristics-Review of the Second World Cultural Forum." International Critical Thought 8.2 (2018): 326-338.

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