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Identity in Trying to Find Chinatown and Death of a Salesman - Essay Example

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Summary
David Henry Hwang and Arthur Miller are playwrights that portray the definition people have of themselves. In their respective plays “Trying to Find Chinatown” and “Death of a Salesman,” they deal with the theme of identity presenting characters and the understanding they have of themselves and others through their culture and even their material condition. …
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Identity in Trying to Find Chinatown and Death of a Salesman

Download file to see previous pages... Reflecting about his desperate situation, his wife Linda informs: “Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him” (Miller). His material failure as salesman has a negative impact on his own life but also on his relationship with his family. However, instead of confronting his problems and trying to resolve them, he gets angry at his family and denies the love they have for him. Talking about his son Biff, he claims: “How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it’s good for him to tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it’s more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week!” (Miller) This lack of satisfaction about his son reflects his own insecurities he attempts to cover up. Despite their similarities in treating identity issues, the two plays use different approaches. Indeed, Hwang’s play foregrounds the importance of family ties and the recognition of roots. Even though his is white, Benjamin values the Asian background of his adopted parents and proudly claims his ethnicity. His presence in New York in an attempt to pay homage to his deceased father at latter’s birth place reflects his deep understanding of family values and gratefulness to his adopted parents. He reflects: “And when I finally saw the number 13, I nearly wept at my good fortune. An old tenement, paint peeling, inside walls no doubt thick with a century of grease and broken dreams—and yet, to me, a temple—the house where my father was born”(Hwang). This pilgrimage...
Identity in “Trying to Find Chinatown” and “Death of a Salesman”

David Henry Hwang’s play raises a crucial issue of identity that stems from the different perspective that his two protagonists have about what it means to be Asian American. Indeed, Benjamin and Ronnie’s arguments about identity pose the problem about culture and ethnicity. When Ronnie questions Benjamin’s Asian roots he only takes into consideration his racial identity as a white man but ignores his ethnic background as the adopted child of Asian parents: “I don’t know what kind of bullshit ethnic studies program they’re running over in Wisconsin, but did they teach you that in order to find your Asian ‘roots,’ it’s good idea first to be Asian? (Hwang) Ronnie denies Benjamin’s Asian roots based on the color of his skin and does not take into consideration his parents’ ethnic background. This denial hurts Benjamin who deeply feels Asian and faces rejection because of his physical traits. He complains: “I forget that a society wedded to racial constructs constantly forces me to explain my very existence” (Hwang). This painful observation expresses the plight Benjamin has to undergo in a society that judges people according to their racial identity.

Even though both authors portray the same issue, they employ different approaches that foreground the conflict between culture and ethnicity but also the lack of self-realization. The setting of the plays participates in providing more understanding and identifying the tragic and comic heroes. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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