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Shun-Wai's Hypocrisy

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In countries all around the world, Canada is seen as a welcoming land where one can emigrate and experience all kinds of opportunities while still retaining their traditional heritage. In theory, this is a brilliant concept, but much harder to put into practice. Immigrating families try to adapt to their surroundings, but when the culture is so different, trying to feel accepted and at home means sacrificing some of the norms they grew up with. As can be seen in much of today's literature, it is often impossible to strike a balance between the culture we live in and the culture we grew up in. Take the case of the mother in Taien Ng's short story Shun-Wai. She maintains that she is Chinese, even to the point of accusing her daughter of being like a "gwua-mui"--a white girl--whenever she disagrees with her. This behavior is hypocritical since the mother has been acting more like a Christian Canadian than a Chinese woman since her arrival in Canada.

The first thing that separates the protagonist's mother from her Chinese identity is the very fact that "she turned to Jesus." It is insinuated in the short story that the mother converted to Christianity once her husband left her, that is, following her arrival to Canada. She is a devout Christian, not only saying grace before meals, but rendering those around her uncomfortable when she does:

"And forgive those who have turned their backs to you, Lord," my mother was saying. "Please let them find the way. Amen."

"Amen," I said when she opened her eyes and glared at me. "Amen," murmured my aunt and uncles, who were not sure what to say. Poh Poh picked up the pot of soup, and Yeh Yeh continued looking at the rice. My cousins kept giggling.

The mother's Christian values alienate her from her family not only through her actions (like saying grace) but also through her beliefs, such as her belief that Shun-Wai's are inappropriate. "When my mother saw the Shun-Wai, she tried to take it apart in the name of Christianity." How can the mother claim to retain her Chinese roots when she is alienating her family with her Christian beliefs?

The next thing that attests to the mother being more Christian Canadian than Chinese is her successful independence. While women in present day China and Hong Kong do work, their traditional role has always been of wife and mother; so much so that financial success may be frowned upon by some if the woman is not married. When the protagonist's father left the scene, her mother came to terms with the reality she found herself in. She did what had to be done, and eventually built her own successful accounting business. Not only that, but she bought her own house too. In China, this scenario would not likely be played out this way. Since women traditionally moved into their husband's family's home, they were not only homeless if their husband left them, but also seen in a terrible light. The idea behind this is that they must have done something wrong if their husband no longer wanted them and were willing to put their family to shame by publicly separating or divorcing. The opportunity to be not only financially independent, but to own a business and home, would be



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