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Typical Assimilation?

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  1. Introduction
  2. The repeated mention of the 'typical American'
  3. Becoming a part of the country
  4. Theresa's tension over her affair
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works cited

The stereotypes presented in the novel, Typical American by Gish Jen, clearly show a mutual misunderstanding between races. It also illustrates the use of racism as a defense mechanism when new to integration and assimilation. Stereotypes in this story are a sort of segue from an old way of living, to a new one. Typical American is the story of Ralph Chang, who came to America on a scholarship to become an engineer. While in America, the revolution occurred in China, which essentially left him stuck in there whether he liked it or not. When he was at his lowest of lows, his sister, Theresa, found him, and brought him to live with her and her friend Helen. Ralph and Helen wind up getting married, and begin a family, which naturally includes Theresa. Along the way they meet Grover, who effects their lives deeply.

[...] This is not, however, uncommon. On our own campus of Siena Heights University, there is a very apparent racial divide. Thus is not fueled by any sort of racism either. This author has looked into this divide for the past four years and has seen that it is definitely not any one person's fault. It appears that the African Americans on campus seek each other out and simply associate with each other. They may have some random friends or acquaintances who are not African American, but for the most part they stick together. [...]

[...] This sadly would most likely have been returned with some other snide comment in order for the speaker to save face. Typical American pride? The interesting part of all of this, is that the Changs began to take on characteristics that they had previously looked down on in the American culture. Ralph became greedy and selfish. Helen and Theresa both had affairs. Theresa, rather, was the affair in her situation. They all became very temperamental with each other, and ultimately unhappy. Theresa moved out because of tension over her affair. Their Chinese family values were falling through the cracks. [...]

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