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Pilgrims from the Orient is about Jade Snow Wongs youthful years with her parents. Wong was expected to be a perfect girl. She was taught the finest manners that her parents could teach. Wongs father is an entrepreneur and he tried to make a living by having his own business. This man is described as strict, but not talkative. Among his number of attempts of opening new businesses, his most successful business is mass producing denim garments. Wongs mother was dutiful in her tasks. When she was done with one thing, she would start on another. She would waste no time. She lived by the moral of working and saving. Wongs family had to work hard to keep their business alive and this was no exception to Wong herself. Not only did Wong have to work, but she was also expected to learn the English language and her native tongue. Being a girl, Wong didnt have the same privileges as her eldest brother, but Wong was taught that his privileges were his birthright. Knowing this, Wong didnt think much of it and accepted it as it is. Wongs parents had a strong bond with Chinese heritage. None is allowed to show physical affection, talk back, argue, or show gratitude for service. During the Depression, Wongs parents needed more hours of work from everybody, including Jade Wong. Because her father didnt have enough time to buy groceries and her mother had no time to waste on cooking, Wong was assumed both duties. Even with all of the tasks Wong was pitted against, she still managed to finish junior high school. As Wong advanced to high school, she had to work in part-time jobs to earn money to support her own self. During her high school years, Wong was introduced to non-Chinese customs. During these introductions, Wong compared her Chinese life with her American life. She compared the teachers and the ideals of both cultures. By the time Wong had finished high school, she had moved away to work for room and board. Her father, who is conservative about money, had Wong pay for her own college education. During her college years, Wong took a sociology class. This class Wong had taken deeply impacted her mind. Wong was taught the rights of a human being. Wong was released for a week by her employer which gave Wong some free time. During this period of relaxation, Wong was asked out for a movie date by a Chinese-American boy. While dressing up, Wongs father questioned her dashing preparations. Wong refused to answer while think of her rights. With a thunderous voice, Wongs father forbade Wong from leaving, but she ignored her fathers command. This marks the beginning of Jade Snow Wongs rebellion.
Pilgrims from the Orient is a well picked title for this personal essay. Jade Snow Wongs family is exactly what the title is. The main idea of this personal essay is the fact that customs cant remain stable in a persons mind after many generations of evolution. Although this is not exactly stated, it is inferred. Wong questions her eldest brothers birthright and thinks about what is right and wrong. She disobeys her father in the end signifying that times are changing and people have rights. In the beginning of the essay, Wong capitalizes the D in Daddy. The word daddy derives from the word father. If Wongs father is devoted to Chinese customs, why would he like to be called the informal word of father? Such irony shows that even Wongs father is changing. Wong compares her American life with her Chinese life with various examples. One fine example is the comparison of her teachers. Chinese teachers are strict and non-forgiving. American teachers, however, are kind. This confuses Wong because she was taught to not show physical affection. In the end of the essay, Wong is in a quarrel with her father. The scene is flowing with fire as Wong and her father argue. This shows that Wong will break away from traditional Chinese customs. The customs of China are present throughout the whole essay, but conflict is also present. This makes the thesis of this personal essay is the fact that customs change over a long period of time no matter what.
Wong, at first, sees herself as a slave to men. She is to do nothing but serve dutifully to her husband and work hard. Later as she grows up, she learns about her rights as an American citizen. Todays American society doesnt have many restrictions on either gender thus making it equal (to a certain extent). During Wongs college years, she learns about human rights and what is to be a model human. This puts a large question mark on Wongs Chinese customs. Wong doesnt mention which system of culture is best, but she does put down Chinese customs and raise the status of American culture. Although she does this, it is evident that she still has Chinese customs and culture within her and that will never change. Although she did rebel against her parents in the end of the essay, Wong does not hate her parents. Wong is proving that everything cant remain the same. Wong will always be Chinese because thats what she is. This can all be tied together by saying that culture will always be present, but not the same.
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