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Chinese-American Representation in Howard Fast’s The Immigrants

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1동아대학교

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ABSTRACT

Chinese-American Representationin Howard Fast’s The ImmigrantsLee, Su MeeSince the arrival of Chinese immigrants in the 1850s, many Euro-Americanwriters tended to project their fears, contempt, desires and fantasy onto the Otherrace and perceived Chinese Americans in stereotypes―dangerous villains,unassimilated aliens, quiet and passive servants, sexually submissive women, orseductive prostitutes. However in the 1970s and the 1980s Euro-American novelsexpressed varying attitudes towards Chinese Americans. Many earlier Euro-American writers began portraying positive characterizations of Chinese Americans. The purpose of this study is to examine the ways one of the Euro-Americanwriters, Howard Fast characterized Chinese Americans in The Immigrants. Partof the novel concerns a Chinese American family. Fast gave a favorable portrayalof Chinese Americans. Unlike many Euro-American novelists who dealt only withChinese American villains and prostitutes and view Chinese Americans as thelowest class of American society, Fast, on the other hand, portrayed ChineseAmericans as law-abiding and useful citizens. Thus, I will discuss how HowardFast subverted the familiar negative characterization of Chinese Americans andplaced Chinese American experiences in the context of American immigrationhistory. Many white Americans tended to notice only the lurid and sensational aspectsin the Chinese American community. They seldom regarded Chinese Americansas people with homes and families and seldom saw Chinese Americans as individuals,as human beings with feelings, pain, and joy. To counter this racist view, Fastdescribed the family life of Chinese Americans and depicted Chinese Americansas individuals with a full range of human emotions and with strong family andcultural ties. Though Fast debunked some myths about Chinese Americans, healso reinforces other stereotypes or some stereotypical illusions about them. Inconclusion, I’ll demonstrate Fast’s work remains an incomplete representationof Chinese Americans.

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