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The Jade Peony: Concept of Other

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Kaitlyn McLagan

on 8 November 2012

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Transcript of The Jade Peony: Concept of Other

By: Kate, Kaitlyn, Alex Jade Peony: The Concept of Other Anything that’s different from the perspective of the observer "Other" In the novel The Jade Peony the characters are viewed as others despite their diversity among society and in their family due to gender and sexuality, cultural background, and values. Thesis: “I’m the sun,” I said, cheerfully, puffing away, breaking into their conversational dance. “I’m the champion!” “(Choy 88). Body 1:Gender (sexuality) The contrast between China and Canada is prominent. July 1st, the day to celebrate Canada is referred to as the Day of Shame by the Chinese (10).This is since in the year 1923 this day also became the beginning of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Body 2: Cultural Background “Your old ways are not the new ways. Your grandchildren have to live in the new ways.” (140) Body 3: Values The concept of "other" is prominent in the novel The Jade Peony. Video: The gender and sexuality of the characters as well as their cultural background and values separate them from one another. This occurs amongst their own culture and other societies. Being an "other" can be positive or negative. Poh-Poh's talent of ribbon tying is a positive example of something that distinguishes her from other characters. Her talent gives her a purpose and a sense of belonging whereas most of the topics discussed in this presentation demonstrated negative aspects of being an "other". Being an other means being different and in our society people want to be the same therefore we generally view "other" as a negative term. The characters all react to being an "other" in a different way, some embrace it and find their true identity and others it corrupts and ends them. Conclusion: "Bah-Bah, don't hit me... I curled up on the floor. My child's voice could not stop pleading...He began to rock me, and the slow rhythm of his rocking, back and forth caught me off gaurd. I closed my eyes and moved with him, a child being cradled, back and forth." (Choy 131) The contrast of the male and female role in this novel display that both sexes are "others" to one another. Jook-Liang is referred to as "mo yung.. mo yung useless" (Choy 28).

"Jook-Liang, if you want a place in this world, do not be born a girl child." (Choy, 27) "Respect meant you dared not laugh at someone because they were different; you did not ask stupid questions or stare rudely." (12) Can you think of an example of what has made you considered an "other" to society, family, or peers? What do you see in this picture? Does it make sense? How about this one? Because we perceive things differently, we don't always understand them so we label them as different or strange. "Chinatown people turned away, muttering behind my back. Poor Sek Lung...Spent all his years with Poh-Poh...He can't get over it. (Choy, 178) "We were Canadians now, Chinese-Canadians, a hyphenated reality that our parents could never accept." (Choy, 162) Jung Sum, Jook Liang, and Sekky all struggle to have an identity as chinese children born in Canada. They are not accepted in either culture so they are outsiders to both societies. "But even if I was born in Vancouver, even if I should salute the Union Jack a hundred million times, even if I had the cleanest hands in all the Dominion of Canada and prayed forever, I would still be Chinese. Stepmother knew this in her heart and feared for me. All the Chinatown adults were worried over those of us recently born in Canada, born "neither this nor that," neither Chinese nor Canadian, born without understanding the boundaries, born mono-no brain." (Choy 152) As a reaction to being Chinese in a racist society, Both Sekky and Jook-Liang want to become caucasian to be accepted.
Sekky says "I sometimes wished that my skin would turn white, my hair go brown, my eyes widen and turn blue, and Mr. and Mrs O'Connor's next door would adopt me and I would be Jack O'Connor's little brother." (Choy 151)
"I also play-acted for myself, imagining a world where I belonged, dressed perfectly, behaved beyond reproach, and was loved always loved, and was not, no, not at all, mo-yung" (Choy 38) The End! Thank you for your attention.

Questions?? "Kiam belonged more and more to father, to Third Uncle, to the men of Chinatown who knew the worth of a well trained and well-manered First Son. Already, at only ten years old, Kiam was doing odd jobs at Third Uncle's warehouse, and he had shown an interest in helping with the careful business of entering numbers onto long shets of papers printed with columns. Kiam made father proud." (Choy, 108) This quotestated by Jung-Sum describes his frustration of finding his identity as a man. As well that he will be compared to Kiam. "At recess, our dialects and accents conflicted, our clothes, heights and handicaps betrayed us, our skin colours and backgrounds clashed, but inside Miss E. Doyle's tightly disciplined kingdom we all were -lions or lambs- equals. We had glimpsed Paradise." (Choy, 212) "Eleven months after the Old One's death, my sister insisted that I still had not returned to world shared by everyone else in the family - the 'real world', as she pointed out with twelve year old wisdom. To frighten her, I pretended I saw the ghost of Grandmother." (Choy, 193) "They were all Japs. The enemy." (Choy, 243) "My love, and all these years, where was the tongue of my husband." (Choy, 273) "You were registered in Victoria as a resident alien....When the Dominion says we are Canadian, then we will all join up." (Choy 226) “After the family decide to respect Grandmama’s spirit, to bow three times, burn joss sticks, and pray before the Old One’s gilt-framed photograph – that is, to bai sen – the Old One no longer haunted us.” (Choy, 193) History between Japanese and Chinese society. On average, the caucasian society can not see the differences in appearance of the Chinese and Japanese people and cultures. The piece of jade (the jade peony) represents Grandmother's values.

We considered all the circumstances when characters were perceived as others in the novel. How did we arrive at our thesis?
Kaitlyn: I would like to ask what you see in this picutre. Does it make sense? How about this picutre? Becuase we all perceive things differently, we dont always understand them so we label them different or strange. Can you think of an example of what has made you considered an "other" to society or amongst family or peers? An other can be anything that is different from the perspective of the observer. It could be anything as simple as wearing yellow shoes that could make you an other or as complicated as some of the problems addressed in this novel.

Alex: The concept of "other" is prominent in the Jade Peony as characters are viewed by other characters as being different. In the novel, the characters are viewed as others despite their diversity among society and in their family due to gender and sexuality, cultural backgrounds, and values. Kate: Gender inequality has been a problem in Chinese culture for many years and is still evident today. In the time frame that this novel takes place, the 1930’s, women were treated unequally because of their physical attributes that made them unfit for manual labour, the fact that the family had to provide a dowry, and that the family name would be lost and not passed down for future generations. The sole purpose of women in this time frame was to perform housework and produce babies. Male babies. The reason that gender inequality is still prevalent today is largely due to the one child policy that the Chinese government implemented as an attempt to control the exploding population. Females were subject to abandonment as Chinese couples preferred to have a male as their “only child”. As an example, Meiying is abandoned by her mother due to her gender in the Jade Peony. Her mother says “Take this bitch girl from me” (Choy 219)
Kaitlyn: In the novel, Jook-Liang experiences gender inequality as she does not feel accepted in society or in her own family. Jook-Liang will never be able to work like her older brothers and bring the family income and is doomed to performing housework just like stepmother and Poh-Poh. As stated in Poh-Poh’s famous quote Jook Liang is “Mo-yung.. mo-yung-useless” as girls do not have a purpose in society. Poh-Poh tries to explain to Jook- Liang that she will always be looked down upon and will never get to live the life of a male. She says to her "Jook-Liang, if you want a place in this world, do not be born a girl child."
Alex: Every character in the novel responds differently to the feeling of exlusion and Jook-Liang’s response is to use her imagination. She creates fantasies where she is a white girl and is socially accepted in society. In addition, stepmother experiences gender inequality as she has no voice in the matters of the family. Stepmother is portrayed as a powerless possession as she says“I chose? I was bought! .. Even Jook Liang and Sek Lung my own two children call me stepmother!” (Choy 272) Stepmother’s response exclusion is held inside of her until the end of the novel when she feels the power has shifted and she can speak her mind.
Kaitlyn: Not only did gender make characters “others” in the text, Jung-Sum is excluded based on his sexuality. In this time frame homosexuality was neither accepted in Chinese culture OR American culture. As you can see, this would make it very difficult for Jung-Sum who was just trying to determine his identity. Poh-Poh categorizes Jung-Sum as the moon which in Chinese culture relates to females. In the early stages, Jung-Sum demonstrates denial in attempt to feel accepted. In opposition to his grandmother's statement relating him to the moon Jung-Sum states “I’m the sun,” I said, cheerfully, puffing away, breaking into their conversational dance. “I’m the champion!”
Alex: Jung-Sum also displays frustration when being compared to his older brother Kiam. Kiam is favoured in the family because of his status as first son and also shows attributes of a true masculine man. As stated by Jung Sum "Kiam belonged more and more to father, to Third Uncle, to the men of Chinatown who knew the worth of a well trained and well-manered First Son. Already, at only ten years old, Kiam was doing odd jobs at Third Uncle's warehouse, and he had shown an interest in helping with the careful business of entering numbers onto long sheets of papers printed with columns. Kiam made father proud." This quote indicates how Jung feels he will never be able to make his father proud especially based on his sexuality.
Kate: Because Jung-Sum feels so isolated and unsupported it takes him awhile to accept himself and his sexuality. During his fight with Frank Yuen, Jung has a turning point in his life where he finally stands up for himself and gains his idol, Frank’s, respect. Jung-Sum yearns for someone who gives him unquestionable love. As a young child his father was never there for him to lean on. His sexuality is likely influenced by the fact that he missed having a male role model in his childhood. After the fight Jung says "Bah-Bah, don't hit me... I curled up on the floor. My child's voice could not stop pleading...He began to rock me, and the slow rhythm of his rocking, back and forth caught me off gaurd. I closed my eyes and moved with him, a child being cradled, back and forth." (Choy 131) Frank Yuen gave Jung what he was missing for so many years. “Take this bitch girl from me” (Choy 219) “I chose? I was bought! .. Even Jook Liang and Sek Lung my own two children call me stepmother!” (Choy 272) "Never betray your own kind”.
“I knew of course, Meiying was involved in something as shameful, something treasonable.” (Choy, 247)
“Keep your business in your pants” (Choy, 247). “That was not a cat” and “I will not live forever. She said. I am prepared” (Choy,170). Body 2: Cultural ScriptAlex: Many cultural differences between the Chinese, Caucasians, and Japanese were evident throughout the novel. The parents of the family were constantly stuck in the old Chinese ways."We were Canadians now, Chinese Canadians, a hyphenated reality that our parents could never accept"(Choy, 162). All of the children see themselves as more Canadian and want to forget the old Chinese traditions and adapt to the new ways. Canadians would frown upon the old Chinese ways and ostracize Chinese people because of their beliefs. This problem still somewhat exists in today’s society where one culture will make fun of another culture because of their beliefs.Kate: Kiam makes a few references in the novel to wanting to join the Canadian military."You were registered in Victoria as a resident alien. When the Dominion says we are Canadian, then we will all join up" (Choy 226). Father denies his request, as they are not even true citizens of Canada. Being resident aliens, the whole Chinese culture is looked upon as “others”. Being Chinese and fighting for Canada will be shameful to the Chinese, as they do not technically even belong to Canada. This would be like cheering for the team your school is playing, even though you do not go to that school, but on a much greater level obviously.Kaitlyn: The Japanese and Chinese absolutely hated each other back in this time period."They were all Japs. The enemy" (Choy, 243). This was because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Chinese and Japanese broke out into war during the late 1930’s right around a main part of this novel. To each other, the other was the enemy, but to the Caucasian population in Canada, the Japanese and Chinese were one in the same."On average, the caucasian society of Canada can not see the differences in appearance of the Chinese and Japanese people and cultures". To the white people, they were both intruders on their home territory, or “others”.Alex: The contrast between China and Canada is prominent. July 1st, the day to celebrate Canada is referred to as the Day of Shame by the Chinese (10). This is since in the year 1923 this day also became the beginning of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese Exclusion Act banned most forms of Chinese Immigration to Canada.
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