When analyzing a work of literature, it requires the person taking that task to do some active reading on the work of the author so as to understand the point the author is trying to drive home. This article will take into consideration the elements the author uses in the story “America is in heart” and analyze the structure of the essay, style used by the author, use of imagery, metaphor and other rhetorical devices; and the author’s unique approach to issues of immigration, identity, and other themes as previously discussed. The core idea of the author is to use literary devices to vividly describe to the reader the problems that immigrants faced in America. In this article, I will basically focus on the way the author has used language to relay his subject matter to the reader through the use of the narrator. I will then evaluate the argument of the writer, after which I am going to drive my point home basing on his argument. This will be achieved through looking at how the author has employed stylistic devices and then analyze them. That way, I will make my claim.
The first thing which is evident when the story opens is the device of vivid description when the narrator arrives in Seattle. He says that, to him everything seemed native and familiar, the white faces o the building melting in the soft afternoon sun, the gray contours of the surrounding valleys that seemed to vanish in the last periphery of light (Bulosan, p 60). When the proprietor goes out of the narrator’s room and his friends after pressurizing them to pay rent, he comes back accompanied by a short, fat Filipino, who looked at them stupidly with his dull, small eyes(Bulosan p 60). At the Manila dance hall, the girl who dances with Marcelo is said to be pretty and her body was nicely curved and graceful, and she had a way of swaying that aroused confused sensations in the narrator’s body (Bulosan p 65). Vivid description is used by writers to tell the reader more than meets the eyes. Using this device, the author draws a picture in our mind of whatever phenomena he is trying to describe. For example, the picture of the Filipino is clearly drawn in our minds going by the description of the author.
The theme of immigration is well elaborated in the story. The author has made it possible for the reader to understand the problems that immigrants face. If an immigrant is not in a position to settle the bills he or she is sold to slavery. The narrator is no exception. Regardless of their age, the proprietor sold them for twenty five dollars. This is not the first transaction he is carrying out as he admits he has sold others before to go work in the sugar plantation (Bulosan p 61). The narrator was later taken to go work in the fish canneries in Alaska with his friends. The narrator admits that immigrants are treated with a lot of hostility and they are subjected to total exploitation (Bulosan p 62). One of them, the hotel proprietor was shot dead by unknown assailants. He continues to say that all the immigrants were forced to sign paper which stated that each one of them owed the contractor twenty dollars for bedding and another twenty for luxuries (Bulosan p 62). He admits that he does not understand what luxuries was there to pay for. By using the above examples in his work, the author succeeds in drawing the attention of the reader to the problems that the immigrants underwent. By citing examples, the reader understands in depth.
The use of simile by the author is witnessed. The narrator says that the contractor turned out to be a tall, heavy set, dark Filipino, who went to the small hold of the boat barking at them like a dog. He was drunk and saliva was running down his shirt. The use of this style is so as to create a mental picture in the mind of the reader to indicate just how cruelly the immigrants were being handled. The use of a metaphorical term by the contractor when he refers to them as devils adds weight the agony which was being meted by on the immigrants. He promises to kill them if at all they were not going to follow the instructions. Another instance of simile is when Marcelo was dancing with a girl at the manila dance hall. The narrator says that Marcelo was dancing with a vey tall girl wearing a green dress. The girl was so tall that, Marcelo looked like a dwarf climbing a tree (Bulosan, p 65). This is used by the writer to create a mental picture in the mind of the reader. The use of simile by the author is so as to create the image of the situation at hand in the reader’s mind. By likening the Filipino to a dog, the author impacts the reader’s mind to see the idea behind in a more realistic way.
As the story progresses, the author introduces the theme of oppression alongside suffering. The narrator admits that their bunkhouses were not fit for habitation. He proceeds to admit that the lighting system was bad and dangerous to their eyes and those immigrants who were working in the semi darkness was severely affected by the strong ammonia from the machinery. Despite all this, labor unions to fight for the rights of workers were totally frustrated. He admits that his friend who was a journalist lost his job when he tried to unionize the cannery workers. On one afternoon when a cutter was working in the poor light, he slashed off his right hand with the cutting machine. The narrator admits that it happened so fast that, he only realized it when he saw the arm floating on water. This is oppression if the highest degree (Bulosan, p 62). He admits that it is only at night that they felt free. Oppression can be likened to brutality. It is used as a mechanism by the masters of weakening the immigrants to ensure that they have no space to air their grievances. This for sure works magic for them.
The use of the moon by the author is symbolic. It has been used to symbolize happiness going by what we gather from the narrator. He admits that they played into the night. He continues to say that, sometimes, a Filipino and an Indian girl would run off into the moonlight; we could hear them chasing each other in the snow (Bulosan, p 64). Through this playing at night, Paulo managed to impregnate La Belle. I think that the author uses this to introduce the reader to the harsh rules the immigrants have to put up with. If one impregnated a woman, the law demanded that you marry her and continue staying on the island for seven years. This is what happens to Paulo (Bulosan, p 64). Symbolism when used by the author is meant to induce critical thinking in the mind of the reader. Whenever the author uses this device, it calls for an intuitive reader to unravel the idea behind the symbol as used by the author.
A theme of exploitation is also addressed by the writer. The narrator admits that, when he went back in Seattle for the second time, he expected a fair amount of money from the company (Bulosan, p 64). He admits how shocked he was when the contractor got in the play room and handed him a slip of paper. He was amazed when he looked the neatly itemized expenditure that he was said to have incurred during the season. Twenty five dollars for withdrawals, one hundred for room and board, twenty for bedding, and another twenty for something he still cannot remember. He says that he was only to be paid thirteen dollars as the salary. He could do nothing (Bulosan, p 64). This is used by the writer to portray the level of exploitation meted on the immigrants.
Thematic concern of immorality is equally seen. The Chinese gamblers are said to be dealing with drugs. They pawed at the semi-nude whores with their dirty hands and made suggestive gestures, running into the night when they were rebuffed for lack of money. The narrator admits that he never derived any pleasure from such things. He says that, since he went to America the gamblers, prostitutes and Chinese opium smokers did not excite him but rather aroused a feeling of flight in him (Bulosan, p 64). This can be explained to mean that, the author show the reader that, despite the many bad things, which people were doing in Seattle there is at least one individual who is principled and stands his ground despite all the injustices met on him. The narrator is seen as principled.
The thematic concern on violence and insecurity is equally addressed in the story, at the Manila dance hall when Marcelo gets worked up n spending too much money on the blonde girl, violence ensued when Marcelo pushed the girl towards his friend who opened a knife and gave it to Marcelo. On seeing this, a secret admirer of the blonde girl picks on Marcelo when he strikes him with a piece of lead pipe (Bulosan, p 65). As if not enough a close ally of Marcelo whipped out a pistol and fired. This is soon followed by gun shots and eventually darkness with people fleeing for safety. The police arrived shortly after (Bulosan, p 66). On another separate incidence, when the narrator moves from Seattle, the white people of Yakima seem not to have trust in them. It is said those years before, in the town of Toppenish, two Filipino apple pickers had been found murdered on the road of Sunnyside (Bulosan, p 66). At that time, there was ruthless persecution of Filipinos throughout the pacific coast, instigated by orchardists who feared the unity of white and Filipino workers. The narrator continues to say that, a small farmer in Wapato who had tried to protect his Filipino workers had his house burned (Bulosan, p 67). The author uses these two incidences to indicate the level of insecurity and violence that encompassed Filipinos in a foreign land.
The theme of contempt is equally addressed by the author. There are many instances of hatred witnessed in the text. There is hatred between Americans and Filipinos. The narrator says that, when they came back from hunting, they would go to Malraux house with some men who had musical instruments. He continues to say that they would sit on the lawn for hours singing American songs. What surprises the narrator is, when they started singing Philippines songs the voices of the girls from America would grow sad, so full of yesterday and the haunting presence of familiar seas, as if they had reached the end of creation, that life seemed ended and no bright spark was left in the world (Bulosan, p 67). The author uses this to highlight on the height of hatred that ensued between Americans and Philippines.
Loss of identity by the narrator is also witnessed throughout the story. The narrator keeps on moving from one town in America to the next. He at one time admits that he did not even understand his inner self. He says that his braveness was still nameless, and waiting to express itself. He proceeds to say that he was not shocked when he saw the two country men taking on each other when a raw cropped up between them. The fact that he works at a fish company when the story begins then proceeds to work as an apple cutter is an indication that his identity is not yet found. At another separate incidence, he wants to go work at the tomato field in Stockton. Identity crisis is portrayed by the author to show the height of confusion that encompasses the immigrants. This may be as a result of staying away from their motherland for a long time. The fact that they do not stay in one place for long also contributes to this.
The author uses flashback throughout to relay his message to the reader. Using a Filipino who finds himself in America looking for menial jobs, the narrator makes us understand the problems that are faced by the immigrants in America. Using different stylistic devices as witnessed in the story, the author slowly but carefully unfolds the story and makes the reader see the brutality, oppression and injustice meted on the immigrants. The loss of identity by many immigrants is also widely addressed. The author also makes the reader completely understand his stand in the story. By use of only one character to narrate the ordeals, he indicates his intention was to educate people on what took place in the old ways when people would be sold as slaves in other countries. By giving the story different settings the mind of the reader is introduced to diverse people and culture.
C. Bulosan. America is in the Heart. 1964
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