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Kim, Y.

What motivates a given character’s actions? Do you think those actions are justified or ethical?

posted Jun 14, 2010, 8:02 PM by Yuhan Kim

Madame Mao is someone who does not like to give up easily and think very highly of themselves and is insecure. She needs Mao's love, at least during public appearances, so people don't start doubting their relationship. She doesn't feel secure if she doesn't have Mao's or the public peoples attention. She is like an actress living out her whole life like one big act and needs viewers to see her performance. She can't live without attention which is why she is motivated to act up and get opera troupes to work to spread out Maoism so she can get Mao's attention and be favored in his eyes. Mao Zedong lives to serve his country and be the leader of China. He is motivated to make China stronger and is willing to fight Chiang Kai-Shek for his beliefs and fight the Japanese invaders for his country's independence. He wants to make China the strongest country and make all his enemies bow down to him in fear. I think that he is motivated to do all this because he has so many loyal followers who are willing to serve their whole life to him and think that he is a god sent from heaven. Mao would've gave  up his reign if he had no followers because he wouldn't have been motivated without any followers behind to support him. He would've resigned on his own will because of little to no progress if there were no Maoists. He is able to lead China because he had loyal followers that backed him up and motivated him to do his work.

Do you find the characters convincing? Are they believable? Compelling? Are they fully developed as complex, emotional human beings?

posted Jun 14, 2010, 7:58 PM by Yuhan Kim

Characters like Madame Mao do have the emotional feeling that they would get according to the situation, for example she was depressed when her relationship with Tang Nah was not going well and she had to have some time alone to think and reflect the situation before she could make a final decision and act upon it. At the same time Madame Mao has categorized people so simply like an antagonist in a cartoon. She becomes friends or acquaintances with people if she thinks that the relationship will be beneficial and discards them after they have no more use or if they turn out to be "rotten." Madame Mao is described with the characteristics of a real human in the book but isn't that convincing when I read parts where she decides to torture her enemies very simply. She doesn't even think to give them a second chance, she just thinks torture when she feels that someone is a threat to her power. Mao Zedong also seems to have some real human character qualities like when he wants to serve his country and lead it in the right direction but the one part that doesn't convince me is how lustful is mind is. The same goes for Madame Mao, they both have sexual desires but there are other ways to express love than just physical contact. They just seem to be two thirds like a real human to me because Madame Mao thinks of her whole life as a play and she is always on stage and everything is supposed to go along with her script but she is just in her fantasy. Mao Zedong is also unrealistic in the part of the book where he has sex with Madame Mao in the cave while the town is being bombed and the ceiling of the cave is crumbling down.

If you were to talk to the author, what would you want to know?

posted Jun 13, 2010, 10:37 PM by Yuhan Kim

I would first like to ask the author questions about how the book is written. I would ask questions like why she thought of writing the book without any quotation marks to tell the reader that the person is talking and why she decided to switch between first person and third person in between some paragraphs and sometimes during sentences. I would also try to ask in a polite way if she had put into thought that some people would get annoyed with the way the book is written and get discouraged from reading it. It would probably sound rude to tell her but I would have to tell her the truth about how I am one of the people who didn't like the way the book was written and that I might have enjoyed the book more if she wrote the book in the format almost any other book is written in with quotation marks to tell me that someone is talking and if she switched the third person to first person on every chapter instead of every few paragraphs. I won't just give her criticism of course because that would just be rude. I would compliment her on the idea of taking history and making it into a book and adding some fiction to it to spice up the story was a good one, AND she did not fail to make it interesting either. People will have some issues with the way the book is written but they will enjoy the story it tells.

If you could insert yourself as character in the book, what role would you play?

posted Jun 13, 2010, 10:07 PM by Yuhan Kim   [ updated Jun 13, 2010, 10:37 PM ]

If I could be a character in the book I would take Kang Sheng's place because I think that the idea of being a double agent would be exciting. Kang Sheng doesn't seem to be much of a threat at first but under his mask he is already thinking of what to do with you and how to manipulate or dispose of you. I like that quality of him and how he is already thinking of how useful a new person can be and if they will be a reliable ally or a threat in the future. I would like to be his character in the book and use Madame Mao's weaknesses to poke her in the side and slowly torture her and let her have that lifetime of pain that she deserves and if she happens to get a weakness of mine I could compromise with her: she gets Mao to support me and I won't leak the information that will ruin her image as Madame Mao. I can always get information on people when I need it and instantly know pretty much their whole life and what they've done in the past that can be used as black mail against them. I don't know why Kang Sheng didn't try to throw Madame Mao off from her power when he could've because they became rivals and formed a weird love-hate relationship. I would've done anything I could've in my power to try and get her off from power as Madame Mao even if it meant that I had to go down with her because she was a horrible person even if she had a horrible past. 

Are movies simply a form of escapism or do they carry a more significant role in the culture?

posted May 6, 2010, 7:40 AM by Yuhan Kim

Movies are a form of escapism  for Ram and Salim because movies are the only way they can get away from their life even if just for a while. Movies are the only way they can find joy in their lives and relieve their mental stress from their week of long hard work and trying to get past life. Watching movies is like their hobby because when they're not watching movies they are either working or they're in their chawl doing nothing. For other people in the book, like Neelima Kumari, movies are their life. Neelima was an actress but she has retired. She has a whole shelf full of all the movies she starred in and all her awards she has won from years ago. The movies are like her children and her past. She sometimes watches the movies and starts talking about the movie and what award she won for it. She can't move away from her past and she definitely does not want to play in little side character roles. She wants to be the heroine like back in her days which is why she isn't as famous anymore and doesn't really have a job. She is idle in her actress life which is why I think that she is more dependent on her movies now because watching her own movies is the only way for her to feel her past glory. Salim watched movies as a form of escapism but he has grown and is an actor in progress who will probably star in his fair share of movies. He might turn into a male version of Neelima Kumari and be obsessed with his own movies when he gets old and retired.

Why does Ram want to have "manageable dreams?"

posted May 3, 2010, 6:13 PM by Yuhan Kim

Ram wants to have "manageable dreams" because he can't do much for his future right now. He wants to have a dream that he can actually grasp because the dreams he has right now are something that he can't accomplish. He wants to gain his girlfriend's freedom from her pimp but he can't because her pimp is demanding huge sums of money that he doesn't have. Ram gets the money he needs to free her but her pimp doubles the amount of money and he figures that her pimp will keep on raising the amount of money so that he can't ever get her. His dreams are tied to money which he doesn't have which is why they aren't manageable dreams and which is also why he wants manageable dreams. He doesn't want a dream that's too great and impossible for him, he wants something that he can do. He has also seen the horrible failure of his "sister", Lajwanti, who tried to steal the Madam's money to pay for her sister's wedding, because she didn't have enough money, and got caught. He has wanted to have a manageable dream since that incident and the talk with the Madam about Lajwanti and how poor people should stay within their own limits and not try to overreach themselves. He was angry towards her but he knew that she was right. He couldn't fill the doubled amount of money that his girlfriend's pimp was demanding so he gave up and went back to Mumbai because he had no need to stay in Agra anymore especially since he has bad memories in there now that are still fresh in his brain.

What does the West signify to Ram?

posted Apr 27, 2010, 6:37 PM by Yuhan Kim

To Ram, the West is a place for freedom and equality. He was raised by Father Timothy who was from the West and he also lived with Colonel Taylor who was from Australia. Ram was heavily influenced while living with Colonel Taylor that he even practiced speaking Australian. He has read Australian Geographic and has seen many beautiful pictures of Australia that he wants to go there and see all those beautiful sites. The West signifies equality and better opportunities to him.  He dreams about going to the West so much because of how bad of a living it is in India. He doesn't like the slums because there is a lot of violence and brutality in the slums and the government doesn't even care about it. There are also corrupt police in the slums that "do anything for a bottle of whisky." The people in the slums are used to all the brutality that they are indifferent whether someone died or someone got raped. Ram wants to get away from all this and just have a peaceful life. He dreams of going to Kids Mart and buying stuff for himself and going to McDonalds and Pizza Hut to eat his favorite Western food. I think the West also signifies, for him, a mental freedom from all the hurt he has had from living in India. He has had a horrible childhood: seeing a dead person (Father Timothy), almost getting blinded, and lived through a war. His relationships weren't very good either: he had a painful relationship with Neelima Kumari who committed suicide, felt hopeless because he couldn't protect Gudiya, and felt powerless because he didn't have the money to free Nita. He has wanted nothing but a little freedom. The West gives him what he wants, in his perspective.

Why does Ram turn in Colonel Taylor?

posted Apr 19, 2010, 8:34 PM by Yuhan Kim   [ updated Apr 21, 2010, 4:34 PM ]

Is this retribution for the colonel's spying, his derogatory comments about Indians, or for the way he treats his family? Or does Ram just want to collect his wages before returning to Mumbai?

I think Ram turned in Colonel Taylor because of his derogatory comments about Indians and for the way he treats his family. Colonel Taylor and his family trust him so much that he feels like a part of the family but whenever the Colonel says "those bloody Indians," his dream is shattered and it feels like its far out of reach. He might've gotten some resentment from hearing that phrase so often. Ram also saw that he was abusive to his wife and strict on his children. Ram has seen a lot of abusive adults like Shantaram, Gudiya's dad, who always came home late at night drunk and molesting his daughter. He also has bad experiences with Gupta from the juvenile home who treated the kids like trash and raped boys on some nights. He almost raped Salim if Ram hadn't screamed after peeping through the keyhole. Ram has seen so much happen to other people from adult males that he probably got sick of seeing another family being under the rule of an abusive male. He had a secret that could put the Colonel in jail and he did just that. I don't think he was expecting to get his wages because the Colonel was going to jail and he was the one who gave the monthly wages. Of course, he did get his full amount in new crisp notes by Mrs. Taylor I'm guessing. I don't think he cared much about the colonel's spying either because at first he was afraid that the colonel might have found out that he was spying on him.

How is Oaxaca different?

posted Apr 12, 2010, 8:54 PM by Yuhan Kim


Oaxaca is very different from the other cities in Mexico that Enrique passes. Oaxaca is the exact opposite of Chiapas, "the beast". Chiapas is known for their unfriendliness especially towards the immigrants. There are gangs and bandits in Chiapas that will kill the immigrants and rob or rape them. Some of the locals work for the immigration agents, helping them catch the immigrants. The immigrants can never trust anybody in Chiapas. Everyone is a stranger and could even be a threat. Oaxaca, though, is very different. The people in Oaxaca are very friendly and nice. They are very generous too, unlike the Chiapas people. The Oaxacans give food and clothes and whatever else they can give the immigrants on the trains. They throw them what they have in their house. What's really amazing is that they give a lot when they only have a little. They're all poor families and they don't have anything but they give so much to the immigrants. The poor families also have strong faith in their religion and that God will provide them with more. People in Chiapas can only think about stealing from the immigrants but the people in Oaxaca can only think about giving more and more to the immigrants. The churches in Oaxaca also try to help the immigrants. The churches try to give medical care to the immigrants in need and some also try to shelter the immigrants in the church, giving them a place to sleep in the sanctuary and providing food and water.

Discuss Enrique’s relationship with his mother. How is that relationship different from the relationships each has with other people?

posted Mar 22, 2010, 10:27 AM by Yuhan Kim

Enrique has an interesting long distance relationship with his mom. He is far away from her in distance and heart. She calls him but not often and he has a longing to see her and hold her and ask her questions of why she left. He isn't that close to his mom because of the long distance between them and how rarely she calls him. But he is also distant with most of his family members, except for his dead uncle Marco, because they don't really understand how he feels. They also don't treat him like family because of his behavior and his use of drugs like sniffing glue. He has a close relationship with his girlfriend, Maria Isabel, and she never broke up with him even when he was sniffing glue and got high because he was her first true love. But even his distant relationship with her doesn't stop his longing for his mom and ending up taking trains to get to his mother. He doesn't know her enough or why she left him but that fuels him to go on his journey and find his mom. It's not his relationship with her but his longing to see her that makes him leave his family and his girlfriend in Honduras to go find his mom. His grandmother and his aunt don't like him because he does drugs and sniffs glue, has a debt with a gang member, and he hangs out with the wrong people. He is basically a burden in his relative's eyes. He thinks he can only find comfort in his mother's arms, away from his unfriendly relatives.

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