The role of duckweed flowers in Paradise of The Blind.


Organizing Principle 1: The existence of duckweed flowers in vile surroundings acts as a criticism of Vietnam.


Connotation and Denotation


denotes a dark, gloomy, obscure, and unclear feeling

waters are polluted and unfit to support life


dingy, disorderly, suffocated

trash and garbage litter the pond, illustrating an unkept and disgusting image of the countryside


Use of Noun + Adjective:

¡§miserable hovels¡¨

small, wretched homes

poverty ridden

sad, unbearable lives; no joy

¡§ramshackle gardens¡¨

loosely made

there¡¦s an impression that everything is falling apart

no solidity or concreteness of a traditional home

¡§outhouses stinking¡¨, ¡§stench"

overpoweringly nauseating smell that is unescapable

mentioned several times throughout the novel to describe Hanoi and Hang¡¦s childhood village

wherever you go in Vietnam these vile scents will always be there



¡§weeds and dried algae washed up on the banks¡¨

¡§weeds¡¨ connotes an unwanted plant; valueless, nothing beautiful about it

image of a place with no life; ¡§dried¡¨ and shriveled

¡§washed up on the banks¡¨ suggests that nobody¡¦s really cared to clear it up

¡§decomposing toads¡¨

powerfully gruesome image created

¡§decomposing¡¨ suggests rotting, and this adds on to the overall vile depiction of the countryside

toads in particular are very unsightly and nauseating animals

¡§dead fish, their scales gone black¡¨

again, an emphasis on the deprivation of life

¡§black¡¨ suggests that they¡¦ve been there for a while; they are left there and nobody cares to clean the pond up even though there are hovels and families living right next to it

¡§wine mixed with the blood of animals just butchered¡¨

ominous, dark comparison between the water and wine and the blood of animals

¡§wine¡¨; intoxicating and poisonous

¡§blood of animals just butchered¡¨ creates a horrific image of hopelessness and again of death



¡§scorched carcasses twisted into arches¡¨

jarring and dissonant sounds created by the hissing ¡§s¡¨ and ¡§c¡¨ sounds while the ¡§d¡¨, ¡§t¡¨ sounds are very harsh

idea of twisting, burnt, disfigured life forms (kind of like the cripple)



Organizing Principle 2: The flowers highlight Hang¡¦s development as a character through the stark difference between her childhood and adolescent interpretation.



¡§huge pond, filled with clear water¡¨ versus ¡§murky pools surrounded by a clutter¡¨

Hang interprets this body of water as a ¡§huge pond¡¨ as a child, suggesting that when she was young it seemed like a vaster more infinite pong instead of the pool, which suggests an enclosed and less grand body of water (as a child everything seems bigger)

¡§filled¡¨ also suggests an abundance, while she later describes it as surrounded by ¡§clutter¡¨

finally while she originally saw everything as a pristine, pure, pong with ¡§clear water¡¨, she later observes that the water is actually ¡§murky¡¨

shows how she has become jaded, and the fantastical childhood interpretation is now not what she sees anymore

¡§brimming with Japanese duckweed¡¨ versus ¡§stagnant¡¨, ¡§rotting¡¨, ¡§dead¡¨

again we see a suggestion of overabundance in the word ¡§brimming¡¨, but in contrast the words ¡§stagnant¡¨, ¡¥rotting¡¨, and ¡§dead¡¨ all connote a sense that there is not life or vivacity

¡§Japanese duckweed¡¨ also sounds very exotic

¡§spellbound¡¨ versus ¡§contemplate¡¨

as a child hang regards the flowers with a sense of wonder and fantasy, but as an adult she reflects and ponders her childhood obsession, and we see less of the captivity that she once had while looking at them

there is a loss in her innocence



¡§bloomed out of this blanket of green, just as the face of a loving woman blooms into mysterious, laughing promises.¡¨

as a child Hang compares the duckweed to the ¡§face of a loving woman¡¨, and this motherly figure creates a sense of comfort for her. this need for comfort is once again emphasized by the word ¡§blanket¡¨

¡§mysterious¡¨ also creates a sense that Hang was not fully aware of her surroundings, she still wondered about many things



¡§What¡¦s so special about them?¡¨

from this quotation we see another viewpoint of an adult, who doesn¡¦t seem to see anything very special about the duckweed flowers at all

it is interesting to note that Hang still does have a fascination with the flowers to some degree and so this perhaps suggest that her breaking away from her childhood and dependence is not complete



¡§real ponds, in real villages¡¨

repetition of the word ¡§real¡¨ delineates the fact that her previous interpretation were not very logical or realistic, she now sees things for what they really are



Organizing Principle 3: Duckweed flowers act as a symbol of a life unlived for the various characters in the novel.


Connotation and Denotation

¡§stifling landscapes¡¨ and ¡§heavy, oppressive¡¨

¡§heavy, oppressive¡¨ alludes to the communist ideology and the tyrannical and suffocating presence regime

there is no happiness

¡§stifling landscapes¡¨ again denotes a suffocating feeling


¡§glistened, radiant in the middle of the filth¡¨

Aunt Tam, Que, and Hang are all represented by the duckweed flowers that are trapped by the filth around them; whether the limitations are caused by Communism, their duties, or their country, their radiance is useless

¡§atrocious ornaments of a life snuffed out¡¨

¡§atrocious¡¨ suggests that this is an awful, outrageous, thing

¡§life snuffed out¡¨ suggests that while they are living, they aren¡¦t really living



¡§shrill, jerky cries shattering the silence¡¨

repetition of the ¡§s¡¨ sound in ¡§shrill¡¨, ¡§cries¡¨, ¡§shattering¡¨, and ¡§silence¡¨

hissing, malicious sounding

the cries almost seem to be a plea for help, or the birds are mourning for these ¡§atrocious ornaments¡¨