The Role of ¡§The Bohemian¡¨ in Paradise of the Blind
Main Point 1: ¡§The Bohemian¡¨ contributes to the theme of the critique of communism in the novel through his dialogue.
There is a mockery behind much of the Bohemian¡¦s dialogue, which subtly questions the authority of the communist officials. The idea that someone of high status in the communist regime could be so assertive in opposition to the ideology and its effects is also a large insult to the system.
- ¡§Khoa laughed uneasily, as if he was trying to shake off the mockery. He ran his hand nervously through his hair a few times.¡¨ - pg. 208
Khoa, who is meant to appear very strong, is described as being embarrassed in this quotation, indicating the effect the bohemian¡¦s speech has in questioning Khoa¡¦s authority.
- ¡§My congratulations. And here is your pay. Do us the honor of accepting it.¡¨ - pg. 212
- ¡§So we¡¦re just a bunch of degenerates to you, eh?¡¨ - pg. 213 Before the story of the communist official raping the nine-year-old girl.
- ¡§...how their generation indulged in shameful pleasures, and how everyone should devote himself to the revolution. He had the same worldview as you, the same tastes. Don¡¦t get me wrong, I don¡¦t mean to insult you. I know you don¡¦t have the same vices. But I must say, the resemblance is somewhat troubling.¡¨ - pg. 214
- ¡§You say our dances are decadent. But haven¡¦t you don¡¦t some dancing yourself? Invisible dances, infinitely more decadent than ours?¡¨ - pg. 215
The sarcastic tone that much of the Bohemian¡¦s speech takes on is also a subtle questioning of the authority of the other men over him, since this quotation indicates that the Bohemian speaks to Uncle Chinh, who is of lesser status than himself in a similar tone to the other officials. Other quotations are also very abrupt and casual such as ¡§Cool it¡¨ on page 214. This idea is also present in the use of rhetorical questions in the Bohemian¡¦s speech.
- ¡§We dance with girls. You and your kind dance with your own shadows, pawing the velvet armchairs of your dreams. That¡¦s the invisible dance I¡¦m talking about. Now, which is the more decadent?¡¨ - pg. 216
This kind of remark is in reference to the type of ¡§dance¡¨ he believes the other communist officials are doing. The Bohemian believes that the leaders are corrupt and place far too much emphasis on objectified wealth. The velvet armchair is a symbol of this kind of critique in that it was mentioned that Uncle Chinh¡¦s old room had a fake velvet armchair - an imitation of the kind of wealth the officials longed for. Therefore, in his statement, the Bohemian makes the implication that the officials crave the kind of wealth a velvet armchair symbolized, however, the wealth only exists in their dreams.
¡§It¡¦s your room. Don¡¦t forget, though, that I too control certain things...More important things.¡¨ - pg. 217
At some points, such as in this quotation, the Bohemian blatantly asserts his authority.
¡§The Bohemian¡¨ contributes to the idea of the sense of unfulfillment surrounding the portrayal of Hang¡¦s childhood.
Main Point 2: The idea of a longing for affection or reassurance of her father runs through much of Hang¡¦s story. She is granted this sort of protection on the train from Moscow by her traveling companion.
Hang states on page 199: ¡§I had yearned for this protection so many times...¡¨ This type of longing is also reflected in her interactions with the Bohemian in his protective gestures towards the girl, as evidenced by the following quotations:
¡§She looks sick...anemic.¡¨ His silhouette loomed over me. I felt his hand on my shoulder...¡¨ - pg. 211
¡¥How do you stand the cold here with that skeleton of yours? It¡¦s not easy to earn a living in this country.¡¨ - pg. 218
¡§The Bohemian started to make me a cup of warm milk. He dropped in a few vitamin tablets and handed it to me.¡¨ pg. 220
¡§To your health.¡¨ pg. 210
¡§But still I can¡¦t quite believe it. Calling on a frail young woman like you.¡¨ pg. 219
¡§The Bohemian bought me a train ticket and some food for the trip; he even got a pass so he could see me off on the platform.¡¨ pg. 224
There is also a sense of praise and adoration towards the Bohemian that has not been seen in Hang¡¦s character before.
¡§...kind of Robin Hood story...¡¨Yen Thanh the Bohemian¡¨...smile of a man who could dodge an arrow as easily as he could manipulate pawns on a chessboard...It was a mesmerizing smile, and I had never met anyone who so resembled this character.¡¨ - pg. 208
Comparing the man to a fictional, heroic character emphasizes her adoration for the Bohemian. It indicates her respect and somewhat fantastical attraction to the idea of his presence in her life.
Finally, there is a sense that Hang has become attached to the Bohemian through quotations like:
¡§My bohemian...¡¨ - pg. 211
The use of the possessive word ¡§my¡¨ to describe the Bohemian indicates Hang¡¦s attachment to him, almost immediately after meeting him. This could be a result of Hang¡¦s growing emotional/sexual maturity, an indication of a reminiscence to her past/his connection to her homeland.
¡§I watched him blur and disappear in the steam that had formed on my window.¡¨ - pg. 225
The tone of this phrase is very emotional, with the ¡§steam¡¨ and ¡§blur¡¨ perhaps representing her perplexed feelings towards the situation.
Main Point 3: Hang¡¦s interaction with the Bohemian re-emphasizes her growing maturity.
Some of the statements that Hang makes in description of the Bohemian reflect a sense of independent, mature thought.
¡§He had hazelnut eyes and a dreamlike air about him.¡¨ pg. 218
This description of the Bohemian reflects Hang¡¦s attraction towards the man and thus, potentially her growing sexual and emotional maturity.
¡§I accepted immediately. Somehow, this was not quite right for a single young woman, I thought to myself.¡¨ pg. 224
- This quotation indicates a sense of independent thought, dissimilar to her feelings of obligation to follow others¡¥ expectations previously in the novel.
¡§And he produced a packet of bills and handed them to me. ¡§Here.¡¨ I stepped back. ¡§No. How dare you?¡¨ - pg. 219
- This quotation is interesting seeing as Hang indicates her self-respect in questioning the motives of the Bohemian when he offers her money. Initially assuming he was attempting to pay her for sexual relations, this quotation indicates Hang¡¦s mental and emotional maturity in protecting her rights. (This point doesn¡¦t really make sense)