Paradise of the Blind

The Role of Food in the Social, Cultural, and Political Landscapes of Paradise of the Blind College

One of the most striking elements of Paradise of the Blind is its constant discussion of food. Through imagery and description of traditional foodstuffs, the novel emphasizes the Vietnamese’s deep cultural connections to and love of food. These descriptions serve to describe family and cultural dynamics of Hang’s childhood as well as highlight the differences between the culture of Hang’s Vietnamese homeland and the emptiness of the Soviet Union and the communist regime.

The detailed description of Vietnamese food not only increases the already vivid imagery in the novel, it drives the story forward by highlighting Hang’s deep, entrenched love of her homeland. Her memories of Vietnam are as full of gustatory recollections as interactions with people. It shows that, for the Vietnamese, food is a powerful form of expression—socially, culturally, and personally. When giving gifts or showing hospitality, for instance, the offers come through food. The Vietnamese connection with traditional foods shows that, despite the overreaching conformity brought by the communist regime, the people of Vietnam did not lose their traditional culture, indeed, they held onto it stubbornly.

Throughout the novel food dynamics are also used as a...

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