Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again Analysis

Kim Hà (or Ha) is a Vietnamese immigrant whose story is told in verse. The choice to go with the more poetic form might be an indication that Lai, the author, is intending to show emotional experiences that surpass their literal parts. In other words, the story of a 10 year old girl asked to face the emotional burdens of being a refugee, being alone in a culture that doesn't understand your language, being in a culture as different from Vietnam as could possibly be—these kinds of emotional challenges would be difficult for an adult person to adequately describe. But for a child, they must be of such epic proportions that the most natural way to communicate them is as a myth, in prosody or poetry, like epic poems.

That is where the analysis of the story should begin, because it points to a serious similarity between Inside Out and Back Again to another epic poem, Homer's Odyssey. That doesn't mean that Ha is necessarily a Odysseus character, but it does give the scope of the story. In a journey of such a caliber, nothing is off the table. For Odysseus, that meant dealing with gods and goddesses, fighting titans and solving serious problems to survive and go home. For Ha, it means rediscovering a sense of stability in a world that has changed more than most humans would even fathom. Therefore it is a spiritual story, and the bullies at school are like Scylla and Charibdis, and Mrs. Washington, the Alabaman neighbor, is a character of nearly divine status for Ha.

This story traces the emotionally unspeakable realities in an epic form that helps highlight the dramatic intensity and religious nature of the journey. And more importantly, it demonstrates the true power of the human spirit to find community again and to become enlightened through challenging circumstances.

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