War Trash

Into Another Culture: Chinese Society and Sensitive Characterization in 'War Trash' 10th Grade

The fictional memoir War Trash, written by Ha Jin, describes the life of a POW in the Korean War from 1951 to 1953. As a Chinese-American, Jin provides insight to race-oriented political battles, the tough decision between Communism and Nationalism, and the oppression inflicted on the POWs by U.S. soldiers. Jin also describes what it would be like to be a returning POW and how the values of a Chinese soldier differ from those of an American soldier. Throughout the work, Jin accurately portrays the white characters and effectively keeps stereotypes out of his descriptions.

Yu Yuan is the narrator of the work who describes how he became a low-ranking clerical officer in the 180th division of the People’s Liberation Army. His division is sent to fight on the front, often fighting useless battles and losing thousands of men. The division is disease ridden, starved, and extremely tired; as a result, the Americans attack, wounding Yuan and taking him back as a prisoner of war (POW). As a POW, he is sent to Pusan, where he finds himself switching from the Pro-Nationalist camp to the Pro-Communist camp, not because he is Communist but because he wants to make it back to mainland China and see his family. Yuan uses his college education...

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