One of the important themes in Lan Chang’s novel Hunger: A Novella and Other Stories is hunger. Hunger is an anchor and an opening novella for the collection of short stories. Among the Chinese stories, hunger for physical sustenance is normally the beginning of many conversations as typified through their greetings, “Have you eaten?” In this story, however, hunger can also imply waiting unfulfilled ambitions, a desire for revenge, and a longing for love. In the story, Tian, Min’s husband, explains her the things he hungers for, “…Everyone has things they want to do in their lives…but sometimes, they is only one thing…”The theme of Hunger, therefore, becomes the dramatic thread that runs throughout the story and other stories in the collection too. In the novel Hunger, there have been depicted the parental acceptance or love, personal expression, or independence.(Chang 75).
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In this story, the experience that the immigrants undergo through is a poignant paradox which makes the immigrants to be closely tied to their home or family, yet at the same time feeling a fierce urge of being pulled away in order to succeed. As a result, the ultimate hunger in the novel becomes not so extreme but rather for wanting the two polar opposites to work simultaneously. The hunger in the novel is, thus, the one which is incapable of satisfying but which continually seeks to churn every character. The characters in Chang’s story are starved due to a number of reasons: success, love, acceptance, and even the dreams of home.
The author of Hunger illustrates how people can develop the intense hunger that borders with an obsessive desire or wish of participating and possessing relationships. Hunger in the American sense makes a man to desperately swim through troubled waters to a distant ship while at the same time maintaining a grip of death as he struggles for bridging the cultural gap that exists between the Chinese immigrants and the American participants. Tian’s hunger is only satisfied when he discovers the ability of her daughter to play the violin. The concept of hunger is further reflected in the novel through the complex experiences that caught the parents in the story and the need to fulfill hunger which had been originally the impetus for their flight and harsh realities of life that made it difficult for them achieve their original dreams. The concept of hunger is depicted in the Chapter four of the story with the help of the vengeful hungry ghosts which represent unrecognized desires regarding the estranged members of the family (Freedman 120).
The concept of hunger in the novel is revealed in the way the family or characters in the novella struggle in order to attain a tenuous balance between forgetting and remembering and adequately measure gains and losses of starting to live from the beginning on the new foreign land. The hunger of Min’s husband cannot be satisfied when his unfulfilled desires meet the American unbridled rebellion and the ambitions of the siblings. Glints and flashes of hunger are included in the whole story of the novella through ferocious disappointments which are known to devour or destroy the heart of any family. It is through such disappointments that the author makes his readers understand that disappointments don’t discriminate, and, thus, do not only affect the homes of immigrant families but other homes as well. In order to build future, the characters in the story must forget their past and have a hunger for laboring so that they can discover what it takes them to thrive and survive in the United States of America. The children in the story are also left in hunger of delicately discovering the roots of their ancestors through searching in the ancient artifacts without necessarily triggering the mines hidden in the history of their families.
Chang, the author, makes it clear to readers how all individuals have their hunger in the heart which includes the hunger of ambition, hunger of desire, hunger of all we might be and we aren’t, the hunger of things that we can’t have, and the hunger of all we are. The wife realizes that her husband’s hunger brought their family to nothing but pain and sadness. The name Hunger for the novella which seems to evoke the primitive and wrenching pain is a concept used to portray how immigrant families undergo via the emotional starvation because of children’s desire to integrate in the society and due to the rootlessness of their parents.
The concept of hunger is narrated by Tian Sung’s wife, Min, from the grave; and this concept becomes a melody upon which the entire story presents some graceful variations. The concept of hunger is further depicted in Tian’s failure of securing a permanent teaching position and the private grief. However, Ruth’s ability to playing music soothes the hunger in some way, “…there was a hole in our house, like a great mouth…filled with love words and lost objects…some redemption in Ruth’s playing…” The hunger to satisfy the needs of life, for instance, the provision of all basic needs for the family being equal with everyone in the foreign land, and the hunger to fulfill all parental responsibilities adorn the story.
In conclusion, the concept of hunger in the novella has been given various distinct meanings depending on the situations and experiences that different characters in the short story undergo via. Despite the obvious meaning of hunger, the term has been used in the story to imply the rejection of other people’s ideas; including the states, the status, and other things which individuals hunger for.