This play was written by Chinese-American in 1996, to show two extreme sides of one background. The theme of the play is a reality and appearance of two people that are so similar but yet so different. Stereotype is definitely stands out by David Hwang’s style, symbols, setting and tone of voice. There are two subjects in the play. First is Ronnie who is an Asian- American that wants to be Americanized and hates the part that he is Asian. Ronnie is a street violinist that wants to survive by playing music on the streets of New York City.
Second is Benjamin who is Caucasian looking, but he was adopted by an Asian-American family; therefore, he is proud of his Chinese heritage. The setting took in New York City to give that “melting pot” feeling and show how many people of different background are in one place. Cultural stereotype is something that people do everyday, they are not trying to be mean about it but one culture may know one thing about another and that’s all they know. Meanwhile, second culture may get offended by being placed in one small box of acceptance.
David Hwang shows the ignorance of Ronnie: “If this was a fiddle, I’d be sitting here with a cob pipe, stomping my cowboy boots and Ramsey kicking up hay. Then I’d go home and fuck my cousin. ” This quote is made by Ronnie showing a stereotype of the Caucasian American boy with fair skin, blue eyes, and blond hair. On the other hand, there is a stereotype of Asians as well. This quote that was made by Ronnie again, shows it in his choice of words and anger. “ What are you gonna ask me next? Where you can find the best dim sum in the city?
Whether I can direct you to a genuine opium den? Or do I happen to know how you can meet Miss Saigon for a night of nookie-nookie followed by a good old-fashioned ritual suicide? Now, get your white ass off my sidewalk. ” Words such as dim sum and Miss Saigon are the symbols of Asian culture, but Ronnie uses these good symbols in a negative way because he is not happy. A person can be happy and satisfied by accepting one’s identity. A person that is not happy is embarrassed of himself and his race.
Ronnie feels measurable because he thinks his ethnic group is below the American. Ronnie is not proud of where he is coming from; therefore, he makes fun of it by using good Asian symbols to bring a negative message. Ronnie is angry to the point where little things set him off such as eating dim sum, seeing ducks hanging on windows of restaurants, or using chopsticks. On the other side, Benjamin is embracing his ethnicity and he couldn’t be anymore happier. He thinks completely different from Ronnie.
Little things like people screaming in Cantonese make Benjamin happy. Benjamin is more literate in Asian culture and history, but Ronnie stays away from Asian knowledge. People would never think that an American-looking guy would get the warmest and overwhelming feeling when he came to see where his father lived and sucking on Hua-moi, which is a dry plum coming from Cantonese culture. The tone of Trying to Find Chinatown is pleasing to me because it’s not hard to feel when a writer wants for a character to be frustrated, offended, or surprised.
Ronnie was surprised when he heard that Benjamin is not just an ordinary Caucasian man. People expect for a certain ethnic group to have only one look. America is full of different backgrounds, culturues, ethnicities and they mix all the time. Simple language in this poem is helpful to give a reader that “street language”. Through Ronnie’s cursing you feel anger, lack of education, pride, and care. He treats every person the same because he is trying to make some money on the streets of big city.
I think David used a setting of New York because it’s a large and cold city where people like Ronnie trying to survive everyday. Ronnie sounds fed up with his existence and the setting of large city and a violin object shows that. People shouldn’t judge each other by its looks and have certain expectations, but that happens all the time because of ignorance, not a mean spirit. Trying to find Chinatown shows how appearance sometimes doesn’t match the reality. The play has a perfect setting, tone, language, and two characters that clearly show that.