“Journey to Freedom” by Hai-Van Nguyen

Table of Content

In this short story, Nguyen tells her story about her journey from Vietnam to Australia and expresses the change his family faces throughout this long and hard journey. Nguyen also expresses of how she believes they transitioned from being ‘nobody’ to a ‘number’. She also expresses her feelings towards numbers and how the people behind the numbers and statistics are forgotten and all that is remembered are the numbers.

In the second paragraph Nguyen states her amazement that after everything her parents have survived through and feared for, they are still able to recall the chilling numbers that has set history in their lives, Nguyen says, “… and it amazes me they recall them so easily. ‘It’s something one never forgets’ my mother says. ‘You wear it in your mind,’ she says, ‘long after the chalk has been erased. ’ A prisoner never forgets his number. ” By this you’re able to see how the numbers that either broke or made people’s lives are forever imprinted in their minds.

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Nguyen seems to be caught between, angered at the fact that people are replaced in reality by numbers, to being quite curious and intrigued at the fact that one never forgets these types of things, such as a number in a queue of their lives. As Nguyen says in paragraph three, “Long after human atrocities have occurred, all we remember are numbers. We remember there were six million victims of the holocaust and one million casualties during the Vietnam War.

More recently, we hear about the ‘765 people’ who are ‘unauthorised boat arrivals’ and the ‘228 detainees’ currently in ‘detention’ in Woomera. We’re hearing politicians justify their actions with phrases like ‘Australia is accepting an ample number of refugees for an industrial country’. As usual issues involving human lives become overshadowed by numbers that relegate people to the status of mere statistics. We remember numbers, but we forget the human faces behind them.

By this strong and deep explanation of Nguyen’s understanding and point of view of the way people are recognised and remembered in history, shows to us that Nguyen is quite disappointed and interested in the fact that numbers replace the pain and hardship that the true people felt and possibly no one will remember the sad details of history, but instead the statistics that covered all the victims. In the fourth paragraph Nguyen expresses her feelings that more real human stories and recounts need to be publicised, ather than what the history books and newspapers recall as history, numbers.

Nguyen feels that numbers now need to be replaced and upgraded with real human experience related back to the people of today to understand and appreciate through stories. Nguyen says, “History books and newspapers purport to telling the facts, but facts do not only consist of numbers. Human experience is real; human suffering is real, and so are the stories that capture them. We need human stories to restore the human face to such atrocities. She strongly feels that numbers are almost throwing away the true feelings and hardship the people faced and overcame and so Nguyen feels that stories need to be told to replace these numbers with real and detailed stories of hardship, fear and determination.

Also Nguyen says that she believes that all stories should be told rather than one story or one journey covering all humanities ordeals, as she says in lines 6, 7 & 8, “… in capturing the triumphs and sorrows of each individual’s experience, will serve a wider purpose of giving a collective voice to all humanity. And this is why Nguyen tells her story.

Throughout this short story we find that the journey the Nguyen’s are faced with is one of quite scary ordeals which they must overcome as well as many hard and life threatening moments which they have faced and fought with love and their lives at stake. Throughout their journey they are replaced as lives to numbers which has become their reality. They travelled across the seas fearing to be taken by pirates, the women dressed as men so they weren’t taken and sold into prostitution or slavery.

Throughout this whole thing their family was treated badly with not enough water to drink and wash themselves with. As time passed eventually their number was called out. Nguyen’s mothers tells of the grief they encountered as their number were finally called, they were lucky and also very happy to finally come from being nobody to being a number, she recalls on the enlightenment of the feelings of acceptance they now had over them, although their happiness was somewhat repressed by the grief felt for those who were left behind or even forced to go back, as stated in paragraph thirteen, “… he joy of finally being accepted however , was overshadowed by the grief of those who were left behind, and even worse, of those who were forced to go back. ”

You can see clearly throughout this story that the journey this family was faced with wasn’t an easy one and also wasn’t a journey one could forget. This journey will be in their minds forever, like an ongoing feature film playing in their minds, along with the numbers that follow shortly behind. This families journey is one of millions that will settle in history as another number.

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“Journey to Freedom” by Hai-Van Nguyen. (2018, Jun 16). Retrieved from


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