Can you imagine moving to a different country and trying to raise a family in a country that is not your homeland? Many people make this decision on a daily basis. However, which traditions and values would you choose to teach your children? Would you teach your children their homeland traditions or their new country traditions? In the book, On Gold Mountain by Lisa See, Fong See struggled in being accepted publicly as a member of American Society and he also struggled with trying to keep his Chinese traditions and values with his families.
In his second marriage, he succeeded in being accepted by the American society, but was not as successful with his Chinese traditions. However, in his third marriage, he was successful in maintaining all his Chinese traditions, but even though he was accepted by American society, he tried to lose his American ways. Fong See was publically accepted as member of American society, but it did not happen overnight.
It took many years for Fong See to be accepted by American society. American society only accepted him because he had reached great wealth, he was a successful business man and he married an American girl and adapted to her ways.
When Fong See came to America he was only fourteen years old and had to deal with the struggles of being discriminated against because he was of Chinese decent. In the late 1800’s, Chinese were looked down on and Americans really did not give them the respect they deserved. Fong See took over his fathers business, however he wasn’t very good at being an herbalist. He started selling things door to door and at the age of seventeen, he opened his own shop. Fong See had started to dress western, just like the Americans did to fit in.
He changed his name and changed his company name many times in order for it to be easier for Americans to pronounce it, because he wanted to be accepted by American society, so he did anything possible to make that happen. By the end of the story, Fong See had a total of four wives, which is a Chinese custom. His second marriage was to Letticie Pruett, an American woman. Letticie was the only woman that Fong See married out of real love. In this marriage, Fong See struggled with trying to keep his Chinese traditions, values and heritage alive within his family.
Letticie did respect some of Fong See’s traditions and values. However, Letticie felt that their children were still children, which is an American view and she felt their children should be able to go outside, play and roller-skate. Fong See felt that his children should be studying calligraphy. He also felt that his daughter, Sissee, should be doing needle work. Letticie had her children enrolled in calligraphy and Chinese schools that Fong See accepted, however when they punished her child by hitting him in the hand with a bamboo stick, a Chinese tradition, Letticie pulled her children out of that school.
Fong See felt that Letticie babied the boys and that they needed to be men. Chinese see men as independent and the men are the sole providers, it is this tradition that See wanted to raise his sons by. However, Letticie felt that a mother should show that kind of nourishment, sympathy, affection towards her child and should protect them by all means. There were many things that Fong See and Letticie disagreed on, so in order to please both Fong See and herself, Letticie would do things behind Fong See’s back, like letting the children play with roller-skates.
By these examples, you can see that Fong See was trying to maintain his traditional Chinese customs with his family, however his wife Letticie would interfere with that, since she was raised different. Even though Fong See tried his hardest, it is impossible to have Chinese traditions when someone is going behind your back and teaching your children opposite or a different custom, maintaining Fong See’s Chinese traditions with his wife Letticie was unsuccessful. See family celebrated many American and Chinese holidays. Letticie incorporated both heritages when it came to Holidays.
She felt, “If you were Chinese, you should be able to meld Chinese and American traditions in whatever form you wanted. ” (See, 104). For example, they celebrated Thanksgiving, but Letticie made sure to add special ingredients like water chestnuts and fresh ginger to the certain meal items. The See’s celebrated Chinese New Year with firecrackers and Chinese rituals. By this example, you can see that Letticie did put some effort into helping Fong See keep his Chinese traditions alive, however it seems that she was the one in the end who had the final say in just how much Chinese traditions Fong See was able to teach his children.
This also proves how Fong See was unsuccessful in maintaining his Chinese traditions with his family. In his business life, Fong See was very successful and he dressed like a business man in his three pieces tailored suits like most successful American business men did. Both he and Letticie had an eye for Chinese antiques. He sold antiques to American people and even rented out pieces of Chinese furniture to film studios for movies. His antiques is what made him wealthy and in return he was accepted by American society.
American’s accepting a non-American into their society was unheard of at that time, however because Fong See became wealthy, he used that to his advantage. The things he did in business and publically was all done, so that American society would accept him and embrace him as if he was one of their own. Fong See would make trips to China to buy Chinese merchandise. When he would come back, he would have to go through customs, once they realized he was Fong See, the owner of the F. Suie One Company, he was no longer interrogated to the degree that the other Chinese were.
Fong See was an intelligent individual. “He made his reputation and maintained his strength by avoiding the traditional roles of his fellow immigrants. ” (See, 233). This quote proved that Fong See did everything he could to avoid being associated with his fellow immigrants and instead being accepted by American society. He maintained a good reputation as a business man because he seemed to immaculate the good business men in America. He did not work in factories or low paying jobs like his fellow immigrants.
He found a way to be his own boss like most successful American business men. Fong See kept his Chinese heritage, traditions and values alive as best he could. He always believed that the first born child is always the special child. He valued his sons over his daughters, which is a Chinese custom. He had his brother read to him the daily Chinese newspaper every morning. He believed in the way Chinese dealt with disease and the medication / herbs they should be receiving. He felt it was okay to leave his fourteen year old son, Eddy, behind in China to care for his grandmother.
He also felt entitled to have multiple wives, which is the reason why his marriage to the only women, who he married for love, came to an end. He tried to follow the Chinese customs in his personal and private life, but due to his wife interfering he was unsuccessful. Americans accepted Fong See because of his success, in which caused Fong See to want to be like them, an American. He did not want to be associated as an immigrant from China because they were looked down upon. He started to dress like a successful American business man and eventually he wanted his children to just attend American school.
He spoiled his children. He had a passion for cars and at one point was buying a new car once a year. He liked to flash his wealth to others because he wanted to be accepted into American society. He wanted to impress the Americans and overall get their approval for him to belong in that American society, to be able to be referred to as an American and not a Chinese immigrant. Fong See’s third marriage to Ngon Hung held more Chinese traditions and values compared to his first marriage. Unlike Letticie, Ngon never argued with Fong See.
It is Chinese custom that the woman obeys and does everything that is asked or expected of her from her husband. Their children attended Chinese schools. Fong see did not allow his daughter to join Girl Scouts. He also stopped dressing in his three piece suits and went back to dressing like the Chinese did. “…he’d become more Chinese. He’s abandoned his neatly tailored three-piece suits for mandarin robes. He’d relinquished his natty lizard-skin shoes for the comfortable cloth slippers he sold in his shop.
He’d forgotten his English- or pretended to have done so. ” (See, 246). He wanted to desert his “American ways. ” Fong See was successful in being accepted publicly as a member of American society to a certain extent, which was during his second marriage to Letticie. Although, I do not think he was fully accepted 100%, due to his Chinese characteristics. He was also unsuccessful in keeping his Chinese traditions with his second marriage because Letticie did not allow him to raise the children the way he wanted to, by following Chinese customs.
In his third marriage to Ngon Hung, he was unsuccessful in being accepted as a member of American society, but by choice. What he had achieved in his life before Ngon, it seems as though he did not want that type of life anymore. He let go of his American ways that he had worked hard at one point to achieve. I think it had to do with him missing his American wife, Letticie and trying to forget that he lost the love of his life. However, in his third marriage with Ngon Hung he was successful in maintaining his Chinese traditions.
He did everything possible to keep his Chinese traditions and values alive. His actions proved it, like when he changed the way he dressed and the fact that he supposedly forgot how to speak in English. He started speaking only Chinese, started dressing like his fellow immigrants and he even stopped flashing his wealth to follow and look like his fellow Chinese immigrants. He was still somewhat successful in business and was letting go of his American status and by doing so, he succeed in maintaining his Chinese traditions.
In conclusion, Fong See struggled in being accepted publicly as a member of American Society and he also struggled with trying to keep his Chinese traditions and values with his families. In his second marriage, he succeeded in being accepted by the American society, but was not as successful with his Chinese traditions. However, in his third marriage, he was successful in maintaining all his Chinese traditions, but even though he was accepted by American society, he tried to lose his American ways by choice.
Cite this On Gold Mountain by Lisa See
On Gold Mountain by Lisa See. (2018, May 04). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/on-gold-mountain-by-lisa-see-essay/