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Resisting Sweet and Sour, and shifting genders in Timothy Mo's Sour Sweet/Timothy Mo'nun Sweet and Sour Romaninda aci ve tatliya direnc, ve degisen cinsiyet rolleri.

Timothy Mo'nun Sour Sweet romani, Britanya'daki gocmenlein guc iliskilerinde ve cinsiyet rollerinde yasadiklari degisimleri sorgulayan bir romandir. Bu calisma gocmen bir Cinli ailenin aile ici iliskilerde yasadigi degisimlere odaklanmayi ve degisen cinsiyet rollerini cozumlemeyi amaclamaktadir. Goc yalnizca cinsiyet rollerinde ve aile ici iliskilerde degisikliklere yol acmaz, ayni zamanda kulturel melezlesmeye de neden olur. Bu melezlesme icinde, tum gocmenler ev sahibi kulture karsi direnc cizgilerini belirlemeye calisirlar. Ancak, bir sure sonra, direnc cizgileri esner ve direnc artik unutulmus bir kosul olarak kalir.

Timothy Mo is a British author of Cantonese origin. His novels are about the definitions and redefinitions of hybrid identities in multicultural London. His first two novels The Monkey King and Sour Sweet have been acclaimed as the most prominent of his novels about the identity problems of the post-colonial Chinese community in Britain. His second novel Sour Sweet, published in 1982, is a novel about the immigrant experience in Britain, questioning the modified power relationships of a migrant Chinese couple in London in the 1960s. The novel underlines the dilemmatic situation of Lily and Chen, caused by their constantly changing gender roles after migration. Having to make a choice between their old and new cultural values, they are obliged to break with cultural expectations and, to some extent, exchange gender roles. While, in a broader sense, the novel underlines the general hardships and culturally contradicting situations faced by the migrants in daily life, it specifically attempts to focus on familial relations and tensions of the Chens in order to highlight how migration affects gender roles and power relationships within a family. Mo represents the Chen family's rejection of English values and resistance to cultural assimilation in their isolated life among all the symbolic Englishness, without ignoring the fact that the family cannot avoid approaching those rejected values inch by inch everyday.

Sour Sweet recounts the story of the Chen family in London during the 1960s and relates their story to the Chinese community in London. Consisting of thirty-six chapters, the novel contains two overlapping plots: one is the simple life struggle of the Chen family; the other is the violent story of the Chinese triads. The two stories eclipse each other and they are narrated in alternate chapters, making the reader meander between a peaceful family story and fierce gangster violence.

Mr. Chen, who has been working in a Chinese restaurant in Liverpool, goes to his home village for holiday and meets his future wife Lily at a party: "She had been wearing a dab of 4711 cologne at the dance where she met Husband. This function had taken place in his home village of Tung San. It had been thrown for emigrant bachelors like himself in search of wives to take back to Europe" (4). They get to know each other and marry during a short summer break and go to England as a newly wed couple. After getting married, Chen moves to London with his bride. The novel centres on their marriage life in the isolated Chinese community in London and begins in the fourth year of their stay in the UK. The author depicts Chinese migrants as the central characters and the English as the peripheral throughout the novel in order to emphasise the isolation of the migrants. As Lars Ole Sauerberg suggests, Mo deploys the English people only as "extras" in Sour Sweet (130). When their son Man Kee is born, Lily's sister Mui comes from the homeland to live with them and help Lily with the housework. However, Mui is in a cultural shock, and refuses to go out of the flat and watches TV all the time. She even turns her back to the window and the courtyard below, in order to reject her new environment. She wants to occupy herself with the created Chinese interior of their household, rather than being distracted by the exterior Englishness. Nevertheless, she eventually gets over her shock and even starts to go out after saving her nephew when he falls off the window sill.

Lily, who has saved a considerable amount from the housekeeping money provided by her husband, is not satisfied with what Chen earns. She strongly desires to start up their own business in order to invest her savings on what she thinks would be the most profitable thing to do, and frequently asks her husband:
   'Who does business better, Husband, Chinese man or Indian man?' She
   was not sure what she was going to throw her efforts behind but she
   did know there was money to be made somewhere: for [their son's]
   education, for a motor-car, for a bigger television, maybe a colour
   set. (7)


She not only keeps a track of a sort of competition between emigrating nations, but also complies with the mainstream understanding of all migrants: making money as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, Chen's father gets into financial trouble over a land dispute with his neighbours and asks his son to send him a large sum of money, an amount that is impossible to cover with Lily's savings. Although Chen originally wanted to get away from his own people, he turns to them to raise the amount that his father requires, and borrows it from the lenders in the Chinese community whom he meets through a friend, called Roman, at his workplace. Roman, being a gambler, first convinces Chen to gamble for the money he needs, but then arranges the money from the triads after Chen's failure at gambling. Thus, Chen complies with his "traditional duty towards his father" (Sauerberg 130), because he considered himself as "conscientious about sending money to his father as when he had been single. He was a dutiful son" (60). Afterwards, Chen agrees with his wife to open a food counter in the suburbs, intending, in hindsight, to go away from central London, once he realises the difficulty of paying the debt.

The two overlapping plots of the novel create suspense in the storyline because Chen's creditors are the members of a leading Chinese gang in London. In their food counter, which they run next to a garage owned by a Greek mechanic named Mr. Constantinides, Chen hides away in the kitchen doing all the cooking, while Lily and his sister-in-law Mui conduct all the counter-service at the till. When they start receiving anonymous phone calls, probably from the triads although not mentioned explicitly, Chen begins to meet his lender at the back of Mr. Constantinides's garage, to whom he introduces the triad as his brother-in-law. He manages to keep his trouble secret. However, he takes up gardening, quietly leaving all the work and management to his wife and sister-in-law. Following a silent pact between herself and her husband, Lily kindly accepts her husband's silence. Even Man Kee joins his father in the garden. As a result, Chen gets more domestic and looks after their son while Lily becomes the breadwinner, reversing the traditional gender roles, which used to be the other way round on their first arrival in the UK.

Mo includes many stories in the novel, providing his narration with a multilayered structure: After the death of his mother, Chen's father arrives in the UK and starts living with them. Mui gets pregnant, but she never reveals the father's name. It is hinted in the novel that the father is one of the lorry drivers that stop by Mr. Constantinides's garage and buy food from their shop. The novel tracks the story of the Chens until Chen himself disappears suddenly, and Mui gets married to Mr. Lo, a friend of Chen's in his former workplace. This multi-layered structure appears to symbolise the abrupt changes in the habits and attitudes of the characters in the novel.

The aim of this study is to analyse the modified gender roles in the Chen family after migration. It will also focus on, in Childs et al.'s terms, "the lines of resistance" (26) in the context of migration, and question whether or not the Chen family in Mo's representation become "more English than English" (Ashcroft et al. 195). It is also important to point out Elleke Boehmer's view that Timothy Mo is one of the writers that "produced definitions of postcolonial literature as almost necessarily cosmopolitan, transplanted, multilingual, and conversant with the cultural codes of the West" (237).

Elaine Yee Ho points out that the novel's discourse "focuses on the family as the site of cultural tradition, identity formation and social relation" (51). However, as the Chens try to preserve their cultural values, their struggle to survive at their new homeland leaves them in uncertainty. In the first four years, they cannot form a new identity due to the lack of social relations, at least before opening their own shop, and they also fail to protect the site of their cultural tradition. The memorable opening sentence of the novel underlines this paradox faced by all migrants: "The Chens had been living in the UK for four years, which was long enough to have lost their place in the society from which they had emigrated but not long enough to feel comfortable in the new" (1).

This paradoxical situation is, somehow, endurable, because the UK is described by the author as the "land of promise" (1). As they eventually lose their ties with the homeland and their traditions, they hardly find a comfortable position, because although the UK is a "land of promise" Chen still regards himself as an "interloper" and a gatecrasher (1). Despite the fact that "no one had yet assaulted" him, he "felt it in his bones, could sense it between his shoulder-blades as he walked past emptying public houses on his day off" (1). Foregrounding the virtual pressure over Chen's shoulders, Mo depicts how overwhelming the English surrounding can be on the Chen family, and how much it alienates them.

They are frequently reminded of their alienation by the fact that the flat they live in is so much desired by the white English people, which makes them feel more of a foreigner there (1), although they try to make a home out of it for themselves. Chen feels that he is more secure with other migrants: "A huge West Indian bus conductor regularly undercharged him on his morning journey to work. He knew because the English one charged him three pence more. Chen was sure the black man's mistake was deliberate" (1). As a result, the immigrants mutually understand and acknowledge each other's alienation and isolation. In other words, immigrants create solidarity among themselves.

Although Chen works in a restaurant, his wife Lily prepares an evening meal for her husband, because she intends to continue her cultural tradition. She likes to do "things in the 'Chinese' way" and migration "only serves to intensify this given identity" (Ho 54):
   Lily Chen always prepared an 'evening' snack for her husband to
   consume on his return at 1.15 a.m. This was not strictly necessary
   since Chen enjoyed at the unusually late hour of 11.45 p.m. what
   the boss boasted was the best employee's dinner in any restaurant.
   (2)


She believes that she would fail to be a proper wife otherwise, so Chen has to have a strong, spicy and hot soup cooked according to authentic Chinese recipes. Lily acts as a "model of the wife's servitude to the husband, rigid but unimpeachable" because she is attached to "her inherited gender role" (Ho 56). As food functions as a "cultural currency" for their communication (Ho 55), the soup ritual continues every night. She is not yet aware of what the UK, her new homeland, might offer her in terms of gender equality in public space. In the meantime, she continues her role as a dutiful housewife in her limited domestic life, which is ornamented by Chinese understanding and traditions. Lily's situation exemplifies a typical depiction of the wives of immigrants. They are brought to a new country by their husbands who confine them into households which are usually surrounded by an alien host culture. Moreover, they are generally required to resume their traditional duties while being alienated.

Lily's journey to the UK is a remarkable example of a new migrant's first flight to an alien land. Lily exemplifies a provincial, traditional woman -an inexperienced flyer- to be attended to during a flight:
   Chen buckled his wife's safety-belt for her, held his own clammy
   pad against her cool, dry palm during take-off and, whenever
   necessary, escorted her to the rear of the cabin, standing guard at
   the flimsy-looking door and eventually starting a large queue
   before the assembled eyes of which the Chens returned to their
   seats. (6)


This tragi-comic depiction of how much Lily needs protection and attendance signposts her confinement in her new home. After settling down, they find themselves more alienated, or in other words, surrounded by the host culture, making them feel they are different and alien. However, the accusing looks also provide Chen with a mutual perspective:
   Chen supposed that the English [women] stared at him because he was
   Chinese and he squinted obligingly at them while he shuffled his
   feet and waited for the bus. This staring no longer disconcerted,
   although he found the accusatory quality of the stares puzzling.
   There was a reassuring anonymity about his foreign-ness, Chen
   understood: a lot of westerners looked the same to him too. (9)


The clothes they wear while going to look for a house and a shop to rent make them more distinctive and alien surrounded by a typically English environment (81- 82). The fact that alarm cords in the buses are placed so conveniently, making them easy to pull, is considered as the "irresponsibility of the English authorities" (82), which points out a cultural prejudice.

This alienation and isolation of the family manifest their most powerful effect especially on Mui who finds asylum and self-identification in TV soap operas (17). She spends all her time in front of the TV, and she does not understand the names of the characters in TV series: "She gave the characters the names of her own devising; Boy, Hairnet, Drinker, Cripple, Crafty, Bad Girl. The composite picture she was able to glean of the British population was an alarming one. More than ever, she was reluctant to leave the flat" (10). By Mui's engagement with the TV, the author reflects a new arrival's integration to a new culture through soap operas on TV in order to "induct [herself] into 'British' society" and "acquire basic English idioms of social exchange" (Ho 61). As a result of her transfixion into soap operas, Mui eventually acquires a better command of English than her sister Lily. Her good command of English is due to her intense interest in soap operas on TV, her gradually growing confidence and her negotiation skills with people.

As Mui improves her English, Lily resists the changes "that geographical relocation inevitably brings to her own family in London" (Ho 53), because she has more masculine qualities. Despite living in England, for instance, they comply with their own traditions and follow the husband loyally (84), or admit his authority without questioning it: "You know best, Husband" (86). In other words, they preserve the "patriarchal hierarchy" (Ho 56).

Staring becomes a cultural barrier for them because when they stare they do not realize it may prompt anger in English people: "The English were peppery, often manufacturing pretexts for anger where non reasonably existed: a stare held too long, failure to meet their round eye at all" (83). As Sauerberg points out, "the tables of prejudice are turned on the English" and Mo smoothly counters the stereotypical Western anticipation of non-reasonable oriental anger and also non-reasonable oriental corruption (132).

Homi K. Bhabha asserts that the geographical relocation, caused by migration, puts people into "in-between spaces" that provide "new signs of identity" (1994: 1). Although Lily resists new identities in order to avoid cultural assimilation, she begins to gain new roles as the result of the changes in her responsibilities. When they buy an old second hand van, a new problem of responsibility comes into being in their familial roles:
   Now here was an embarrassing problem. On learning none of them
   could drive, the man who had sold them the van had kindly offered
   to give a few lessons. Chen was the obvious recipient. The girls
   did not wish to trespass on what was obviously a male prerogative.
   Chen himself was keen to learn. The trouble was he had no aptitude,
   none at all. That much was made plain within fifteen minutes of the
   first lesson. (148)


After a few more attempts at driving, their instructor concludes that Chan is not mechanical enough to drive. However, Lily turns out to be more "mechanical" than her husband and becomes the driver of the family, trespassing on a "male prerogative" (150):
   She and Mui went out to the van together. 'I'm sure it can't be
   that difficult,' Lily reflected. She opened the left-hand door with
   caution and slipped gracefully into the driving seat. She could
   reach the pedals easily enough with those legs that belonged on a
   Northerner. (150)


This, once again, alludes to the masculine characteristics that she acquires after migrating to the UK, because contrary to her traditionally constructed gender roles, she now finds herself having to take on responsibilities like running the shop or driving the family car. Although driving or running business are traditionally classified as areas under male sovereignty, Lily and her sister are more in the control of this service business. Moreover, her driving prompts a new confidence in her. It gives her the liberty to get around outside the shop. She now has the control over shopping for their food counter. Through her driving experience, Lily acquires such a confidence that she even vilifies English people, relying on her prejudices. She believes that the English also have tendency towards bribery:
   Of course, she didn't intend to take anything so mundane as a
   driving test.... Mui wasn't happy about this. She reminded Lily of
   the large fines, the possibility, even, of prison. Lily scoffed. "I
   shall put a small tea money in a plastic folder. That'll be my
   licence, Mui." (152)


This underlines the proposition that members of different cultures tend to have prejudices against each other. In Lily's case, there is a cultural tendency of morally purifying the "self" and vilifying the "other". Sauerberg regards this as Mo's reversal of stereotypical Western assumption that "non-WASPish" parts of the world have tendency towards bribery (132).

Mui, because of her better command of English, starts working at the till and dealing with the officials. This position contradicts her situation upon her arrival in London. She acts as an independent lady who has overcome her cultural shock and started to gain a new female identity, which is rather different from the one she grew up with in China. Although Mui still remains both marginal and mysterious in the narration of the novel, being confined within the Chen family, she begins "to recognise and identify with the outside world", which liberates her from "most of the racial and cultural prejudices" against the English (Ho 61). As she improves her English, she begins to find an easier access to the host culture and receives acceptance in public space. This brings, as a result, a rather abrupt shift in her personality. While keeping her femininity, she finds herself more liberated both culturally and sexually, as she experiences sexual relationships with English lorry drivers. This suggests liberation from the cultural boundaries of her upbringing, a liberation provided by the host culture. However, the situation is problematic here. Cultural assimilation, regarded as degrading and, thus, usually avoided by immigrants, provides liberation in terms of gender equality.

After starting their own business, Chen begins to realise for the first time that Lily and Mui have a livelier life than he presumed: "Life had been going on behind his back", which is something he never realised (108). This is where the important difference between genders occurs. Chen notices that the ladies have dominance in the household matters, contrary to his assumptions that they keep an isolated and a rather limited life. Being brought up by Chinese traditional patriarchy and having never been accustomed to seeing Chinese women so dominant, Chen is surprised by their alertness and awareness about business. The gender roles, therefore, start to clash in the sense that, as Chris Barker puts, "gender is a cultural construct" and "it is open to change" (2000: 187). Chen gets angry at Lily's suggestions about the financial matters and primly says "You think wife tells Husband what to do?" (107) although it is Lily who deals with all the financial matters. The strong alliance between the two sisters enables them to command the business (109), converting the gender roles totally. As a result, Chen regresses in his masculinity. He is no longer the breadwinner, which is caused by

Mui and Lily's better negotiation and service skills in the food counter. The sisters use their traditional ability of serving in the service business. However, the regression in Chen's masculinity is not only because of his wife's and sister-in-law's better service skills. He deliberately confines himself within the back-kitchen, because he escapes from the Chinese triads from whom he borrowed the money to be sent to his father, a fact the ladies are unaware of. His work in the kitchen provides a shelter not only for himself, but also for his family, because by doing so, he protects his family from possible attacks, too. He is not in the front, so he is unseen. As an inevitable result of this he regresses in his masculinity in terms of his prescribed gender roles. Nevertheless, he is still the protector of the family in hindsight.

As they work in the counter, Lilly and Mui begin to acquire different prejudices and varied approaches against English people. The more Mui gets to know them, the more she is able to tell English people apart, but they all "looked the same" to Lily (137). Mui's new opinions, like taking side with the English people or taking up an impartial approach, seem to Lily to be the act of a traitor. While Lily thinks the English exploit them, Mui disagrees with her:

"Really, those foreign devils just try to exploit us all the time," said Lily, on the verge of angry tears back in the kitchen.

"Don't you think we do the same to them?" [said Mui]. (147)

Gradually, their habits change in compliance with their new home, and they begin to celebrate Christmas. The smell of their kitchen is alienated for Chen. He thinks they are becoming English, an inevitable fact that annoys him. This assimilation begins to be felt through the smell of their kitchen: "The smells, wafting through the wide-flung windows, were so evocative of the locale, so English, so indescribably alien, they set his nerves tingling, quickened his pulse: aroma of compounded of creosote, wood- smoke, pipe tobacco, grass and mud" (135).

Even though they try hard to Anglicise themselves, their Englishness is the reflection of post-colonial hybridity. Like in all post-colonial novels, the native words are deployed within the English text: "What do the gwai lo sing, Brother-in- law?" (83). When Chen begins to take over his son's care in fear that the boy is being effeminated by the two ladies in the household, another example of the vernacular words occurs. Chen uses the two terms "denoting female and male cosmic forces in Taoist belief" (Ho 58-59): "Let yang balance yin" (110). However, he does not realise that the gender roles are totally displaced by this take-over. His original purpose is to balance Man Kee's female qualities with some masculinity, because he thinks his son spends too much time with the ladies who have a stronger control of his development. In an attempt to balance femininity with masculinity, he does not realise that his gender role has long shifted.

Although they speak English while serving the customers, their voice, used to the intonations of their mother tongue, is shrill and lifeless in English (135). Similarly, like their language use, the food they serve is also hybridised, and on a busy schedule, what is served as Chinese food is far away from its authenticity (138). Like the characters who cook it, the food also suffers from a shift in its identity. Mo also playfully alludes to the notion of cultural hybridity in the restaurant's name. There is a pun about the native word DAH LING, the name of their village, by which they call their restaurant. The word inevitably recalls the English word "darling" (95). This is a situation of hybridity and a cultural clash. However, they do not realise that they fall into amusing situations when they answer the phone by saying the name of their shop.

At the end of the novel, Chen disappears suddenly one afternoon. Lily looks for him all over Chinatown in London hoping that he has gone there to see his friends. She even suspects that Chen has left her for another woman, which she believes is a very unlikely possibility. After a while, she loses all her hope and begins to face the circumstances without her husband. She becomes "effectively a single mother--a very 'un-Chinese' family formation - she would never dream of considering herself as such" and transforms herself from "being a victim of external circumstances" to "becoming an agent in her self-transformation" (Ho 59-60). Months later, an envelope, full of money, arrives through the post, bearing no name of the sender. The letter gives away that Chen disappeared to flee to Holland for a better-paid job. In the novel, it is never revealed to Lily that Chen has gone away to escape from his creditors, but only hinted that he tries to make them lose his track. In order to preserve his anonymity, he never includes a letter in the envelope, and does not write his address on it.

Besides the Chens, the novel has characters from Chinatown including the staff in the restaurant where Chen used to work; Mr Lo, Chen's colleague who marries Mui at the end; and Mrs Law, a rich and elderly Chinese lady. By deploying a character like Mrs. Law, Mo underlines the fact that the Chinatown is not only composed of the postcolonial migrant workers in London, but also rich elite Chinese people. Mrs. Law becomes a family friend of the Chens and offers Mui shelter before her illegitimate daughter is born.

The novel further analyses the relationship between Lily and her son, Man Kee:
   The mother's determination to shape her son within a single
   tradition, and thus perpetuate her cultural heritage, comes up most
   sharply against the equally irresistible acculturation of the son
   into 'British' society in the process of education outside the
   family. (Ho 63)


As she becomes the model of an independent single mother, a situation that is seen as the sign of Englishness, the situation of Mui is a stronger example of becoming English. She is not only a single mother before getting married to Mr. Lo, but also gives birth to a hybrid child: an Anglo-Chinese daughter. Her transformation is striking in the sense that she Anglicises herself more visibly than Lily, because she gained access into Englishness.

Yet, both Mui's and Lily's Englishness is symbolic and hybrid. They are alienated from their own culture because they now have rather manipulated identities. Lily has to cope up with the situation of being a single-mother. Besides, she is not only the mother of her son anymore, but also acts like a father figure for her son. Mui, on the other hand, is no more a dependent of the Chen family. She is not a culturally- shocked provincial woman anymore, but a confident, integrated and, yet imperfect, assimilated immigrant with a hybrid child. Ho argues that the characterisation of Mui is problematic, because "the aligning of the 'feminine' in 'Chinese' culture" with skills of negotiation and mediation replicates a "gender stereotype" (62). However, Mui still seems to be outside the cultural gender stereotypes because she proves to be more adaptable than Mui. These adaptive qualities enable her to deal with the legal problems of the family with the British officials.

Childs et al. argue that cultural resistance occurs after colonialism. This type of resistance emerges in two forms: the native resistance to Western control, and Western resistance to history (1997: 26). In other words, indigenous people resist Western culture, while the Westerners pretend that colonisation never took place. In this context, Mo depicts how the immigrants try to determine their "lines of resistance" (Childs et al. 26). They reject Englishness while trying to exploit the English by selling them food that they do not even consider as real Chinese food. It is paradoxical for them to draw a line of resistance. At first they avoid the Western values, which they think would spoil their own values, but then they enlarge these lines of resistance to survive. The first outcome of this enlargement is a sacrifice in the substance of the real Chinese recipes which are very costly and time-consuming. Therefore, they begin to simplify their food. Their simplified food becomes the sign of their assimilation. The real Chinese food, that they try to preserve in their first years in the UK during soup rituals at nights, loses its real taste and flavour. Food, as a cultural significance, becomes Anglicised by English recipes and spices. Same as the situation of the Chens as a family, the Chinese food they serve in their food counter loses its cultural and traditional content although it still looks Chinese in appearance.

The change in the taste and smell of their food symbolises not only their assimilation as a result of their geographical re-location, but also suggests an irreversible shift in their identities and gender roles. The shift in their identities is irreversible, like the food, the taste of which is also irreversible once the ingredients are changed. Their new homeland, as the title of the novel suggests, is the combination of sweet and sour. It is sour despite the financial welfare it offers. As a result cultural resistance becomes, "something of a forgotten subject" (Child 27). They succumb to the inevitable conditions of hybridity.

On the other hand, the English people also resist recognising the existence of the immigrants. When Lily works at the till, she feels like a vending machine into which money is inserted and that expels food in return. Lily and the customers avoid each other's eyes, in a pejorative act of resistance to recognise each other's existence.

This resistance turns out to be a resistance to both cultural values. They resist Englishness, and they reject being Cantonese. Yet, they cannot avoid hybridity that is caused by "the major social displacements", the "political and economic refugees" in which case the homogenous national cultures are subject to transmission of traditions (Bhabha 5). As a result, while Lily remains a single mother struggling to overcome all cultural and economical burdens and to preserve her own self as an abandoned female immigrant; Mui, unaware of her hybridity, is more English than English because she manages to get a British citizenship and knows the ins and outs of the country's laws. However, as Ashcroft et al. argue, there are "varieties of English" which means that "the concept of a standard English has been exploded" and this situation is caused by the very existence of the post-colonial condition (196). Mui, who stands out as the most Anglicised member of the Chen family, is one of those varieties of Englishness. She is now more English than the English because she ends up defending the English people who come to their shop.

The theme of cultural hybridity, as Richard J. Lane and Philip Tew argue, "features strongly in contemporary British fiction, not just as subject matter but as part of the creative act of writing itself," because contemporary authors are aware of "a range of British identities and cultural contexts" (143). Lane and Tew also suggest that "hybridity is not simply an issue of migration but of plural cultural identities" (143). In this context, the hybridity of Sour Sweet is not only the result of migration. It also stems from the fact that Timothy Mo brings together the juxtaposing values in contradicting situations, which have increasingly taken an important place in post-Second World War Britain.

As the members of the Chinese community in multicultural London, the Chen family cannot avoid this hybridity forced by the migrant communities of various cultural origins. In other words, this hybridity is not caused only by migration, but also by the multitude of cultural identities that they come across in London. This situation either results in self-isolation to preserve authenticity, or integration despite inevitable hybridity. What the Chens preferred in the beginning was isolation. However, in a typical understanding of the migrants, they opt for integration to run their own business.

In a very brief conclusion, while they try to resist both sweet and sour, in a symbolic reference to their traditional values, the Chens can neither remain peaceful in exile, nor return home. Although this dilemma puts them in contradictions such as shifted gender roles and modified cultural identities, Timothy Mo's representation of the Chen family is a celebration of hybridity. The Chens, as the metaphorical title of the novel suggests, acquire a hybridised taste, same as their indispensable traditional ingredient.

Works Cited

Aschroft, Bill, Griffiths, Gareth, Tiffin, Helen. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures. London: Routledge, 1989.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage Publications, 2000.

Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London & New York: Routledge, 1994.

Boehmer, Elleke. Colonial & Postcolonial Literature. Oxford & New York: Oxford UP, 1995.

Childs, Peter and Williams, R. J. Patrick. An Introduction to Post-Colonial Theory. London: Prentice Hall, 1997.

Ho, Elaine Yee Lin. Timothy Mo. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2000.

Lane, R. J. and Tew, P.'Part III Cultural Hybridity: Introduction'. Lane, R. J. and Mengham, R. & Tew, P. eds. Contemporary British Fiction. Cambridge: Polity, 2003. 143-144

Mo, Timothy. Sour Sweet. London: Abacus, 1982.

Sauerberg, Lars Ole. Intercultural Voices in Contemporary British Literature. New York: Palgrave, 2001.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Departments of English Language and Literature and American Culture and Literature, Ege University
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Author:Celikel, Mehmet Ali
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Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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