East Goes West

One of the first works of fiction written by an Asian immigrant to the United States, Kang's novel describes his early adulthood with a poignant humor that touches not only on his most positive experiences in a new country--such as being befriended by other Korean Americans--but also on some of his worst: the time when college classmates convinced him to run a race in long underwear. Kang, however, never forces us to feel sorry for him; simply by relating his experiences to us in a uniquely crafted language that reflects both his extensive literary training and his own quirky sense of style, Kang manages to win our sympathy for an obviously gifted young man who faces discrimination and hardship during his first years away from home

His struggle was long and hard, but he made the reader see the full picture. The joys, the downfalls, and even the times where he thought he could just give up. By making us relate to him, the reader could understand what they so previously where oblivious to. I responded very favorably to his view of Korean culture but found his criticism of American culture distasteful.

I did not fully receive the effect of Kang's humor until reaching the final sentence of the story. Before the final scene, Kang's wit serves the purpose of elevating the Asian Han in the eyes of his audience, but ultimately, it has a more serious, lingering effect. Ironically, it reveals the life of this character to be tragic, hopeless, and not at all amusing. The final line, delivered by Han's mistress, dismisses him from his post, for she requested "a house servant, not a comedian" (2001). Kang thus suggests here that regardless of the amount of effort Han puts into his work and no matter how honest his intentions, he will never be taken seriously nor given a chance to assimilate and improve upon his mistakes. Although he was expected "to work from morning to night" and "had never had to work so hard in his life with no time to himself," his intentions were never regarded as anything but lazy and laughter provoking. Upon learning that he is to be fired, he offers one final, wholehearted attempt to please an unsatisfiable woman: "But hoping still to make good, I dragged the vacuum cleaner in to do the living room, my usual morning task. The girl as usual giggled when she saw me. But the lady did not". At this point, Han should warrant no laughter, for he is not acting facetious or bold; thus, the reader can finally awaken to the tragedy of the story, understanding that this main character has no control over his own destiny. In this case, his fate was decided by an eighteen-year-old white girl who finds the mishaps of the houseboy hysterical.

Younghill Kang realized that humor was a necessary element in portraying racism to an early nineteenth century audience, for if kept under the guise of comedy, this unsavory topic became digestible. In East Goes West, humor becomes the deciding factor in the status of a character. Americans tend to appreciate and gravitate towards Han's gentle humor while detesting the malicious laughter of the wealthy, white children. Because she is portrayed as devoid of humor, the white employer who represents a class of the American population evokes no respect from the reader. Adroitly, the author has aligned his Caucasian audience with the young Asian Han, and comedy has triumphed over racism. Although Kang's humor provides comedic relief for the highly charged subject of racism, it ironically serves as well to poignantly demonstrate the desperation of the situations of most Korean American men at the time, as the only humor remaining at the end is that of cruel laughter.

I liked this book a lot even it was long, and boring at some parts, it gave me an in site to the Koran-American culture. Some books just tell a tale of how hard it was, but those books mostly have no feeling to them, unlike this one. I might read some of his other works seeing how this one was very interesting. When he told about how some thing looked or smelled, or how he felt, I related on a different level, so I understood where it was coming from.