Asian American Literature Reading Response 4

As the trimester almost winds down to an end, the class has completed the reading of “Native Speaker”. In the end of Chang-Rae Lee’s work, Henry’s narrative of his story finally reaches a resolution; Henry finally separates himself from his profession of corporate spying, and more importantly, he begins to adjust to a new life with Lelia. Through his contact with John Kwang and his work at Glimmer & Company, Henry has obtained a clearer understanding of who he really is. However, the process of self-discovery for Henry could not be accomplished without his reflecting on his father, his relationship with Glimmer & Company and the company of Lelia.

It is interesting to see that, throughout the novel, Henry is constantly looking to his family and his work in order to ultimately come to a realization of the self. This idea that he needs the presence of others to define himself speaks about the passivity of Henry’s character. In fact, at one point of the novel, Henry reflects that “When I was a boy I wouldn’t join any school club or organization before a member first approached me. I wouldn’t eat or sleep at a friend’s house if it weren’t prearranged. I never assumed anyone would be generous to me, or in any way helpful. I never considered it my right to expect approval or sanction no matter what good I had done. My father always reminded me that neither he nor the world owed me a penny or a prayer, though he left me millions of one and braying echoes of another”. This long self reflection demonstrates how passivity was part of Henry’s identity ever since he was young. The environment in which Henry had his childhood was not conducive to developing one’s personality. Again, Henry’s reflection on past subtly shapes his actions in the present.

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