Sullied, and Sullen: Emotional Outpour

The detainment of the Chinese shattered their hopes for prosperity and happiness. As a result, the wooden building of Angel Island housed their growing resentment, humiliation, and outrage. The poetry reflects the change from optimism and a love of America to pessimism and a scorn of the nation that failed them. Poem 25 says, "I have infinite feelings that the ocean has changed into a mulberry grove" (Lai 60). The "mulberry grove" is a Chinese idiom representing "significant change" (Lai 60). One Chinese grieves, America has power, but not justice. "I bow my head in reflection but there is nothing I can do" (Poem 22 from Lai 58). When dreams of better economic opportunities and freedom never came true, the Chinese grew outraged at America, which they initially called "Golden Gate" and "Flowery Flag" (Poem 9 from Lai 40). This outrage developed into a desire for vengeance against the American institution which imprisoned them from any chance at life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. The author of Poem 44 writes, "If the land of the Flowery flag is occupied by us in turn, / The wooden building will be left for the angel's revenge" (Lai 92). Expressing a similar passion for retribution, Poem 42 says, "An advantageous position for revenge will surely come one day" (Lai 92). Poem 43 even addresses Chinese people directly, urging, "My fellow countrymen, have foresight, plan to be resolute, / And vow to conquer the U.S. and avenge previous wrongs!" (Lai 92). The detained Chinese resented their victimized identity and scorned the abusive nation. Underneath all the outrage lay humiliation. Some were ashamed by their hopelessness. One person writes, "Impetuously, I threw away my writing brush. / My efforts have all been in vain" (Poem 25 from Lai 60). The detainment thus instilled a pattern of internal, personal shame. The poetry is a reminder of the blight of personal and emotional existence of the detained Chinese.

 

Introduction | Voyage | Family and Dreams | Poetry | Conclusion

 

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