Essay title: Novel Without a Name
In the novella Novel Without a Name, by Duong Thu Huong, the novel is told from the North Vietnamese viewpoint. Already, there is a contrast between the content of this novel, than perhaps, the content of a textbook. Novel Without a Name uses the rhetorical strategy of appeal to emotion.
A central theme that revolves throughout the novel is the act of defiance against oppression, whereas a textbook would be devoid of this. A textbook, such as In Search of Southeast Asia on Vietnam, will focus on statistics and is strictly informational; it does not favor one side or another. Further evidence of this is in the context of each source. If one were to take a look in In Search of Southeast Asia, one would see dates strewn about the pages of the textbook.
The textbook focuses on the chronology of history and conveys no emotion; rather it just states the facts. Historical information in the form of a textbook still proves to be valuable because there is no inferring that one must have to do. There is no perspective from one’s point of view, no imagery. It is probably the most concrete source of information compared to films, novels, and documentaries.
Often times, films and documentaries give the reader’s digest version of their subject, and pertinent information is mentioned briefly or just omitted. Information in the form of a textbook is rich and extremely factual. It is in a textbook, that one would be most likely to find information regarding gender, class, ethnicity, and identity.
The other sources are, more or less, concentrated on one or the other. Essays are same, in the sense that they can be factual as well. However, like a novel, it may be characterized as having a general theme, or view that is prominent throughout the context of the essay.
This may cause for a different portrayal of the Vietnamese gender, class, ethnicity, and identity, based on the writer’s perspective, much like that of Duong Thu Huong and her perspective of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.Novel Without a Name is a narrative. It focuses on the story of a North Vietnamese soldier named, Quan, and his hardships throughout the Vietnam War, such as the book is very surreal and disturbing. As a result of writing about the North Vietnamese and the portraying of Vietnam’s plight during the war, Huang’s novel was banned and she was imprisoned. Many Vietnamese found the novel to be an unflattering and subversive account of the Vietnam War. This notion may coincide with an identity crisis in Vietnam.
After having many Vietnamese flee Vietnam to other countries during the war, and with Vietnam in a flux with foreign relations after the war, the Vietnamese have struggled for a decent image in the war’s aftermath. Huong’s account of the war only fanned the flames of what were the dying embers of the past. Having the novel from the account of the North Vietnamese established a myopic view of the good and the bad of Vietnam. There was no in between and readers saw only the good and the bad. This was detrimental to the Vietnamese identity and ideally, swayed the way others viewed the Vietnamese or Vietnam in general.
However, the scorch marks of the war will always remain and that is where Huong’s novel does justice in depicting what cannot be forgotten.Other aspects that are devoid in other texts, with the exception of those similar to Novel Without a Name, are symbolism and personification used to portray identity. Though much of the novel takes place in the jungle, which plays an integral part, almost as a character would, so too does the war, itself. The war seems to move about in almost beastlike fashion, with little regard for whom it “eats.” Quan’s soldiers become beasts themselves, killing because they like it, desecrating the bodies of their enemies. There is no meaning in the acts, and no redemption for their decisions.
These are young men whose lives have but one purpose: kill. Huong writes that the soldier’s dreams, love, and lives were all swallowed up by the mass propaganda machine of the communist powers. In a sense, Quan’s soldiers becoming beasts serves as a macrocosm for the Vietnamese people. The war has shaped them into beasts and the Vietnamese people do not want Huong’s novel to manifest itself into mainstream society and shape the way others view what the Vietnamese people may be like.
Novel Without a Name depicts the very real ugliness of war, and how one searches for meaning, even in the middle of prolonged suffering. The same could be said about the Vietnamese. The banning of a novel can.