Mrs. Spring Fragrance
Sui Sin Far portrays the effects of “Americanization” on the Chinese who arrived in America during the early 1900’s, in her story of “Mrs. Spring Fragrance”. She describes the processes that the Chinese characters in the story undergo as they slowly begin to accept the American culture as their own. She shows how they become “Americanized”, yet shows how they are still rooted in the Chinese tradition. The piece is presented in a lighthearted tone yet deals with issues of national and cultural identity.
In the beginning of the story, the author describes the Chin Yuen’s as American in appearance yet Chinese in customs. Throughout the story she continues to describe the deterioration of the Chinese customs by American ideal. This is pinpointed when Mr. Chin Yuen decides to let his daughter marry the boy that she loves. The conversation that Mr. Spring Fragrance has with Young Carman explains that only in American culture is it customary to find love before marriage; in the Chinese tradition, all marriages are arranged. This clearly exemplifies the manner in which the Chinese characters are more and more disregarding their Chinese culture and taking on this new American standard of living. Ironically, Sui Sin Far conveys the notion that the American tradition is not necessarily better than the Chinese tradition. More so she demonstrates the struggle of identity between two worlds that both make sense. Though Laura and Kai Tzu have found their happiness in the American tradition of marriage, the reader discovers that Mr. and Mrs. Spring Fragrance are equally as happy even through the Chinese tradition of marriage.
Sui Sin Far is however, attempting to communicate how the Americans are brainwashing the Chinese into thinking that the American tradition is much more sensible than the Chinese tradition. This is demonstrated through Mr. Spring Fragrance’s conversation with Young Carman and also the lecture that Mrs. Spring Fragrance attended in San Francisco. Young Carman voices the general ideal of America being a ‘high class’ country where everyone is treated equally important. He disregards Mr. Spring Fragrance’s inquiries about his brother in the detention pen and instead turns the tables on him, blaming the Chinese for compelling Americans to do what is against their principles. Ironically, Mr. Spring Fragrance offers apologies on behalf of the Chinese unaware that Young Carman’s argument does not make any logical sense. Similarly, Mrs. Spring Fragrance was also convinced that America was a wonderful country protecting her and the other Chinese immigrants. The lecture she attended was entitled “America, the Protector of China” and argued that the government was justified in taking more money from the Chinese than the Americans and in detaining those who try to immigrate into the country, for in return they were receiving shelter and protection. Once again, the argument seems absurd to the reader, yet to Mrs. Spring Fragrance it seems logical.
The story of “Mrs. Spring Fragrance” depicts the struggle for the Chinese to live by the American standards while trying to preserve the Chinese culture. The reader understands that American society makes it impossible to realize that both cultures are valid, therefore, the Chinese, as a result of “Americanization” slowly begins to disregard their native heritage and culture.