Analysis Of Anne Fadiman's Book 'The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down'

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In Anne Fadiman’s book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, two cultures clash with each other in the struggle to save Lia Lee, a Hmong child refugee with severe epilepsy. Although Lee and her family live in the United States, and thus receive medical care from Westerners, her family believes that Lee’s condition is sacred and special. The following miscommunications, both culturally and lingually, between the American doctors and the Lee family leave Lia Lee in comatose at the end of the book. However, Lia Lee could have been saved if the Lee’s had a better understanding of the American doctors’ intentions, and the American doctors understood the Hmong culture. Essentially, the tragedy of Lia Lee can be attributed to the clash of American and Hmong cultures at both the surface and sub-surface level. Anthropologist Edward Hall introduced the concept of the iceberg analogy regarding culture. The iceberg analogy is simple to understand, there are aspects of culture, such as cuisine, language, and clothing, which are easy to identify; these characteristics are the “tip of the iceberg”. However, many aspects of the culture cannot be seen or identified quickly at a surface level. These facets are below the waterline on the iceberg analogy. Essentially, Hall’s hypothesis is that cultures mainly clash below the water line. Basically, the main points of conflict between cultures includes differing ideals, values, and beliefs. In The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,

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