Hmong Parallelism

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In The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman uses careful comparisons and contrasts to appeal to the emotions of readers. Throughout the novel, Fadiman explores different scenarios that are encountered by the Hmong that would make anyone feel frightened. Through these scenarios, we discover what the Hmong have had to endure in order to make a small amount of progress. Some of the individuals in the novel we encounter, including Dr. Robert Small, see the Hmong as “ignorant” and “almost a Stone Age people”. However, some individuals such as the social worker to Lia Lee, Jeanine Hilt, and the author of the novel understand why the Hmong reacted the way they did to the doctors. Many of the Hmong felt their culture slipping from the…show more content…
In most of the novel, Fadiman alternates between the specific story of Lia and her family and the general history of the Hmong. She begins at the very beginning of Lia’s story and she tries her best to date the Hmong as far back in history as possible. In comparison, both elements of the story have three main elements: suffering, struggle, and survival. In particular, intense moments of both mental and physical suffering are observed in these parallel stories. Lia clearly endures physical suffering from her violent seizures and the Hmong who had to flee their home country had to walk for miles at a time in large packs. Lia’s parents endured great mental suffering from taking care of Lia 24/7 and the Hmong had to witness their own men being taken away to fight in war, never to return. Continuing with comparison, the plight of the American doctors is as difficult as the Hmong at points. Some of the doctors did have their varying opinions, but most really just wanted to feel that they did their job to the fullest extent. Many hours and thousands of dollars were spent on Lia and her condition. One could say that Fadiman does have bias towards the Hmong, but if she had chosen to completely side with them, she wouldn’t have mentioned the third element of suffering: the doctors who wanted to better a
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