Tripmaster Monkey Wittman Character Analysis

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In Tripmaster Monkey by Maxine Hong Kingston, the main character Wittman is a highly educated artist who searches to find a way to simultaneously express himself as an artist and fit within a community. When we meet him, he has not yet discovered how to express his art in a way that is acceptable either to the Chinese American or white American communities. He is a fourth generation Chinese American who finds himself marginalized by the white American community because he is viewed as Chinese, but he is also not accepted by the Chinese American community for his art because it incorporates too much outsider culture. Disgusted by this lack of acceptance, Wittman at first seeks to use his art to define himself, but then sees a way to satisfy…show more content…
Wittman creates characters that allow for an actor to express their individuality as opposed to forcing the actor to fit the character stereotype. He himself pretends to be the folktale figure of the Chinese Monkey King with shape-changing abilities that would allow him to metamorphosize into any culture if he were not held captive by Buddha. The ability to fit into any culture would serve Wittman’s needs as an artist trying to fit into a community. Wittman realizes that his art is an outlet that allows him to express himself and escape the judgment of others by fashioning his own identity. Wittman wants to be the “first bad-jazz China Man bluesman of America” (27). However, Wittman tells the people he recruits for his play that he wants it to be a collective platform to talk about racism. He tells them that his motive for emphasizing individualism in organizing his play is a way "to do something communal against isolation" (141). Despite his desire to highlight his own individualism, Wittman still creates a Chinese American community. The play is a success because it celebrates diversity; by giving each actor control of their own part, "each member of the Tyrone family or the Lomans can be a different color" (52). Everyone in the play is able to insert their own ideas into the play without the characters losing their place in society. His version of a community relies on…show more content…
Just like the ancient monkey, Wittman has assumed many shapes to suit his purposes. In a prolonged rant, Wittman uses his own device of an open communal platform for improvisation to steal the show. The last chapter of the book is aptly called a “one-man show.” Although Wittman expresses his desire for the play to belong to the community, he uses the final act of the play as a narcissistic platform. He asserts himself and views the Chinese American society he created within the play as the easiest way to proclaim his individuality. Instead of focusing his monologue on the play being for all Chinese Americans and their inclusion in a model society, Wittman talks about himself, how he does not fit in, and how he is “unfit for office work” (322). His diatribe embodies the rage that he feels in his life about white American society not accepting him. Wittman is a “human being standing right here on land which I belong to and which belongs to [him]” (327), and he is upset that neither group will not accept him solely on this basis. Wittman says that he wanted to create a Chinese American community that is not distinct from the rest of America because of its Chinese roots; "we need to be part of the daily love life of the country, to be shown and loved continuously until we’re not
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