My thoughts on Nam Le’s “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice” :
This story’s title was especially interesting to me because it was such a mouthful. Even before reading the story, the title made me feel uncomfortable and supported that this story might be clumsy or difficult to grasp in one reading. Yet, this title was an effective introduction to the story because by the end of the story, I believe that Le’s characters expressed every single noun listed in the title. Despite the notion that Nam’s friend offers “Love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice” as “old verities” that should be an easy way out for the narrator simply because he’s Vietnamese and he “could just write about Vietnamese boat people all the time,” this is challenged by the story (10). Such abstract and deep nouns like those listed in the title are illustrated in their complexity and given unique meanings. Additionally, Nam frequently describes his past life as a lawyer with a very regimented and routine life. Furthermore, Nam contrasts his past life with his current disorderly and fragmented lifestyle. Hence, this list-like title seemed like an appropriate introduction to a story about a man in-between his structured life as a lawyer and creative life as a writer.
Another intriguing element of the story was the character named Linda. From our first encounter with Linda, the Nam expresses deep love for her. The first scene in which we are introduced to her is while she is giving Nam a massage and she is what prompts him to laugh for the first time in the story. He describes her as “beautiful” and the dialogue that the narrator and Linda exchange is marked by understanding and patience. For example, after Nam gives her an unsatisfying and short explanation of his Ba’s visit, she still encourages him to “Just make sure [he] get[s] [his] story done” (7). However, later in the story she accuses him of “making excuses” for his Ba and is skeptical of his plans to write a story about his Ba (18). Linda’s last scene is marked by an argument and sign of affection that Nam receives coldly. As she leaves him, Nam states that “I didn’t look at her” and returns to his deep thoughts of his parents (19). It seems that as Nam feels compelled to understand his father’s story, Linda’s ability to understand her lover fades. The relationship between Linda and Nam is indicative of the overall pattern of isolation that Nam plays out. Throughout the story, Nam explains that he struggled to find solace in his work as an attorney and is currently having a tough time writing for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (even citing the workshop as a plausible explanation for his excessive drinking). While explaining his past relationship with his parents, again we see Nam choosing (or perhaps being forced into) a life of isolation. Thus, his disconnect from Linda after deciding to write a story about his Ba is consistent with the Nam’s aversion and failure to sustain an intimate relationship with more than one person at a time.
Posted by: Tiffany