Childhood in Wayson Choy’s Paper Shadows: A Chinatown Childhood and Shyam Selvadurai’s Pigs Can’t Fly
Childhood is period of life when the real nature of the person reveals. It is a unique and equally important period, as children are inclined to think only about themselves and their own experiences and desires, and not about what is expected from them. They are free from cultural and sex prejudices, social restrictions and behavior patterns. The only thing they tend to rely on while choosing the behavior is their heart. Childhoods presented in Wayson Choy’s Paper Shadows: A Chinatown Childhood and Shyam Selvadurai’s Pigs Can’t Fly, from the first glance are very different, with different problems, but after thorough investigation, it comes out that the origins of the problems are the same. It is impossible to reveal the subject so deep without experiencing the same things, so the two stories are mostly autobiographical.
Shyam Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka and is partially Sinhalese and partially Tamil. He immigrated to Canada with his parents at age of nineteen. His novel Pigs Can’t Fly is centered on a performance when the boy named Arije is dressed in a wedding sari and is predominantly occupied with his cousins when other boys are playing cricket on the other side of the house. He prefers playing with girls and wearing hi aunt’s jewelry to sports. In Arije’s family men are occupied with business and women care about beauty. The men part of the family was very much worried with “unnatural” behavior of the boy and they were making effort to make him to take up more masculine pursuits. At that moment Arije realized that he is not free in his desires and self-manifestations- there are unstated restrictions common to his family and his culture. Gender roles are defined during childhood, and it was not accepted for the boy to be occupied with things that were for girls. The childhood in the story Pigs Can’t Fly argues upon issues of family roles, love and the country traditions. It sets the behavior patterns of boy and girls that are not supposed to be broken. The division of space according to gender is criticized in the story:
“Territorially, the area around my grandparents’ house was divided into two. The front garden, road and the field that lay in front of the house belonged to the boys. The second territory was called “the girls”, included in which,-however, was myself, a boy. It was to this territory of “the girls”, confined to the back garden and the kitchen porch, that I seemed to have gravitated naturally” (Selvadurai 3).
Wayson Choy was the son of Chinese immigrants in Vancouver. In his Paper Shadows, he examined his own identity by means of analyzing his childhood and important effects of education upon him. He describes childhood of the boy named Way Sun and his life in Canada. Way Sun was facing many challenging questions and one of the main ones was regarding what it means to be a Chinese and what it means to be a Canadian. There was a great inner conflict, as for the child people seems to be all equal and differences in their attitudes that depend upon the race or origin are completely unacceptable by his perception of the world. From on side he was not accepted by Canadians and from other he was no longer absolutely Chinese, as he lacked Chinese history his parents and grandparents possessed. Way Sun’s beliefs and choices about who he is and who he should be were vague and uncertain. But still he found the thing that inspired him in the greatest extent- his education. Probably because school was the place where he was appreciated and school lessons added value to him as the person and citizen of Canada, as well as increased his self-esteem. He felt himself more comfortable in the English school rather then Chinese, as student treatment in them were quite different. In Chinese school “naughty boys are hit with stiff bamboo rods and yardsticks” (Choy 215), and in the forth grade he was even punished unfairly for having “itchy bum” (Choy 202). It was undividable part of being a Chinese and Way was no longer sure that he wanted to be integrated with such traditions.
So, discussed novels are different from the perspectives of the childhoods depicted, but they are the same from the standpoint of their essence. In both stories boys were breaking standards and learned to listen to their hearts and behave in correspondence with their own points of view; and they were both learning how to live when not accepted by society and have enough inner strength to follow their own way.