Saving Sourdi Summary

The travails on the path from an instinctual child to a relatively rational adult can veer off into so many insightful directions. In this Saving Sourdi Summary Essay, it is easy to showcase to the reader that the direction for the story the author chose was one of not leaving behind childhood instincts. However, we can arrive at a greater point that goes beyond the mere sibling relationship.Saving Sourdi, authored by May-Lee Chai, hits all the marks as a tale of transition from childhood to adulthood. Chai’s story plot revolves around two sisters, Sourdi and Nea, which grow up along two starkly different paths. The tension is mostly generated by the younger sibling, Nea, who struggles with maturing. Instead of meeting life’s obstacles with a cool head, Nea makes poor life decisions, as emotional turbulence in the form of contrarian antagonism informs her decision-making process.As a tragic protagonist in Saving Sourdi, Nea can be commended for trying to protect her sister, but these attempts stack up an abysmal record of failure. As a character, she doesn’t grow. Instead, she is stuck in her childish mode of thinking, expecting the reality to conform to her prepubescent-formed will. Nea’s mother framed her character arc, or the lack of, in the early stage, by saying to her daughter (Chai 70), You not thinking. That your problem. You always not think!.Although one could fault Saving Sourdi for making Nea a flat character, we all know individuals who fail to heed life’s lessons. Such characters may pour their passion into worthy causes initially, but as they fail to take invaluable feedback, they become a burden to those around them. Viewing it in this light, Saving Sourdi diligently showcases that we all need to recognize the sad fact of life that some people never grow out of their emotional immaturity. Nea is the perfect exemplar of this. Adolescent traits such as impulsiveness, stubbornness, and selfishness never leave her. To be fair, the story does put Nea within the environment in which such traits could be beneficial, as she struggles against predictable prejudices of being a foreigner. However, Nea’s failure is the inability to distinguish between situational contexts. She only has two modes of behavior – belligerency and manipulation. While it may aid her in some situations, such a restricted range of behavior leads to needless conflicts in most situations. More importantly, Nea showcases the pitfall of forming bad habits to deal with life’s problems, instead of being adaptable to your surroundings.One commendable trait that Nea does exhibit is her overwhelming need to protect her sister Sourdi, or her China Doll (69), as she prefers to call Sourdi. This reveals that Nea believes her sister Sourdis more beautiful than her and, therefore, more alluring and advantageous than her. It’s almost as if she forgoes her own improvement for the sake of her sister in an ultimately selfish manner where her Sourdis an object of her selfishness. Early on in the story, Nea defends her sister from two men who were harassing her in their family restaurant. This leads us to believe that Nea perceives her sister Sourdis a precious thing that can’t defend herself. In truth, she makes her sister’s protection the focal meaning of her life. Thus, crippling herself in her own growth.As Nea’s intransigence progresses in the story, Chai shows us Sourdi in a completely different light than what Nea perceives her. Instead of a fragile China Doll, Sourdi does not need help from her sister. Such contrast further exacerbates Nea’s flaws, which are amply demonstrated in her interaction with other people. Self-centered, she often deceives people as her main mode of behavior. Seeing through her toxicity, Sourdi eventually leaves her behind. This propels her to new heights of deceit. In order to find her home, she lies and exaggerates to Duke. To Nea, the only thing that matters is getting her sister back, no matter if she hurts her in the process.Nea’s own statement perfectly illustrates her toxic obsession with her sister (72), I would stay awake all night pinching the inside of Sourdis arm, the soft flesh of her thigh, to keep my sister from falling asleep and leaving me alone.Again, we clearly see that Nea is just superficially protective. Rather, she merely extends her selfishness to Sourdi.Another interesting aspect of Chai’s story is the portrayal of the corrosive nature of multiculturalism. Although the media complex of many Western nations celebrates multiculturalism at every opportunity without pause, we can clearly see that it introduces many conflicts and instabilities, both on the societal and intra-familial level. Ma and Sourdi have retained their traditional culture in America, due to their age, but Nea fully succumbed to the American way of thinking, thus creating a cleavage in her family. We often see these cultural rifts opening within migrant families. Unfortunately, the remedy for them is almost always a message of further inclusion and cultural standardization instead of preserving distinct, native cultural traditions.Like in so many traditional cultures, Ma’s only ambition in her late years is to see her daughters succeed. In her mind, this means being more financially successful than her. After all, this is an objective metric by which one can measure success. To promote that goal in Sourdi, Ma dissuades her from seeing Duke as someone who she deems lower in class than what is proper for her daughter Sourdis future. Sourdi, as a daughter who imbibed their native culture and who obeys her elders, complies with her mother’s wishes. On the other hand, Nea is the younger sister with little recollection of the old ways. Such beliefs seem alien to her, if not outright hostile to her newly-formed identity as an American.No doubt, if Nea had remained in her country with her family, the subsequent events would not have happened. She wouldn’t have rebelled against her mother, lied to Duke, and have him punch Mr. Chhay in a supposed attempt to save Sourdis life. At the time, Sourdi already led an established home life caring for her child. Under the toxic influence of American culture, Nea immediately assumes that this lifestyle is abusive by nature. She even constructs a fairytale in her own head after having received a somewhat agitated phone call from Sourdi.Culminating in Duke punching Mr. Chhay, Nea’s series of poor decisions are laid bare for all to see, even herself by saying at the end (83), Sourdi looked at me then, so disappointed. I knew what she was thinking. She has grown up, and I had merely grown unworthy of her love.Although at that moment, Chai portrays Nea as finally having a eureka movement on her actions, it remains uncertain if Nea truly matured, or will she merely redirect her childish and selfish traits to other persons in her life. After all, we know how difficult it is to stamp out bad habits if they continue to tag along from childhood. One could say that the story is about a sibling who never grows up and, therefore, attaches her childish needs of belonging to her sibling, which harms them both in the end. However, the greater point of the story seems to be the dysfunctional nature of multiculturalism.The clash between the American feminized culture of entitlement and the traditional culture instills in Nea, as a younger sibling, seeds of strife, rebellion, and immaturity. The question arises if her personality, as such, would have developed at all if she had remained in her homeland. This leads us to believe that one’s free will can operate only within a tightly controlled space. Pincered between genetics and cultural environment, a situation that is seemingly created by personality failures may ultimately just be a manifestation of dysfunction incurred by migration into a foreign land.It would be difficult to believe Nea’s unpleasant and manipulative personality, as portrayed in the story, would have developed at all without her family leaving their homeland. I believe this may not have been the author’s original intention. nonetheless, Chai should be lauded for providing us with such a revealing insight.Resources Cited:Chai, May-Lee. Dragon Chica: a Novel. Boston, Gemma, 2011.