In theory, people make decisions about becoming involved, romantically or otherwise, with other people based upon a number of criteria with which they evaluate the qualities of the other person. In some situations an individual may consciously think about the criteria, or qualities, they are looking for in that individual and then evaluate if the person meets the criteria. In most cases however the person does not consciously think out this process, but simply “knows” if he or she likes the other person or not.
In some cases, the most important criteria, at least initially, are surface type attributes, such as race, appearance, or material wealth. In addition, the individual will sometimes intuitively know that the other individual is not appropriate to start a relationship with but is overwhelmed with the surface appearance. For all of these reasons relationships will sometimes fail since the initial evaluation can be based upon qualities that are not truly the most important for a long lasting relationship.
I will try to show that based upon two characters in American Knees, their relationships failed, or at least struggled, since they had not explored the most important qualities of the other person. A second sub-thesis of this discussion relates to relationships that are chosen for individuals. For example, a mother, father, sibling would fit into this category. In these situations, the individual does not do the same type of evaluation since there is no decision needed to become involved in the relationship.
However, at some point in the life of an individual they actually do recognize that a relative meets, or does not meet, the most important criteria for a long lasting relationship. In these cases there can be anger and frustration since individuals may conclude that this person does not have the qualities you want and yet by definition they are chosen for you. I will show in Comfort Woman, that characters find-unappealing qualities in relatives, and this causes them frustration and anger, since they had no choice in establishing the relationship.
There are a number of theoretical criteria that the average person uses for developing a relationship with an individual. This includes a vast array of items such as appearance, race, intelligence, friendliness, personality, humor, dedication, and overall pleasantness. In the book American Knees, there are two main characters named Raymond and Aurora, who exemplify this process. In particular, Raymond was attracted to his first wife Darleen, as well as Aurora, based primarily upon heritage. The entire subject of race and heritage is critical to each of them.
There are many complicated feelings they each have about this subject and to some degree it overshadows all of the aspects of their lives. In many ways they do not learn more about each other since the complications of race are all encompassing. It appears as if Raymond initially neglects considering other important qualities about Aurora. His first thoughts are about race, “Was she part Korean or Japanese Maybe he was altogether wrong and she was native Alaskan, Indian or Latino. What a relief that would be. ” He is almost joking to himself here, saying that this would simplify the entire thing.
It seems that he is overly concerned about this aspect. Aurora also thinks of this subject from the start. Aurora thinks, “ hoped to god, he wasn’t an insecure Asian male who would talk only to her. ” And ” -just Asian enough to bring home to mother ” She next thinks through about what their first conversation would entail. She specifically thinks through questions, he will ask her, in order to determine her ancestry. Aurora was also giving significant thought in these first few moments about what she thought of him.
The area that she is preoccupied with relates not only to race, but also to his physical appearance, and the garments he was wearing. She even tries to determine what part of the country he is from based upon his expensive and sophisticated clothes. During their first meeting the book describes in great detail, each of their thoughts towards the other. Some of the thoughts were prior to any conversation, and of course some are during their conversation. It is fairly clear, that the most significant thing that each is contemplating relates to surface issues, such as ancestry, where they work, how much money they earn, or sexual appeal.
This is not uncommon in many people and if these qualities are appealing this can lead to a relationship before determining if the individual has other attributes that they like. The book indicates how quickly Raymond and Aurora move their relationship along. In a short period they had moved in together and were trying to share their lives together. It can be assumed that these two lovers did not really know each other that well. While she was aware of the emotions relating to ancestry, she was unaware to the deep extent that Raymond felt about this. He was an Asian man first, and behind that he was an American.
This is quite evident, when Aurora tells Raymond, ” I just wanted you to say that I’m the center of your life and that you love me. Why does the whole world around that center always have to be something called Asian America. ” Raymond is very proud to be Asian and wants to mold Aurora, who is half-white, to be the same way. He says to her, “That to be Asian, you must be Asian at all times, not when it is convenient. ” These are issues that must be dealt with before a substantive relationship can begin. Aurora is no more to blame then Raymond is for their initial breakup, but she feels it’s a lack or fault of herself.
Aurora, right after their breakup speaks about the reason for the breakup, “Me being not Asian enough or not culturally sensitive enough, doesn’t make for very interesting girl talk. ” There were certainly some things that they did not like about each other. For example, Aurora did not like him to instruct her and be condescending. “She hated his instructive tone. ” She also did not like his inability to tell her how he really felt. She said to him once, “ Like all other men- full of bull*censored*. I know more about what you preach and talk about in the things you don’t say then in the things you do say.
At one point they discuss, and literally list all of the things she may not like about him, in order to hopefully find something so he can change it. For example, they list age, race, money, friends, etc. While they don’t identify any cause, they both recognize that she needs to feel protected- and he can’t do that. My argument is that if they had spent more time together during their friendship, and discussed these critical areas, and learned more about each other, they would have had a better chance of a long lasting relationship.
In fact, when they get together at the end of the story, it is my feeling that they have a better chance of success, since they now know each other much better and it is not only based upon race and appearance. The second part of this paper deals with similar issues involving relationships and how certain of these are chosen for us. For example we have no power over whom our parents or other relatives will be. We are brought into the world with no actual choice or decision regarding who our family will be. Sometimes we are pleased with this outcome and sometimes we are not. However, there is nothing a person can do to change this outcome.
The novel, Comfort Woman, by Nora Okja Keller, involves a relationship between a mother and daughter, struggling to forget the past and move into the future. The main character, Beccah, finds herself in a situation where she has many conflicting feelings for her mother. Her mother, Akiko, who by some standards would be considered eccentric, or even mentally disturbed, raised her. Their relationship when Beccah was very young can be considered a very close one. As she gets older and more aware of her surroundings she recognizes many qualities in her mother (some she likes and some she doesn’t) that complicate their relationship.
Beccah, at the young age of ten, notices that her mother sometimes enters into a transient state leaving behind all normalcies’s of life. Beccah states, “At ten, despite all the people coming to hear her talk this way, I was still afraid that someone would hear my mother’s craziness and lock her up. ” Beccah does not seem proud of her mother her but concerned for her, almost as if the roles were reversed. She wanted to protect her mother, and hope that some day her mother would be become “normal. ” It is during this time in her life that I believe she does a real assessment on her mother.
Occasionally she is embarrassed by her presence, and at one point, wishes her mother wasn’t there. “It has taken me nearly thirty years, almost all of my life, but finally the wishes I flung out in childhood have come true. My mother is dead. ” Beccah says. There is much pain in her voice over the death of her mother and her feelings are extremely complicated. She recognizes certain hardships that Akiko had endured and how she had still cared for Beccah, yet she is still embarrassed by certain behaviors. Beccah also has problems with relationships with other children and it appears that Beccah to some degree blames her mother for this.
During her younger school days Beccah is convinced that no one wishes to be friends with her. She feels like she is an outsider because of certain things, such as her clothes, her mother, and her looks. We are led to believe that some girls ostracized her at every opportunity, making her feel as an outsider. Later on she meets one of the girls she believed tormented her and gets a much different story. “Perhaps what I thought was true had been colored by the insecurities of a ten-year old girl. I realized that not only could I not trust my mother’s stories; I could not trust my own. Her mother seems to constantly lie about how she met her husband and other stories from that time.
This influences a lot of Beccah’s behavior. All of her mother’s antics may have made Beccah fearful of the other children and kept her away from any social circles. For example, when she finally seems to meet a boy she likes, her mother attacks her at the door with a knife, which certainly pushed Beccah into breaking up with him. Her mother tries to convince her that everything about society and her body is wrong.
Temptations and other such things are not acceptable. Beccah’s attitudes at points are very harsh, showing anger and frustration. Beccah thinks, “Where earlier I had cherished the moments my mother paid attention to me, recognizing me as her flesh-and-blood daughter, I now began to cringe whenever she studied me. ” Beccah is sizing up her mother, as one would do in any relationship, but seems to find many faults. The apex of these feelings in seen when her mother decides to bless the campus and route that Beccah takes to and from school every day.
This may be seen as foolish to the average person, but her mother believes she is protecting Beccah. The other kids taunt her mother and try their best to get a rise out of her. Beccah is upset as she thinks, ” I wanted to scream, to tell the kids to shut their mouths and go to hell But I couldn’t Because for the first time, as I watched and listened to the children taunting my mother And I was ashamed. ” That shows how truly humiliated the young Beccah was during this episode. She even admonishes herself since she did nothing to protect her mother “from the children’s sharp-toothed barbs”.
Beccah decides to run off and escape from this situation, much like she wishes she could run away from her whole life with her mother. My argument is that Beccah at points in her life recognized many characteristics that she did not like and that made Beccah’s life much more difficult. She intuitively knew that her mother did not posses some of the qualities she desired and this frustrated her. While at the end of the story, Beccah learns to feel love for her mother (given her tragic circumstances), it is clear that she was angered, frustrated, and embarrassed at times- and at some level wished she could have had a different parent.