9 May 2023 at 8:55:30 am
National Taiwan Normal University
Taiwan (Republic of China)
Hi, this is Jenny, an MA student currently studying at National Taiwan Normal University. Currently taking a course that centers on Southeast Asian Anglophone literature, I'm fascinated by the diverse voices and perspectives that emerge from this region, and how they reflect the complex histories and cultures of its people. The course I'm now taking is just the beginning of my exploration of this field, and I'm eager to learn more and read more texts that would help me gain deeper insights.
Not for Us: Voices of the Migrants in Jeremy Tiang's "National Day"
transnational identity, Jeremy Tiang, migrant workers, capitalism, Singapore, economic success
This paper examines a particular short story ─ "National Day" ─ in Jeremy Tiang’s nonlinear fiction, and explores how the writer approaches the theme of transnational identity by interweaving different voices as well as presenting multiple perspectives in the story. In “National Day”, the writer portrays the life of the workers who contribute to Singapore’s rapid economic growth by constructing the city-state’s skyscrapers and edifices that symbolize wealth and affluence. In the story, Tiang presents several contrasting, even contradictory, imageries and symbols. For instance, the main characters’ feelings become more passive and unresisting as the story progresses, while the environment seems to gain more power and control over them. I categorize these contrasting imageries portrayed in the fiction into three groups so as to gain a deeper understanding of the societal regulations and the social order of the state-city revealed by Tiang. First, I examine the stark contrast between the workers’ bland emotions and the glamorous, vivid artificial elements such as the buildings and the fireworks. I explore how Tiang juxtaposes the animate and the inanimate, and how ironic it is that the former is lifeless while the latter is lively. The second divergence that I probe into is the dialogue exchange between the foreign and the native. By combing through the conversation of the characters, I show how conflict related to race and immigrants is depicted in the fiction. Lastly, I discuss the migrant workers’ physical disability and Singapore’s economic strength shown in “National Day”. There are a few characters in the story that are not suitable for construction work due to physical limitations; however, they have to stay on because turning back home means reverting to poverty. I compare the characters’ circumstances to the city-state’s thriving economy. I also substantiate my analysis by investigating the significance of the characters’ remarks, their surroundings, and the action they take at the end of the story. The migrant workers’ bleak and lonely situation sharply contrasts with the patriotic fervor among Singaporean citizens on the country’s National Day. With Joan C. Henderson’s article as an analytic touchstone, I also incorporate the historical background of Singapore’s economic development and success into my exploration of Tiang’s fiction. I argue that the contrasting images and symbols illustrated in the story draw attention to the underprivileged, unveil a lesser-known side of society in Singapore, and evoke empathy.
If possible, I would like to use a projector and a pointer for my brief presentation.