The differences which arise between individuals in relationships are inclusive of complex ideologies and beliefs that often create a separation of two individuals. When looking at the novel by Lisa See, “Dragon Bones,” there is an understanding that the culture is one which creates different belief systems and separation between two individuals in a relationship. The impact on the relationship is one that creates a sense of division because of cultural concepts that are portrayed. Both look at the relationship with cultural differences, specifically which makes the other individual foreign. The exploration of both cultures and the miscommunication which occurs create the main differences between two in a relationship.
The display of the relationship that shows the division of identity in culture is between David and Lui. David is a representative of a foreigner staying in Hong Kong and Lui is originally from China. The conflict which occurs in the relationship is based on the foreign ideas and beliefs that remain as a part of the culture and which influence the decisions of both individuals. The cultural division arises not only with basic tensions but leads to Lui and David displaying a physical separation from the beginning of the book. When their child is born, the separation continues with the idea of raising a child in America for better education and ideals, while China exposes one to a better culture. This is followed by the death of their child, whose name means to exceed culture (See, 21). These work as symbols to define the division in the relationship that occurs throughout the book. The division in thought processes of where to stay, the physical separation of the two and the death of the child all show that one can’t exceed or overcome the culture in which they are in, causing the culture in the relationship to become more important than the relationship.
The differences that are a part of the relationship are furthered with the perspectives that are associated with Chinese Culture. The gaps are seen with the American and Chinese differences that are noted between the two. The culture is often referred to as a style that is foreign and outside of the understanding of the narrator, specifically when referring to David. For instance, when speaking to Stuart, David observes his mannerisms as one which belongs to the Chinese. “Then he made quite a show of offering his card to David in the Hong Kong manner, cupping it with both hands in presentation and bowing slightly” (See, 222). This particular phrase is one of several subtle moments where the gap between the American and Chinese culture are noted. From one perspective, the Hong Kong-style in this phrase is seen as foreign and as a superficial way of representing ideologies. On the other, it shows a cross of cultures between individuals in the story.
At the same time, the concept of the Chinese culture is one that remains closed to foreigners and is shown as a misrepresentation unless the customs and beliefs are understood internally. There is a specific line that is drawn in the public eye between the Chinese and foreign cultures. From this perspective, the Chinese culture is represented as foreign and both cultures remain on the outside. There are many perspectives which show that the concept of being foreign and dividing the two sides become more important than others.
“ ‘Look no further than the foreigners,’ he recommended as he pushed his horn-rims firmly onto the bridge of his nose. ‘They all want to steal from us.’ ‘I’m a foreigner,’ David reminded them. ‘I don’t want to steal from you” (118).
This perspective shows that there is a difference between the Chinese and American culture, with the gaps based on assumptions of both cultures as well as both remaining with the definition of being foreign, or represented as the other. This is not only seen in the public eye but also builds into a belief system of the cultures with the relationship between David and Lui.
When looking at the concept of culture in relationships there is an understanding of differences, division and the concept of being foreign. Both David and Lui experience separation, specifically because there isn’t the ability to overcome the ideology of their identity as being separate. The concept is furthered by the ideas in society showing the gap of the foreign. The Chinese culture is one which is often seen as complex and on the outside while foreigners are seen as not belonging or understanding the intricacies of the culture. These several gaps change the social understanding and the concepts associated with building relationships. The culture that is in the book then creates gaps in identity between the characters that are in the novel and the relationships which they create.
See, Lisa. Dragon Bones. Random House Publishing: New York, 2007.