Themes and moral lesson


Clash of cultures and identities

The short story “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu explores the theme of the clash of cultures and identities, which is illustrated by the conflict between Jack’s Chinese and American culture.

Jack is a typical child until he is about ten and he is unaware of how the society he lives in perceives his mixed-race heritage. When he is ten, an interaction with a neighborhood boy makes him self-conscious about his identity and marks Jack’s rejection of the Chinese culture. As Jack pursues his American identity, he rejects everything that has to do with the Chinese one, including his mother. Moreover, the story suggests that he is bullied at school because of his mixed-race: “My fight with Mark didn't end there. Mark was popular at school. I never want to think again about the two weeks that followed”.

Jack’s refusal to accept his Chinese identity begins with him rejecting the origami toys and leads to his decision to stop talking and interacting with his m...

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