Edith Eaton’s Mrs. Spring Fragrance is a text that appears to be holding back the entire truth.  What constitutes that truth, however, is fairly ambivalent.  Eaton supplies her reader with scarcely any information regarding Mrs. Spring Fragrance’s trip to the “city of the Golden Gate”.  One can assume that she is encouraging her reader to examine her text closely and deduce an individual interpretation of what really occurs, what relevance, if any, it has to her marriage.

For me, this text conveys the impact of misinterpretation and miscommunication in the lives of a select number of Chinese immigrants.  Mr. and Mrs. Spring Fragrance and their peers seem to selectively subscribe to the American way of life, championing the acquisition of goods and achieving a level of status, while their ideals remain as “the ideals of their Chinese forefathers”.  In this way, these individuals are neither wholly Chinese or wholly American, yet a strange hybrid for the time, struggling to reconcile the differences in culture and custom.

The most obvious example of miscommunication comes from Mr. Spring Fragrance’s inadvertent overhearing of “the secret talk of women” that occurs between his wife and Laura.  Mr. Spring Fragrance mistakenly assumes that the poetry his wife recited was in reference to their relationship, which startles him, mostly because he is unable to grasp the meaning of the phrase.  His pompous neighbor then proceeds to supply Mr. Spring Fragrance with a interpretation that he sees as “disobedient to reason”, and is therefore troubling to his sense of identity.  Mr. Spring Fragrance feels vulnerable because of this, for this simple line of poetry has forced him to reexamine that which has defined his life.

What occurs with Mrs. Spring Fragrance in San Francisco remains a mystery to me.  The “making of  American ‘fudge'” puts forth several implications, however none that I can identify as being reinforced by the text.  It is probable that a similar instance  of misinterpretation arises in her situation as she attempts to make sense of a sprawling, integrated, American city.  What I find most striking about this section of the text is her willingness to accept her newfound country as free of any flaws, urging her husband to merely forget about racial profiling and the detainment of his own brother for no other reason than he is not white.  Mrs. Spring Fragrance positions herself “under the wing of the Eagle, the emblem of Liberty” quite suddenly, and all without any evidence of critical thought.  Perhaps she assumes that in order to become wholly American, she must blindly follow all of what is merely suggested to her.

This is a certainly a convoluted text that I hope will unfold itself with some collaborative effort.  There is certainly some comments being made by Eaton on the importance of finding a balance between an immigrant’s inherited and acquired culture.

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  1. What’s up, I read your new stuff daily. Your humoristic style is awesome, keep it up!|