Holding On

One of the most moving parts of Tropic of Orange, for me, was the ending. We finally receive resolutions for most of the characters, and although not every end is tied up in a neat package to present to the reader, the way the novel ends resolves the burning question that the book brings up. What are these people trying to hold onto? Their cultures, their identities within those cultures, their rights to be human, their futures? It seems like in the second to last paragraph of the novel Bobby sums up what the whole novel is dealing with: “What are these goddamn lines anyway? What do they connect? What do they divide? What’s he holding on to?” I think this question relates to all the characters in the books, from Manzanar and his hold to the music only he can conduct, to Gabriel and his attempts to hold onto a culture that might not truly be his. Most importantly I see this as a question as to why everyone tries to hold onto that orange that seems to hold everything together.

I think its important for the book to conclude this way because it seems, in the end, that no matter what there will always be people who can’t retain their past and who have no grasp on the future, and for me Bobby is probably one of the characters who displays this idea the most, and thus it seems right that he is the one who tries to hold onto this line of the tropic of cancer, only to let it go and move towards his family. I don’t think the novel is saying that we shouldn’t hold onto these things that make us who we are, but its ending seems to evoke a semblance of peace, even if its just for a moment.


        (Found this really interesting word cloud about the book and felt that after finishing it that it would be good to look at.)

One Response to Holding On

  1. Prof VZ February 22, 2016 at 12:39 am #

    I agree that that quote about those dividing, connecting lines is central to the book. Yamashita’s novel is a meditation on those particulars of identity, time, and place that seem to hold us together even as they tear us apart. She invites us to try and see beyond those lines, if only for a moment, but always reminds her reader that the lines cannot be obliterated. At the end, I guess she invites a curiosity about those lines: a care in thinking about how categories of identity, culture, and politics always exclude as much as they include; how they shape us for better or worse.

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