Postcolonialism in Chapter 2 of Karen Tei Yamashita’s “Tropic of Orange”

Upon reading Chapter 2 of Karen Tei Yamashita’s novel Tropic of Orange I was immediately reminded of the concept known as “postcolonialism” from Nealon and Giroux’s The Theory Toolbox. The character we are introduced to, Bobby, a “Chinese from Singapore with a Vietnam name speaking like a Mexican living in Koreatown” (Yamashita 15), is a living, breathing product of postcolonialism. We find out that when Bobby was a young boy a new, American bicycle factory came to Singapore, forcing his father to shut down his bicycle shop and, thus, he advises Bobby to move to America to seek a better future. Ironically, it is America that drives him out of Singapore and into America. It is America that has invaded his homeland for economic prosperity. I find it interesting how Bobby is essentially described as a machine by Yamashita, fueled by cigarettes and money, and how the last portion of the chapter highlights how the natural ginseng root is what is going to “clear his system” from all of the cigarettes (Yamashita 18). Bobby is suffering the consequences from America’s expansion, as he is divided from his family and is expected to adapt and survive in a foreign land. Not only is he suffering from the aforementioned, but from the cigarettes, a symbol of capitalism and industrialism. There is no question that Yamashita is providing us with her very own commentary on postcolonialism in America and its effects on those outside of America, how it has caused us to industrialize and driven us away from the natural world. I am so drawn to this chapter because my own father is from St. Maarten, a small island in the Caribbean, and, much like Bobby’s father, his father was a fisherman and lost much of his business to the pollution of Caribbean waters and the rise of imported fish; this forced my dad out of St. Maarten and into America to make money on his own and support his family back home. 

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