Reaction to The Billion Dollar Skeleton by Phan Huy Duong
This story is an important allegory about the Vietnam War and the clash between Western and Eastern culture. It is told in a strange, almost fairy-tale like style. I think that certain characters in this story are symbolic figures. For example the Billionaire, who I think is loosely based on Ross Perot, represents American arrogance and ignorance. He thinks that with his money and clout he can solve any problem even finding his sonís remains. He fails to realize that his effort is an affront to Vietnamese culture, which reveres ancestral burial places. The old man represents Eastern Confucian values, which respect the wisdom of the ancients. He eventually gets the Billionaire to see the error of his ways. The blue-eye child, who I think is the offspring of the Billionaireís son and a Vietnamese woman, represents hope and the positive aspects that have come out of the combination of Vietnamese and American cultures. Also, in the final chapter the Billionaire marries a Vietnamese service woman and one of their children goes on to be the first female president of the United States.
This story is the strangest of all the ones I have read in the book. It is written in a very simplistic style and the final paragraph of the story has an upbeat end, like many fairy tales. In addition, like many of the other stories written by Vietnamese authors it shows that the victors also suffered many physical and mental wounds during the war. The piles of bones and the funeral pyre are symbolic of all the lives lost during the war.