Saving Sourdi Essay

Part I

In “Saving Sourdi” by May-Lee Chai, the author creates Sourdi and Nea’s characters using description, narration, dialog, and commentary.

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“Sourdi looked like a statue that had been rescued from the sea. She was smooth where I had angles and soft where I was bone. Sourdi’s face was round, her nose low and wide, her eyes crescent-shaped like the quarter moon, her hair sleek as seaweed. Her skin was a burnished cinnamon color.” (Chai 131) This description portrays Sourdi as an innocent and gentle young lady.


“Sourdi emerged from the kitchen, dressed in a bright pink sweatsuit emblazoned with the head of Minnie Mouse, pink slippers over her feet, the baby on her hip. She had a bruise across her cheekbone and the purple remains of a black eye. Sourdi didn’t say anything for a few seconds as she stared at me, blinking, her mouth falling open. “Where’s Ma?” (Chai 139) This narration shows that after her arranged marriage, Sourdi is not the girl she used to be because she now has to live with a man whom she doesn’t really love and care for a baby at a young age.


“Nea, what’s wrong with you?” “What’s wrong with me? Don’t you get it? I was trying to help you!” Sourdi sighed as the baby spat a spoonful of the glop onto the table. “I’m a married woman. I’m not just some girl anymore. I have my own family. You understand that?” “You were crying.” I squinted at my sister. “I heard you.” “I’m gonna have another baby, you know. That’s a big step. That’s a big thing.” She said this as though it explained everything. “You sound like an old lady. You’re only twenty, for Chrissake. You don’t have to live like this. Ma is wrong. You can be anything, Sourdi.” (Chai 140) This narration shows that Sourdi respects her mother’s wishes, even though she doesn’t necessarily agree with them.


“I ran into the kitchen. I had this idea to get the cook and the cleaver, but the first thing that caught my eye was this little paring knife on the counter next to a bowl of oranges. I grabbed the knife and ran back out to Sourdi.” (Chai 129) This commentary shows that Nea is very protective of her sister and will do anything to help her.

Part II

“Saving Sourdi” is told from Nea’s point of view. If Sourdi or the mother was telling the story, it would be told completely different. If the story had been written from Sourdi’s point of view, we would know her feelings about the arranged marriage.We would also know her view of the relationship with her sister. If the story had been written from the mother’s point of view, we would know her reasons for wanting Sourdi to marry Mr. Chhay. We would also know more about her relationship with her daughters.

Part III

In “Saving Sourdi”, Nea’s culture affects the story because her family is Asian, and they are trying to adjust to life in America. This is important to take into consideration to understand why certain events are happening in the story. The fantasy of the American Dream is relevant to the story to show why they moved to America. The story states, “When we moved to South Dakota, I thought we’d find the real America, the one where we were supposed to be…”

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