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Posted on August 17th, 2012, by

Traditionally, the relationship between generations is characterized by considerable problems and wide gaps which remote older and younger generation. Moreover, generation gaps can be so wide that they become unsurpassable and people representing different generations cannot understand each other at all. In such a situation, problematic relationships between generations can affect consistently the culture of people and their cultural identify. However, it is not always the case that generation differences can produce a negative impact on the culture since there is always a room for a compromise between generations which allows preserving national culture and traditions. In such a way, the correlation between generation gaps and the preservation of the cultural identity is quite controversial since, on the one hand, generation gaps can be crucial for cultural interrelationships of different generations, while, on the other hand, cultural norms and traditions can be strong enough to succumb all possible generation gaps and differences existing between people representing different generations. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the play “Les Belles Soeurs”¯ by Michel Tremblay and “”¯The Jade Peony”¯ by Wayson Choy, which actually reveal the essence of the controversy of the relationship between generations and their empowering effects on the culture.

In fact, it is important to underline that “Les Belles Seours”¯ and “The Jade Peony”¯ open quite different vistas on the culture and the relationships between different generation in the cultural context. What is meant here is the fact that the author of “Les Belles Seours”¯ apparently tends to reveal the destructing impact of the generation gaps on the culture and cultural identity of individuals, while the author of “The Jade Peony”¯, in contrast, reveals the overwhelming power of cultural traditions which cannot be ruined by possible generation gaps, but, instead, the relationships between generation can meet cultural standards and empower cultural development of people, maintaining their unique traditions.

On the other hand, it does not necessarily mean that the two works mentioned above are absolutely different. In spite of seeming difference of “Les Belles Seours”¯ and “The Jade Peony”¯, these works are still concerned with serious problems which people can encounter in their life because of the generation gaps. To put it more precisely, M. Tremblay depicts the life of different generations, for instance, the mother and the daughter who are absolutely different and it seems as if they have nothing in common. Their relationships are tense and, what is more important, they simply do not understand each other. In such a way, the author shows that the difference between generations is enormous and the barriers between them are practically unsurpassable. Similarly, Wayson Choy depicts two generations which are absolutely different since the younger generation, three brothers, have been living in Canada since they remember themselves. Therefore, they grew up in the local cultural environment, while their grandmother feels she is a stranger in Canada since the main part of her life has past in China. In such a way, the two generations are very different.

However, the authors of “Les Belles Seours”¯ and “The Jade Peony”¯ have a very different interpretation of the effects generation gaps can have on the culture. The author of “Les Belles Seours”¯ apparently stands on the ground that generation gaps raise unsurpassable cultural barriers between generations. Obviously, this may lead to the dramatic cultural change which occurs faster if the different between generations is larger. For instance, the relationships between Germaine and her daughter reveal that the generation gaps prevent them from mutual understanding. In fact, they are focused on their own problems and they live their own life, regardless of the life of each other. Even when they talk to each other, it seems as if it is a kind of monologue since they do not really listen or understand what another person says. What is meant here is the fact that the generation gaps deprive them of an opportunity to understand each other that makes their communication useless. Hence, they can talk, communicate with each other but their communication does not make them any closer to each other. They do not care about each other because they believe they are absolutely different.

In such a situation, it is quite natural that the mother and the daughter cannot share the same moral values, cultural views, standards and traditions. Consequently, M. Tremblay reveals the fact that the generation gaps remote people from each other and leave them in a kind of cultural vacuum, where each person attempts to live according to her own principles, norms and standards, develops her own cultural traditions and models of behavior. At the same time, representatives of different generations totally ignore the culture and values of other generations. In such a way, generation gaps become destructive to culture and, instead of empowering culture, they ruin it.

However, such a view on the effect of generation gaps on culture is extremely pessimistic and it does not really mirror the actual situation, because whatever generation gaps are, people still able to maintain their cultural norms and traditions and their set of values, being evolving in the course of time, remains unchangeable in principle. For instance, liberty is still the major value of younger and older generations, which can be traced even in “Les Belles Seours”¯. In this regard, “The Jade Peony”¯ is a consistently more optimistic work because the author develops absolutely different view on effect s of generation gaps on the culture. To put it more precisely, W. Choy stands on the ground that generation gaps cannot be as wide to separate people pointblank. Instead, generation gaps rather influence an individual’s life, his behavior, relationships with other people, but they cannot destroy the cultural background of an individual, which always persists and which makes people closer to each other. In fact, people cannot ignore their past and the main characters of “The Jade Peony”¯ prove this idea which was promoted by the author throughout the book. In this respect, it is hardly possible to underestimate the symbolic meaning of the peony which symbolizes the Chinese culture and the past of the family, which immigrated to Canada from China. The grandmother kept the peony as an almost sacred object, as a souvenir of her motherland. However, the brothers grew up in a totally different cultural environment and they get used to Canadian culture, norms and traditions. But Canadian culture has never become their culture, because, in spite of huge difference in their perception of the surrounding world and life at large, they still remain devoted to traditions of Chinese people. In fact, regardless of their life in Canada they still remain Chinese and it is quite symbolic that after the death of Poh-Poh, who personified a guardian of Chinese traditions and culture in the family, the peony is passĆ© on to the younger brother, Sek Lung.

This act may be interpreted as a symbolic cultural link between the past and new generations of the family and Chinese people at large living in Canada. In such a way, the author shows that culture persists and overcomes barriers raised by generation gaps and difference that always exists between generations.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that M. Tremblay and W. Choy have managed to show that representatives of different generations can have different views and perception of the surrounding world. In such a way, they agree that there exists the problem of generation gaps. At the same time, their view on the interrelationship between generation gaps and culture vary consistently. M. Tremblay is quite pessimistic in view of the negative impact of generation gaps on culture because, according to the author generation gaps are too wide to make people able to share the same cultural values, norms and traditions. In contrast, W. Choy insists on the overwhelming power of culture which can close the gaps between generations and, even thought people have different views, they are still able to share the same culture, preserve and maintain their cultural traditions even in very unfavorable environment, when they represent a minority and are surrounded by a strange culture.

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