“The Third Dumpster”

In her short story “The Third Dumpster” Gish Jen writes about two brothers who decide to renovate a house for their Chinese parents, who refuse to move into a nursing home. Their parents are intent on maintaining their culture and when they go look at the nursing home their main problem is the food. “Western food ever day? Cannot eat, they said.” (85) The brothers do not have a lot of money and so they hire two illegal hispanic immigrants to be workers for them. This raises some issues with Goodwin when Morehouse, the other brother, tells him that the hispanics are cleaning the asbestos out of the house, which is not only illegal but very dangerous. The idea of using immigrants to do their dirty work just seems strange when their own parents immigrated here as well.
The concept of immigration grows even more awkward when the brothers parents come to see the house. “Their father looked as much at Jose and Ovidio as at the house. Spanish guys, he said.” (90) The comment the father serves to distance himself from the spanish workers. The way he thinks of them seems weird since they are both immigrants and may have more in common than others.
The parents throughout the story try to maintain their chinese identity by separating themselves from Americans as well as other groups such as the spanish immigrants. They resist the western culture, even going so far as to call Americans “dump people like garbage” (92).
Taking immigration out of the story the brothers struggle a lot with their aging parents. We see them trying to find a solution for how to take care of them. In a quote about her story the author says ‘”the story behind the story was that I myself had hit some tipping point in dealing with my own real aging parents, where I needed to “throw off the too heavy burden imposed… by life,” as Freud puts it, “and win the high yield of pleasure afforded by humor.”’ (BASS Contributor Note)
This reminded me a lot of what my mom went through with my grandmother. My mom brought my grandmother to many nursing homes trying to sell the nicest ones to her by pointing out every little thing about them, similar to what Goodwin does in the story with “the smooth smooth paths” and “the wide wide doorways” (85) The whole process looking back seems stupid the way you try to sell a place, thinking you can actually convince them to like it when the truth is it will never be as good because its not their home. Gish Jen is right though at some point you just need to laugh. I saw all the stress it put on my mom and all of the frustrations she had to hold in but eventually to make it through you have to find something about it thats funny to make it through.

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November 12th


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