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An Analysis Of ''The Happiest Refugee'' By Ahn Do Essay Sample

Texts often aim at exploring social issues, and encourage readers to respond to them in different ways by positioning them to agree with the ideas of the text.
The biographical text ‘The Happiest Refugee’ written by the narrator of the text, Ahn Do, invites readers to observe events, participate emotionally, understand his experiences and to respond to the characters.
Expository texts, by definition, analyse and explain information to enlighten or educate its readers. This type of text often provides readers with deeper insights about a subject. In The Happiest Refugee written by Anh Do, his experiences are used to show the struggles to live a new life in a foreign country. With the conventions such as first-person perspective, colloquial language and anecdotal evidence, Do's expository text positions readers to be inspired and amused. At the same time, Do's use of the conventions effectively allows the text to be influential in our attitude towards our lives and thus, make the world a better place.

Ahn Do uses written techniques and conventions (including use of language) to engage readers and position them to react in particular ways. Readers are positioned to respond to the characters Ahn Do himself, his hard work, his courage, his success, his Mum, her personality, his entire family, and the pirates through the events that were created through text.
The Happiest Refugee by And Do is an expository text which provides readers valuable insights about Anh Do’s resilience to make a new life in an unfamiliar country. Through the utilisation of first-person perspective, colloquial language and anecdotal evidence, Do uses his expository text as a persuasive tool to subvert the readers’ attitude towards their lifestyles and dreams. His successful manipulation of multiple conventions has allowed his expository text to be convincing about being gratitude and passionate can make a difference and make the world a better place.

Reading about Ahn Do’s childhood having to struggle with poverty generates sympathy towards him. Ahn talks about his job of pamphlet delivery at the age of fourteen to earn money and help his mother and the rest of his family out financially.

The book The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do is about a young family in Vietnam who risk their lives to travel illegally to Australia. In the middle of the ocean with the sun beating down on a jam packed boat, with water supplies already running low, more trouble arrives, a pirate ship. With all their goods taken, hope for survival is at their lowest. Just as everything seems lost, a German ship arrives. The family reaches Australia safely and kindness surounds them. Anh lives with his mum, dad, brother Khoa and sister Tram in a suburb in Sydney. He is now famous as a comedian and is happily married with 3 children. There are many good examples of positive character traits shown through Anh Do’s Life. Some of these include the kindness from Anh’s mother, bravery from Anh’s father, forgiveness from Anh and generosity from two nuns from St Vincent de Paul.

Ahn mentions the hardship he went through during the job through first person point of view such as ‘I slung the straps over my shoulders and it was lumpy and unbalanced’ carrying a forty kilogram worth of pamphlets in his old school bag and ‘Ten p.m. that night we slumped into bed absolutely exhausted. We still had about third to go…I’d never intended for my whole family to have to labour with me; the idea was for Mum to work less…sitting at a table madly trying to squeeze in my homework’.
The Happiest Refugee is a text written in an informal and colloquial language, which enables Anh Do to openly share his life to his readers. This conveys a strong sense of his voice and is as if he is conversing with a friend. Readers feel privileged to share his ideas and emotions, especially when he writes about moments of fear in his life sincerely, such as when their citizenship documents disappeared, "Those pieces of paper meant we were safe and without them my family felt as vulnerable as someone selling snacks on a Saigon train with no permit." The use of this simile, which references his family background, emphasises how important it is to have those documents. Through the manipulation of colloquial...

Through this technique, readers to how he felt, what happened to him and how it made him feel which invite the readers to respond with sympathy towards his problems with money at a young age.

Readers are positioned to react in a warm, positive manner towards Ahn’s Mum.

This has been achieved through the use of dialogue in the event where his Mum invites their distant cousin and her daughter ‘to stay’ when Ahn is fifteen and his family is ‘pretty close to being flat out broke’ and ‘Financially…struggling, desperately struggling’.
Another positive character trait that was demonstrated through Anh’s life in The Happiest Refugee was “generosity”. This was demonstrated by two nuns from St Vincent de Paul when they gave the Do family bags of clothes free of charge when they first arrived to Australia with no money. “One of the first things that happened was two smiley nuns from St Vincent de Paul came and gave our family a huge garbage bag stuffed full of clothes. No charge. For free!” (pg 28) This quote proves that Anh grew up around generous people throughout his childhood and it resulted in him being generous towards people. By the nuns giving their family clothes for free, shows the a positive character trait that Anh grew up with.

Ahn’s Mum insists to the far relative ‘Come live with us’ and replies ‘They’ve got no one’ and ‘if they can, they will. If they can’t, what does it matter?’ when Ahn’s younger brother, Khoa, ‘pipes up’ asking ‘Are they going to pay rent and stuff?’ Through this written convention, readers are positioned to be astonished by his Mum’s generosity towards others, and react positively and favourably towards her.
A positive character trait that was demonstrated through the life of Anh Do was “bravery”. This was shown by Anh’s father. There are many moments in this autobiography where bravery can be seen by Anh’s father. An obvious example of this would be when he dressed up as a high- ranking communist officer at a re-education camp and freed his two brothers. If he was caught doing this he could have put himself into extreme danger. “ One sunny afternoon my father walked into the remote re- education camp dressed up as a high- ranking communist officer. He marched right through the front door of the communist officer’s room. ‘These two men need to come with me’, he demanded. ………..My father then walked my uncles out of the camp, right out the front gate.”(pg 8)This quote shows breathtaking bravery from Anh’s father as he could potentially have been sentenced to death if he was caught. This is just one example of a positive character trait shown through Anh’s life.

The boat trip experience as part of Ahn’s family’s escape from Vietnam promotes fear and suspenseful emotion through descriptive language. Ahn’s families are confronted with two pirate groups during their trip that steals their goods heartlessly.

Anh was a young child when he arrived in Australia, He explains of a dangerous journey from Vietnam. On two separate occasions they were nearly slaughtered by pirates. The group of refugees also endured the scorching sun, also with the uncomfortable living standards of the overcrowded boat they were travelling on. Because of the previous life the Do family had in Vietnam and the boat trip they endured upon arrival to Australia. The Do’s are very grateful for what they have received living in Australia.

The pirate’s brutality has been illustrated through the use of descriptive language such as ‘They were pirates. They descended on us angrily, striking random faces to assert their intent, yanking off bracelets and rings from trembling hands…ordered all of us to take our clothes off’ from first pirates and ‘We stood there silent and numb, like sheep awaiting slaughter.
Writing in first-person narrative allows Do to engage with his readers, which makes it easier for him to be persuasive and to therefore make a difference. It gives the text its warmth and intimacy and makes readers feel a personal connection with Do. In the book, Anh Do talks about his near-death experience that happened at the mere age of two, "Bang! Bang! The patrol boat began shooting at us, and the women on our boat screamed." The use of onomatopoeia in this quote paints a picture in the mind of the readers and lets them experience the fear of bullets whistling past their heads, clanging in to the side of the only thing that could get them to a better life. Sharing this experience, with the use of first-person point of view, positions readers to be grateful of their lives, especially if they didn't have to be in the same situation. Do also accentuates the fact that we have to appreciate and recognise the lives that we have to make the world a better place.

We were forced to strip off our clothes again, and the pirates stalked up and down the rows of naked bodies, inspecting opened, trembling mouths, occasionally pulling out a gold capping’ from second pirates.
One of the first representations of belonging in the novel came with some nuns from St Vincent de Paul. Anh described them as “Angel like” the nuns handed Anh and his family a bag full of free clothes. This was the first representation of belonging in the novel. Coming from a country where the Do family virtually had nothing Anh and his family showed great appreciation. This act of kindness gave Anh and his family a very positive first impression of Australia.

The use of this language technique generates suspense and tension during the event and positions the readers to fear the cruel pirates.

Texts invite readers to get involved with the characters, look at events, participate emotionally and to respond to the issues explored.

The text ‘The Happiest Refugee’ written by the narrator himself, Ahn Do, about his life, uses narrative techniques and conventions to engage and encourage the readers to respond in particular ways.
There are many positive character traits demonstrated in The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do. “Kindness” was one of the main character traits shown throughout the book. This was demonstrated by Anh’s mother when she invited people to her home to live with her and her family. You can see this as she is always helping others even if she wasn’t in the greatest position. “Mum and Dad naturally seemed to attract these people…….. my mother would hear about people with nowhere to go and simply say ‘Send them to me’.” (pg 45) This quote proves that she was kind as she knew how it felt to have no where to go so she let people stay with her. The way Anh’s mother lets other people into her home is an example of kindness demonstrated through Anh’s life.

Emotions such as sympathy, warmth, admiration and suspense are encouraged by the text through the characters of Ahn Do, his Mum, other members of his family and the use of the pirates & their conduct. Ahn Do successfully achieves these reactions through the use of narrative conventions like first person point of view, dialogue, characterisation and descriptive language.
Anh grew up with a good influence of people and their positive character traits. This reflected in Anh’s personality. The kindness of his mother, the bravery of his father, the generosity from the nuns and Anh’s ability to forgive. These are all good examples of positive character traits, as the people who have demonstrated them are all close to him and have taught him a lesson. Anh and his family are thankful to be alive and in such a happy place. All these experiences have made Anh into the person he is today.


Newton, Adam Refugees & courage University of Melbourne Press, 2009

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