Women, Westernization and the Origins of Modern Vietnamese Theatre

By Wilcox, Wynn | Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Women, Westernization and the Origins of Modern Vietnamese Theatre


Wilcox, Wynn, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies


Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, magazines, newspapers and novels burst off the presses in Vietnamese cities at extraordinary rates. (1) As cities expanded and a small but not insignificant urban Vietnamese middle class emerged, city dwellers had to cope with class distinctions and discrimination, new forms of knowledge and population increases. A new Vietnamese middle class rushed to consider, and sometimes embrace, a sea of new fashions, goods, tastes and ideologies that were being introduced. (2) At first, these developments seem to have offered Vietnamese urbanites an inchoate and disjointed series of choices. By looking at even one page from two newspapers, for example, one could find advertisements for sausages, trains and diamonds among announcements of ship timetables, essays on colonial life and commentaries on the role of women in the family. (3)

Yet in the midst of all these new products and issues, three related themes emerged with greater frequency and greater consistency than the others: the changing status of Vietnamese women, Westernization and the meaning of being Vietnamese. Political debates over the status of women were important enough to become the focus of one significant and influential newspaper, Phu nu Tan van (Women's news), which ran continuously from 1929 to 1934. (4) In addition, debates on the changing role of women in newspapers dates as far back as commentator Pham Quynh's 1917 essay on the status of women, in which he warned of the moral degradation of women: 'when men lack virtue, it is harmful to society; but not so harmful as when women become unsound, because unsound women damage the very roots of society'. (5) Although Phu nu Tan van ran articles on any number of political and apolitical topics, they frequently debated and discussed the 'new girl', a Westernized elite Vietnamese woman who spent time playing tennis and ping-pong and shirking her Confucian responsibilities. The 'new girl' and the issues surrounding her were controversial enough in the pages of Phu nu Tan van that some editors and writers tempered the paper's progressive approach to the question of women by introducing exemplary characters from the Vietnamese past such as the Trung Sisters, who served as examples of assertive women that appeared to be consistent with a certain notion of the Vietnamese past. (6)

This article will consider these changes in detail as they relate to the development of Vietnamese theatre in the 1920s and 1930s. First, it will examine the development of concerns about Westernization and the status of women in Vietnam during this period. Next, it will examine how these two developments in early twentieth-century Vietnamese social history affected the development in the same time period of a modern Vietnamese spoken theatre, and will demonstrate how these two themes influenced both the form and the content of the first spoken dramas. Finally, the study will examine in detail one particularly significant play that highlights the concerns about Westernization and the status of Vietnamese women: Nam Xuong's Ong Tay An-nam (The Frenchman from Annam) (1930).

Women, the West and the nation: The concerns of the new Vietnamese literature

The new concerns about the status of women given the chaotic world of the 1920s and 1930s in Vietnam also formed a central theme in the newly emerging genre of the Vietnamese novel. In Nguyen Ba Hoc's Co Chieu Nhi. (Miss Chieu Nhi), for example, a young girl from a rich family, tempted by Western goods, squanders her money and becomes a beggar. (7) Similar themes dominate perhaps the most popular novel of the 1920s, Hoang Ngoc Phach's To tam (Pure heart). In this tragic story, a young woman who has recently graduated from a French school is forced by her parents to marry a man she does not love instead of the love of her life. In To tam, the perceived modern individualism of the increasingly Francophile urban elite comes into conflict with the 'traditional' bonds of the family. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Women, Westernization and the Origins of Modern Vietnamese Theatre
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.