Monkey Bridge – Critique a Critique

Scales - PersuasionReading and Writing a Literary Critique

  1. Use the Nine Yardsticks of Value Chart to show how you rate the autobiographical novel Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao.
  2. Also, carefully read the following critique and use the chart to indicate what you believe to be the values of the author, “Monkey Bridge,” Cao has a distinctive style that’s subtle and engaging. But because the novel is so clearly autobiographical, I wished that Cao had abandoned her creaky literary devices and written a memoir. In the interests of creating a compelling narrative, Cao shamelessly leads the reader toward the soap-operatic revelation of Mai’s mother’s murky parentage. The sensationalism feels tacked on, while the well-chosen details are what gives the story its energy. Click here for Monkey Bridge Evaluation handout.

Cao excels at memorializing, conveying ironies in the simplest details. For instance, the Mekong Grocery, where Mai’s mother works, becomes a meeting place for the American GIs of Falls Church who want to indulge their taste for Vietnamese delicacies and distaste for Jane Fonda. Cao also tells us that in Saigon women buy paper bags of canaries and hummingbirds and free them for the karma of doing a kind deed. And we learn that in Vietnamese, the word for “please” is “make good karma.” (“Make good karma and pass the butter.”) In “Monkey Bridge,” it’s the glimpses of Vietnamese-American culture — not the melodrama — that left me wanting more.” (Elizabeth Judd)

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