AP English Language+
Spirit Essay 1
One of the more prominent themes expressed in the novel "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" is that of cultural differences and how they lead to uninformed assumptions about people. The cultural differences expressed in this novel are superficial and not hard to find. Unfortunately the assumptions Fadiman nudges the reader towards are not as apparent which makes her ideas seem more acceptable because they are not forced upon the reader. The following pages contain the underlying purpose of Fadiman's novel: the promotion of the Hmong culture and the degradation of the American medical system. These subtleties poke out from beneath Fadiman's overlying theme's of acceptance and cultural relativism which blanket the novel. These overlying themes may be noble and heartwarming, but they are also unrealistic as can be witnessed throughout the novel. If there is one thing the reader can take away from, The Spirit Catches You and you fall down, it is that there is a big difference between saying, "Can't we all just get along?" and actually getting along.
Fadiman is constantly making cultural comparisons between the Hmong and American cultures. More importantly she seems to have developed a formula that starts with immersion and ends with promotion. The Hmong culture is relayed to us through Fadiman's words and then promotes the Hmong people's way of life. Throughout the book she believes that she is giving an unbiased, journalist type account of Lia's struggle. However, Fadiman's bias towards the Hmong people reveals itself early on in the novel when she juxtaposes each cultures treatment of epileptics and infants. Fadiman appears to favor the Hmong which can be observed in this quote from chapter three, "Before he entered politics, Coelho planned to become a Jesuit priest, but was barred by a canon forbidding the ordination of epileptics. What was considered a disqualifying impairment by Coelho's church might...