The Boat, is a short story by Nam Le written about a young girl seeking asylum; after fleeing from the Vietnam war. The Boat, is dominated by three major themes. Mai is the main character that emphasises and mainly portrays these themes.
Survival, within the context of the boat means to overcome many adversities we arent always equipped to face, but can occasionally find ourselves in hardships that arent the same as those of The Boat People, but are just as challenging to conquer.
Mai and the rest of the refugees on the boat faced extreme difficulties due to their lack of basic necessities. Those on the boat not only struggled with the harsh physical circumstances but also the draining mental ones. Physical survival is dependent on whether you have sufficient shelter, food, and water. Mental survival is reliant on having safety, happiness, and sense of belonging. In Chapter 4, the hardships the refugees were facing became most noticeable. After a storm, it left the boat with no engine and The Boat People were now aimlessly drifting, with little food and water, and in unbearable heat.
The lack of food and water is making many of those on the boat very ill. The mental effects of the situation soon begin to show, especially so, when a teenage girl commits suicide (The tenth day dawned. A young teenage girl with chicken legs wandered over to the gunwale. In a motion like a bow that didnt stop, she toppled gracefully over the side).
Although many adversities were faced and that rough journey seemed almost endless, they were able to find land, to end the journey. The theme of survival in The Boat acts as a metaphor and a representation of difficulties that many youth face today. In times of adversity, sadness and difficulty seems almost permanent, even though there is land and safety at the end of all difficulty.
Family arent necessarily related to you by blood or marriage, but instead support, guide, and love you unconditionally. Family can be found in friend groups, school, etc, it isnt necessarily limited to your flesh and blood. If people feel connected to a person in a motherly, fatherly, sisterly, or brotherly way they then may choose to call them their family and associate with as though they were. Mai had no family onboard the boat see was travelling to seek asylum on, she began to befriend two others; Quyen and Truong. Mai was able to sense a connection between her and Truong, but was unsure what is based on. She later hears singing that triggered memories of her father, who had been sent to a re-education camp and the process he had lost his sight. Many of Mais thought would begin with her father and end with Truong, bringing her to the realisation that she perceiving Truong as a fatherly figure and associates him with her own. Quyen used the Vietnamese word for elder sister (Thank you…Em gai) proving the family like connection between the three. Situations where people associate others as their family is increasingly common. Teenagers form strong bonds with friends and are often able to find a second family among them.