The Happiest Refugee

by

Anh Do

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The Journey Symbol Icon

In Anh Do’s The Happiest Refugee, the journey represents both the perils and rewards of migration. The book is framed by two boat journeys. The story of the family’s escape from Vietnam on a small fishing boat, told at the beginning of the book, alludes to the perils of migration. This first journey is full of threats, including storms and pirates, which the family barely survives. This voyage encapsulates the family’s vulnerability as refugees who are at the mercy of the forces—both natural and human—that threaten to destroy them. The boat journey that ends the book, however, is very different from the one that begins it. This is a leisurely trip that Anh takes with his wife, three children, and mother through Bobbin Head National Park in Australia, his adoptive home. The sense of gratitude and contentment that Anh feels on this journey through the beautiful Australian scenery points to the potential rewards of migration. By this point in his life, Anh is a successful celebrity in Australia; he leads a secure, happy life with his family, including the mother who had protected him on the perilous boat voyage out of Vietnam. These two boat voyages, therefore, mark contrasting aspects of the migration experience—both its dangers and its rewards. Anh is fortunate in that his own journey of migration ends in happiness and prosperity—and this is reflected it in the peaceful, beautiful boat ride that he takes with his family at the end of the memoir.

The Journey Quotes in The Happiest Refugee

The The Happiest Refugee quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Journey. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Allen & Unwin edition of The Happiest Refugee published in 2010.
Chapter 2 Quotes

My extended family pooled all their money, called in favours with friends and relatives and sold everything they had—every possession—just to buy a boat. Getting your hands on a boat was an extremely risky business. They were only available on the black market and anyone caught trying to buy one could be jailed or killed.

Related Characters: Anh Do (speaker), Anh’s Mother, Tam / Anh’s Father
Related Symbols: The Journey
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Back on our boat one of the pirates grabbed hold of the smallest child. He lifted up the baby and ripped open the child’s nappy. A tiny slice of gold fell out. The pirate picked up the metal and wantonly dangled the baby over the side of the boat, threatening to throw the infant in. My father screamed at the top of his lungs, “We must save the child! We will fight to the death to SAVE THE CHILD!”

Related Characters: Anh Do (speaker), Anh’s Mother, Tam / Anh’s Father, Khoa, Pirates
Related Symbols: The Journey
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

As their boat veered away, one of the pirates did something strange. He was a young kid according to my uncles, no more than eighteen years old, and had been less aggressive throughout the whole encounter. Suddenly and for no apparent reason he threw us a gallon of water.

That water saved our lives.

You can’t drink jewelry or eat gold teeth caps, but that water meant everything because it bought us an extra day. That second pirate attack saved our lives.

Related Characters: Anh Do (speaker), Anh’s Mother, Tam / Anh’s Father, Pirates
Related Symbols: The Journey
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

“What a great country!”

Almost every day we discovered something else that made Mum and Dad shake their heads at how lucky we’d been. If you got sick, you could go to the doctor for free. If you couldn’t get a job straight away, the government gave you some money to help you get by.

Related Characters: Anh Do (speaker), Anh’s Mother, Tam / Anh’s Father
Related Symbols: The Journey
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Uncle Three passed out and woke up on a beach in Malaysia. After searching desperately for other survivors he found Uncle Nine alive. Eventually they found the dead bodies of uncles Five and Seven.

Related Characters: Anh Do (speaker), Uncle Three , Uncle Five , Uncle Seven , Uncle Nine , Pirates
Related Symbols: The Journey
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Dad volunteered to go, but Uncle One insisted that Dad should stay and wait, and that he’d go. So Dad and Uncle One split up the boat money between the two of them, and Uncle One went with the men, while Dad waited. An hour later . . . no Uncle One. An hour and a half later . . . no Uncle One.

“I had an ill feeling in my stomach, Anh, like something was wrong.” Dad looked up to the ceiling, and his face turned a deep red. “I felt an urge to go down the track, to see what had happened . . . in fact, as soon as Uncle One left with them, I felt an urge to track behind them.”

I listened stunned.

“I didn’t follow. I just waited.”

Related Characters: Anh Do (speaker), Tam / Anh’s Father, Uncle One
Related Symbols: The Journey
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

There were a bunch of speeches and then the prime minister stepped up to the microphone.

“The 2005 Young Australian of the Year is . . . Khoa Do!”

Jesus Christ! Khoa’s done it. My brother just won Young Australian of the Year.

Khoa, the baby dangled over the side of the boat by the pirates, the toddler that Mum dressed in little girls’ dresses, the fat kid who thought the homeless woman was going to eat him… had just won Young Australian of the Year.

Mum was bawling tears of happiness.

Related Characters: Anh Do (speaker), Anh’s Mother, Khoa
Related Symbols: The Journey
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

We handed them the big cheque and Daniel gave me a hug, his tears wetting my ear and my neck.

“Thank you, Anh. We’ve got the money to look after Sarah now . . . my wife’s going to be okay now . . . thank you.”

Related Characters: Anh Do (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Journey
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

I look across the water and am mesmerised by the beauty of this magnificent setting. My parents set off on a boat trip many years ago to provide their children and grandchildren a better life. And here we are, thanks to them, enjoying this perfect day. In that moment I know I am happy. I look up to the blue sky and give thanks.

Related Characters: Anh Do (speaker), Anh’s Mother, Suzie, Xavier, Luc, Leon
Related Symbols: The Journey
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Happiest Refugee LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Happiest Refugee PDF

The Journey Symbol Timeline in The Happiest Refugee

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Journey appears in The Happiest Refugee. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...carry out the purchase secretly. Anh’s father huddles together with Anh’s uncles, planning the family’s escape from Vietnam on the boat. Anh’s father is charged with navigating a smaller boat through... (full context)
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...patrols, the entire family makes it safely to the “Motherfish.” The first morning of their voyage, they must cross the border into international waters—one of the most dangerous parts of the... (full context)
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
On the second day of the journey, the family faces their second major test: a huge storm picks up. The women and... (full context)
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
A boy named Loc, who has been sent by his mother on the voyage, has been having a hard time dealing with the cramped, difficult conditions on board the... (full context)
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
On the fifth day of the voyage, the family spots another boat on the horizon. This time they are fearful because of... (full context)
Chapter 6
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...Vietnam with UnclesFive, Seven, and Nine six months before Anh and his family made their voyage of escape. On the journey, Anh’s uncles had also been caught by pirates—who sank their... (full context)
Chapter 10
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Betrayal and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...had gone together to purchase the boat on which the family was to make their escape from Vietnam. When they met the three men from whom they were supposed to purchase... (full context)
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Betrayal and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...He had also been terrified while guiding the family on the “Motherfish” boat during their escape from Vietnam. (full context)
Chapter 11
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...same child who had almost lost his life on the “Motherfish,” when, during the family’s escape from Vietnam, he had been dangled over the edge of the boat by pirates. (full context)
Chapter 12
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Betrayal and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...boat pulls away, Anh reflects on the fact that his parents had undertaken a perilous journey decades earlier, to provide him and his siblings with a good life. As he enjoys... (full context)