The Happiest Refugee


Anh Do

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The Re-education Camps Symbol Analysis

The Re-education Camps Symbol Icon

The “re-education camps” in which two of Anh’s uncles serve time in Vietnam represent the brutality of the Communist regime that ruled the country after the end of the Vietnam War. The regime condemned those it deemed to be enemies—such as Anh’s uncles Thanh and Huy, who had fought alongside American and Australian troops during the war—to these camps. While the purported purpose of the camps was to “re-educate” opponents of the regime, the camps were in fact centers of detention and punishment. There, prisoners face starvation, torture, disease, and hard labor. The conditions are so brutal that Anh’s uncle Thanh almost dies as a result of an illness he picks up while undertaking backbreaking hard labor in the camp. The harsh conditions, as well as the brutality to which inmates are subjected, therefore, point to the ruthlessness and oppression of the regime that ruled the country in the aftermath of the war. It is one of the reasons why Anh’s family flees the country on their boat journey.

The Re-education Camps Quotes in The Happiest Refugee

The The Happiest Refugee quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Re-education Camps. 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
Chapter 1 Quotes

One sunny afternoon my father walked into the remote re-education camp dressed as a high-ranking communist officer. He marched right through the front door of the commanding officer’s room.

“These two men need to come with me,” he demanded. The commanding officer was bewildered. He was afraid to disobey such a high-ranking official so he did not resist. My father then walked my uncles out of the camp, right through the front gate.

Related Characters: Anh Do (speaker), Tam / Anh’s Father, Uncle Thanh , Uncle Huy
Related Symbols: The Re-education Camps
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Re-education Camps Symbol Timeline in The Happiest Refugee

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Re-education Camps appears in The Happiest Refugee. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
...eldest brothers, who served as paratroopers alongside Australian and American troops, were condemned to communist re-education camps after the end of the Vietnam War. Uncle Thanh, a gentle, quiet man, almost died... (full context)
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon Anh’s mother, Anh’s father Tam rescues his brothers-in-law Thanh and Huy from the communist re-education camp to which they have been condemned, and he does so in a daring fashion. He... (full context)
Chapter 10
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
...whenever undertaking a courageous action. This includes the time when he walked into the Communist re-education camp , dressed in a senior official’s uniform, to rescue his two brothers-in-law Thanh and Huy.... (full context)