Unpolished Gem

by

Alice Pung

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Michael Character Analysis

Alice’s white, Australian boyfriend, and the “white ghost” Kien fears her daughter will marry. Michael, like Alice, is studying to become a lawyer. He has wanted to be a lawyer ever since he watched Gandhi in the tenth grade, and he is an exceedingly kind and gentle young man. Michael has an excellent sense of humor and is a very likable character. He is clumsy and charming when he asks Alice out for the first time, and she has a hard time turning him down. Michael is patient with Alice’s strict and confined life, and he tries very hard to win Kien and Kuan’s approval. He genuinely loves Alice, and he even agrees to eat meat—including venison—when Kien looks at him suspiciously for being a vegetarian. Alice breaks up with Michael before he goes back to college because she isn’t ready for a serious relationship (and because her mother disapproves of him). The fact that Michael is such a good catch and Alice breaks up with him anyway underscores her dedication to her family and her respect for love and the sanctity of marriage.

Michael Quotes in Unpolished Gem

The Unpolished Gem quotes below are all either spoken by Michael or refer to Michael. 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:
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Plume edition of Unpolished Gem published in 2006.
Part 5 Quotes

I thought, if I were a young man I would be scared of my parents too. Perhaps not my father so much, because he was able to sit down and reason things out. But my mother—there was no way she would be able to understand an alien, let alone an alien her own daughter had chosen. My mother saw the differences as insurmountable—she was only comfortable with the familiar, yet she still believed that Princess Diana was the most dazzling creature ever to grace the earth, and that white women were more beautiful than we could ever be.

Related Characters: Alice Pung / Agheare (speaker), Michael
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Unpolished Gem LitChart as a printable PDF.
Unpolished Gem PDF

Michael Character Timeline in Unpolished Gem

The timeline below shows where the character Michael appears in Unpolished Gem. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 5
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
In the meantime, Alice is walking with a young white boy named Michael. He is kind and funny, and they fight when he insists on escorting her home.... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Michael asks Alice if she would like to have dinner with him. Alice thinks he might... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
...and she tries to relax and enjoy herself. Not everything has to be so “serious.” Michael looks at her and says, “What will your father say when I ask you to... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
“So…umm, how about it?” Michael asks. Alice sits silently. Alice thinks to herself that he needs a “bowl haircut” and... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Marriage Theme Icon
 After their initial dinner, Alice’s relationship with Michael gets “easier.” She decides to “loosen her small and tightly coiled life” and date like... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
...random train and got off at a place you have never been before?” Alice asks Michael later. He hasn’t, and neither has she; Alice has never been out of Melbourne. As... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Alice tells Michael that it doesn’t look like he even has an Adam’s apple. “Yes, I do,” he... (full context)
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Michael tells Alice she should get home before her “tracking device goes off.” Kuan usually calls... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Marriage Theme Icon
After several dates, Michael begins to ask Alice about meeting her parents. “Soon,” she tells him. Neither Kuan nor... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...She can never hide feelings of suspicion either, and she is suspicious when Alice brings Michael to dinner with them in China-town. (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Michael is a vegetarian. “No meat at all?” Kien asks. “Buddhist? Taoist?” She thinks it is... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
After dinner, Michael gives Kien a lovely, “understated” arrangement of flowers. “Tanks you velly march,” Kien says. Alice... (full context)
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Kien tells Alice that Michael probably “splits everything in half.” Alice lies and says he doesn’t. The truth is she... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Alice thinks about Michael’s female friends. She has met a few, and they always hug and kiss him when... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Kien continues to give Alice a hard time about Michael, and when they walk downtown by the jewelry shops and the Kims ask if her... (full context)
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
One night, Alice pulls up to Michael’s college at 10:30 P.M. “Ummm…look what time it is,” he says uncomfortably. Alice knows she... (full context)
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Alice says her parents are worried that Michael will “deflower her,” but that is unlikely, and her room isn’t even that exciting. It... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Earlier that night, Alice had taken Michael upstairs after Kien had gone out. Not to sleep with him—just “to see what he... (full context)
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
...doing upstairs with the boy?” Kien had asked. Alice told her that they were vacuuming. Michael begged Alice to just tell her parents the truth, nothing happened anyway, he said. Alice... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
Now, as Alice leaves Michael at school, she knows the vacuuming story will work, just “as she knew it would... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Gender and Inequality Theme Icon
In the meantime, Michael tries hard to be accepted by Kuan and Kien, and when Alice does her chores... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Each night Alice drives Michael home, and if it is past 10:30 P.M., Kuan usually goes with them. Tonight, they... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Marriage Theme Icon
Alice is sure that Michael will not understand why she doesn’t want to have sex. It isn’t “only to do... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Marriage Theme Icon
In the following days, Alice helps Michael pack and get ready to return to Perth for college. Alice takes him to a... (full context)
Culture and Assimilation  Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Marriage Theme Icon
Alice and Michael laugh and then sit in the silence. “Well,” Michael finally says, “I’m going to miss... (full context)