Foreign Bodies

When All is Lost, Faith Remains Many people find themselves in a constant struggle of faith. These individuals are often questioning if there is a God, and if there is how does one know. In Hwee Hwee Tan’s novel, Foreign Bodies, there is a struggle of faith in each of the four main characters. Mei and Andy are two of these characters that are able to come to faith in the Christian God after life altering experiences. These experiences have caused each of them to analyze and attack life in different ways.
Each of these individuals have been able to overcome a treacherous past, and find faith, hope, desire and justice in their futures through Tan’s novel. Mei’s religious views are consistent throughout the novel, Foreign Bodies. Though she was born into a Confucianism based family, Mei chose at a young age to throw her traditional Singaporean beliefs to the side, and walk in the light of God, with her Uncle Cheong’s guidance, through faith in Christianity. It was a brutal shock to Mei’s grandfather when he finds out she no longer believes in her family’s faith.
This conversation arises as Mei’s grandfather is telling her how to reduce her time in hell. “After I die, you going to feed me or not? ” Gong Gong is shocked when Mei replies that she will be unable to. He immediately responds by asking who is responsible for the change in Mei’s beliefs. He is not surprised when she responds with Uncle Cheong. As a child everyone has a hero they look up to. Uncle Cheong is Mei’s hero. “In my eyes Uncle Cheong could do no wrong. Even his farts smelled like Aramis No. 7.

With the heart of Mother Teresa and the body of Tom Cruise, Uncle Cheong was my hero…” Mei’s adoration allowed herself to be susceptible to Uncle Chong’s stories and views of God. She loved when he would tell her stories about her newfound savior. A key role in the strengthening of Mei’s faith in God was due to the incident at Red Hill. Mei has oppressed this tragedy in her memory for many years, and only a few people are aware that it took place. As a four year old, Mei’s father took her to Red Hill to run and play with her lantern. It was the time of year when Mid-autumn was celebrated.
At Red Hill, Mei’s father raped her. While this was occurring Mei sent multiple prayers up to her God. “I used all the prayers I knew, all the prayers Uncle Cheong had taught me. ” Mei’s connection with God helped her get through her father raping her. She no longer felt the pain after she started to seek God’s help through prayer. Without the help of God, Mei may not have been able to become the person she is today. It is a miracle that Mei was able to recover physically, emotionally, and most important spiritually from this tragedy.
One might have suspected that she would have lost all faith in God, for letting her father hurt her the way he did. This incident proves how strong Mei has faith in God. She has accepted that he will always be there for her, to watch and protect over her, even though it may not be immediately. Mei’s ultimate view of evil is seen through her view of evil being extremely prevalent throughout society. She believes that when someone close to her commits an act of wrong, it is her responsibility as a good Christian to fix their mistakes.
This was seen in multiple events throughout the novel. Mei, with the push of her father’s will, believed that her mother is not able to take care of her own finances. Mei took on the burden of regulating her mother’s money, and frequently became frustrated and irritated with the way her mother wants to spend her mother. “My mother was a sucker for sales. She would go for anything which said ‘Offer ends today. ’ She was the type who would mass-buy toothpicks. ” This quote displays the burdens Mei takes on with caring for her mother.
Mei is constantly trying to fix her mother’s life and teach her values that Mei finds important. Mei’s views on evil and religion are very different from Andy’s views of God. At the beginning of the novel Andy’s view of evil directly stems from his belief in the absence of God. Andy wishes to find some sort of proof that there is a God and goodness in the world, and he wants to be able to feel and understand God by himself. He denies the presence of this goodness and God in the beginning of Foreign Bodies by placing his desires into football teams. Too mediocre to ever achieve anything great in life by my own merits, I latched my personal identity onto something which could achieve greatness for me: a football club. ” When Andy establishes his stance on religion at this point of the novel he is stating that he wants something great, but he is lost as to what this greatness is. Many individuals would seek a religion to fulfill these desires, but Andy is content with placing his dreams on a football team. Though Andy in the beginning of the novel considers himself a “lapsed atheist”, he develops and changes throughout to become the person he eventually intended to be.
Andy’s conversion to faith in God was originally not self-motivated. Andy seemed to have an eye for Mei, and Mei did not want a relationship with an individual that had spiritual beliefs different from hers, let alone none at all. After they start dating and Andy enters trail Mei accuses him of having no spiritual beliefs at all. “You faked it all, pretending to have seen Jesus, giving up gambling. You only said that to trick me into going out with you. ” Andy gives no response as Mei’s statement is partially true, but Andy always did have hope that there was something more out there.
Andy continuously hinted to the reader that he wanted something more to believe in. He may not have had the same extent of belief in God that Mei does, but she had no right to call him out as a complete non-believer. Though Mei’s push for Andy to find a spiritual safe haven was unsuccessful, the trail that Andy was put on gave him the final push to help him find God. Andy had been put on trial in Singapore for gambling on football games. This action had been legal in England where Andy had lived before his move to Singapore.
Even though he was innocent of the charges against him, another individual who had hopes of framing a different man set him up. Once the trail began, and all of his friends had left him to face the charges alone, Andy had no other option, but to turn to God. He was an innocent man that stood no chance of winning his court case. Andy knew that he would be spending the next three years in jail, and he needed something to help pull him through when everyone else abandoned him. This abandonment caused Andy to put his trust and faith into he newfound God. “He slay me, yet I will trust him. This statement made by Andy in a letter to Mei proves that he came to God on his own free will without the help of anyone else. The absence of God that Andy once felt in his life has been removed due to his newfound faith. “I love God not for what He gives, but for who He is. I love him because He is God. I don’t care how much He hurts me, I will still love him, because no matter what I do to Him, He will still adore me. ” The words could never be confessed from a straight atheist. Andy has always had hope and desire that there was some form of good out there for him, it just took longer than expected to find it.
Though Mei and Andy are both believers in the Christian God, the experiences and challenges they both overcame to come to faith are extremely different, but still have similarities. Both of these individuals are able to forgive. Forgiveness in the Christian church is a huge belief, as God has forgiven each of us as individuals. Without this learned tool of forgiveness Mei would never have been able to forgive her father, and Andy would not have been able to forgive Mei for abandoning him in his time of urgent need.
Mei and Andy’s views in God help define who they were as people, and who they aspire to be. God is ever present in both of their lives, giving them hope to take on the challenges that are waiting to cross their paths in the future. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Tan, Hwee Hwee. Foreign Bodies. (New York: Washington Square Books, 1997), 20. [ 2 ]. Tan, Hwee Hwee. Foreign Bodies. (New York: Washington Square Books, 1997), 21. [ 3 ]. Tan, Hwee Hwee. Foreign Bodies. (New York: Washington Square Books, 1997), 248. 4 ]. Tan, Hwee Hwee. Foreign Bodies. (New York: Washington Square Books, 1997), 149. [ 5 ]. Tan, Hwee Hwee. Foreign Bodies. (New York: Washington Square Books, 1997), 124. [ 6 ]. Tan, Hwee Hwee. Foreign Bodies. (New York: Washington Square Books, 1997), 222. [ 7 ]. Tan, Hwee Hwee. Foreign Bodies. (New York: Washington Square Books, 1997), 45. [ 8 ]. Tan, Hwee Hwee. Foreign Bodies. (New York: Washington Square Books, 1997), 277. [ 9 ]. Tan, Hwee Hwee. Foreign Bodies. (New York: Washington Square Books, 1997), 278.

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