The most significant theme highlighted in Balance of Fragile Things: A Novel is family. It highlights the family of first-generation immigrants in New York facing varying problems relating to survival, home sickness, assimilation, and difficulty of explaining unique events such as the dead blue butterfly. Vic is a teenager in the multicultural family made up of an Indian father, Paul, and a Latvian mother, Maija. Accordingly, Vic has to deal with bullying at school and Paul is haunted by past ghosts that force him to pressure his son to follow Sikh traditions. The family is ultimately brought together by the environmental devastation caused by butterflies. The most significant topics that would be discussed along with the theme of family include multiculturalism, life complications, unbreakable bonds, racism, and secrets in the family. The argument is that all families experience these aspects at one point or another of their existence. For instance, Paul’s family came to understand their position as immigrants and had to be brought together in the time of trouble. These arguments relate to a large social concern because a family is the smallest unit respected in any given society. The lineage of the family is always expected to be protected for prosperity and ultimate realization of family goals. From a larger perspective, the spirit of globalization has brought individuals together and many multicultural marriages have been established around the world. However, the question is always about their survival.
In Balance of Fragile Things: A Novel, a family is presented as a united unit despite numerous challenges that individuals members face. In the novel, a family built on multiculturalism would have difficulties in terms of the belief system. It is clear that Paul is an Indian and subscribes to the Sikh beliefs. In turn, Maija, his wife, is a Latvian with different beliefs. For instance, Paul as a father and a Sikh has to remain strong in his belief in the challenging and shameful world where rare things happen to his son Vic. According to the novel, Vic is unique from other students because “…..of the fact that his father made him follow Sikhism when most kids were taking their fashion tips from MTV, not Guru Gobind Singh of the seventeenth century” (Chadha 6). This implies that he is trying to make his children follow his own Sikh culture as the father and the leader of the family. He is haunted by ghosts of the past, which make him force his son to follow his Sikh traditions. There is no way to make a mistake by allowing children to subscribe to the modern culture, which is highly controversial for his culture. However, the focus on the maintenance of this family in the multicultural perspective is limited by poor business performance of the Paul’s business because of ongoing road constructions. The second significant view is that Maija, Paul’s wife and a Latvian, is haunted by the present and she tries to create an identity for her children. The whole concept of living in a multicultural family is quite confusing in terms of belief systems that children are supposed to follow. Accordingly, Maija experiences ominous and new psychic visions that confuse her on matters of relevant cultural perspectives that are required to follow in this multicultural set up. “Her fears and dreams about death and disaster” (Chadha 27) push her to the extent of thinking about the future of her teenage children. However, the arrival of Maija’s mother and Paul’s father plays a vital role in bridging the multicultural gap in the family. This is a clear sign of the view that senior members of the extended family bring about mutual understanding through shared experiences and personal experiences. The multicultural aspect within a family is a challenging one, especially when it comes to choosing the identity for children. Vic and Isabella do not have an easier time coming up with a unique identity because they have to experience a bit of Latvian and Indian cultures to suit interests of their parents. However, multiculturalism within the family tends to strengthen bonds between members of the extended family as seen after the arrival of the couple’s parents. Nevertheless, multiculturalism poses challenges in terms of how individuals within the family interact with each other over a long period because of different belief systems.
The family is doomed by complications, especially those involving their teenagers, Vic and Isabella. Different families tend to have their own complications brought about by behavior of different members. The first significant example of the complications in the family is Vic’s unique attraction to butterflies, which does not sound well for the rest of the family members. In this case, he is expected to live to his father’s expectations of being a successful boy in academics, while maintaining the Sikh culture. However, he tends to bring new complications to the family structure through his unique liking for butterflies. For instance, the novel brings out the view that “The butterfly had been so enthralled in drinking juices from a sap flow on a deciduous tree that it had barely moved while Vic observed it” (Chadha 8). This means that he has some unique and undesirable liking of butterflies, which is against what his family wants for him. This fits into the larger social context in the explanation of the behavior of children. They are too difficult to understand in some instances, hence leading to significant complications in the family structure. Parents have the responsibility of studying their children closely and ensuring they take on the best values. Another vital example of complications in the family is associated with Isabella’s behavior of stashing drugs such as marijuana. Maija tries to search her room and discovers that she has stored dangerous drugs and weapons. In the novel, “Maija’s fountain of parenting had reached the end. She considered the archetypes she had learned from television…” (Chadha 27). This has been brought about by the complications relating to her children. It is always difficult for parents such as Maija in the novel to understand what their children want despite all the quality life they try to offer them. This has wider social implications because it explains the kind of the society people live in. In the contemporary world, there has been a dramatic shift between parents and their children. It is rare to see parents paying close attention to activities of their children, hence leading them into undesirable habits. Both Paul and Maija have tried their best to monitor their teenage children, but the entire situation seems complicated. They get the point of confusion where a parent experiences difficulties in terms of making relevant decisions to ensure success of the family. It is crucial for parents to be guided on the best ways of leading their families and avoiding unnecessary complications, especially those associated with their teenagers.
Additionally, racism against the family can be common, especially if it is an immigrant family. Immigrant families always have difficult times adjusting to new living standards within the country they move to. In the novel, it is clear that the Paul’s family is associated with the first generation immigrants and is forced to deal with racial abuse. Vic is the key victim because he has to deal with bullies in school. For instance, the novel brings out the view that “Vic was just trying to get by, like everyone else, but Joe had singled him out long ago with tired teasing and insults like ‘Ali Baba’ and ‘Ali Babu’” (Chadha 5). This is a reflection of the high level of racism that he has been experiencing because of his origin as a part of immigrants. However, nobody is supposed to be judged based on his/her origin because the ultimate result is that everyone is equal. Vic does not want to disclose such incidences to Paul because he wants to continue with his education at the institution. This is reflective of some troubles that family members undergo, but tend to hide them from those who might solve the problem. It would have been easier for him to be rescued by his father from such bullying in case he would have told him earlier. This extrapolates to the entire social system in terms of the demand for equal rights for everyone without regard to the family or origin. Another instance of racism is levelled against Paul, hence leading to poor performance of his business. The councilmen are concerned with making repairs near the Paul’s business, hence affecting his progress. He grumbles that nature should be blamed for all problems he has been experiencing with the business. His station “suffered from dust and debris, and he feared the Kwicki Fill was beginning to look like a half way a house of construction workers and their temporary defecation rooms” (Chadha 11). This is an indication that immigrant families do not have the opportunity to live as they would have wished. They experience impediments everywhere even as they try to make up their lives. Continued frustration of families because of racism makes it difficult for them to realize their goals within the society. There is the natural lack of motivation in their ability to move forward as a single unit. The social context must look forward to ensuring that all families receive the best form of treatment without account for their origins. Vic’s normal learning is disrupted because he has to attend hospital to cover up some of the wounds emanating from bullying. It is imperative that immigrant families are significantly secured through defined laws, which protect them against unnecessary and undesirable racial discrimination.
The best families always have unbreakable bonds despite their differences in culture and origin. As noted earlier, Paul’s family has of Indian and Latvian roots. There is a significant difference in values that children are supposed to follow. Everyone believes that the best values do not have to be too archaic. However, Paul ensures that his son Vic is highly respectful to the Sikh culture and mode of living. Coming of Paul’s and Maija’s parents is indicative of the unbreakable bonds within the family. At first, Maija is skeptical about coming of her father-in-law because she believes that he is going to pollute her home with his violence. Thus, “From her vision, she knew her father in law was coming to her home, and there was nothing she could do about it” (Chadha 24). Her resentment of the father-in-law is clearly highlighted through this statement. Differences in ethnic and cultural origins of families seem to play a role in her attitude toward the father-in-law. She believes that he would worsen the situation at home through his violence. However, it is also emphasized that presence of Paul’s father is going to change the home. The bond has not been strong initially because of varying views and perspectives about different matters. In the immediate social environment, this is supposed to be viewed as a challenge. Families intending to get together through marriage must be able to understand each other’s values and beliefs before cementing their relationship. Maija’s mother is also to come into the family, hence making it complete in terms of cultural orientations. Her presence is indicative of the Latvian-Indian connection through initial generations. It has been difficult for Maija to accept Paul’s father at initial stages because of his violence. The family comes together in the most difficult time, hence reflecting the view that family members are supposed to always stay together and stand with each other during both the good times and the most difficult periods. It is only better when they get to learn about values of each other to avoid any forms of misunderstanding within family units. Within a wider social perspective, openness in the family is reflective of the openness and social bonds the society is able to enjoy in its operations.
Lastly, secrets form a vital part of the entire family unit. In most instances, some things happen in the family and their origin cannot be traced because of secrets held by individuals. One of the most significant secrets relates to Vic and Isabella as teenagers. Maija tries to reveal their secrets by snooping through their bedrooms to come up with anything that could assist her in learning about changes occurring in their lives. For instance, the novel brings out the view that “…But she rarely saw futures for her family, which was even more frustrating and led her to snooping” (Chadha 20). This is indicative of secrets existing in the family that have not been revealed. The children have their own secrets that are little known to parents, hence leading to the search in their bedrooms. In a social perspective, this implies that family members must try to be as open as possible to each other. They should not hide relevant details that could be discovered later on, thus leading to doubts and the loss of trust within the family. The second significant family secret is seen in the behavior of Maija when she reacts to the coming to her father-in-law. She is not happy about his coming because of his capacity to destabilize the family through his violence. Paul is not aware of secret negative feelings she has towards his father. Secrets are always likely to strain relationships within the family in case they are not handled in the best way possible. From this experience, it is evident that social units such as families must always be willing to put everything bare to avoid doubts about their thoughts, feelings, and origin of particular behaviors. The social context would be a better place in case children are open to their parents and parents are able to offer their support to children in a satisfactory manner. For instance, it could have not been necessary for Maija to engage in the search of her childrens’ belongings if they could be open to her about their development and respective performances in school. Openness is the best way to move forward in the family setting as a part of the social structure.
In conclusion, the concept of family is prominent in Balance of Fragile Things: A Novel where it is presented as a whole unite despite all challenges they face in the course of their survival. Paul’s family is established on a multicultural platform and this challenges the belief system that children are supposed to follow. Maija tends to have a different view about beliefs of her children. Because of their immigrant status, the family cannot avoid racism in school and business. Vic is regularly bullied by his classmates because of his Indian origin and beliefs. Paul’s business makes losses apparently because of racism. Moreover, secrets are inevitable in any family setting. However, they should be handled in such a way that they do not cause harm and the loss of trust among family members. Additionally, families are always supposed to be unbreakable in both good and bad times. Members need to understand each other and ensure they stay true to expectations of each other in the best way possible. A strong bond in the family leads to success and satisfaction of all individuals. The argument made about the family relates to the large social concern of maintaining families. Parents are supposed to be in charge of their families by ensuring their children behave in the best way possible. Maija seems to be keen on this perspective through her investigation of her children’s activities. Nevertheless, this could be done in a more efficient way through directly talking to children and guiding them in the required manner.