When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

by: Le Ly Hayslip

Trong (Father)

Characters Trong (Father)

A kind and gentle man and devout Buddhist, Trong is a stable and spiritual presence in Le Ly’s life. Trong represents the disappearing Vietnamese culture based on the importance of family, land, and peace. In this tradition, he imparts three important lessons on Le Ly. First, he advises his daughter that the best way in which she can fight and be a woman warrior is by being a mother and creating her own family. Second, he teachers her that war is the enemy—not a particular side or ideology. Throughout the atrocities, Trong continues to try to believe in the goodness of his fellow man. Men do terrible things because of the terrible situation of war. Third is the power of forgiveness. His philosophy on war enables Le Ly to forgive those who have wronged her because of the war. Although he advocates the power of forgiveness, Trong ultimately is not as strong as his daughter. Unable to cope with the war and its ramifications on the Vietnamese way of life, Trong kills himself. His suicide is symbolic of the larger death of the traditional way of life of the Vietnamese people, destroyed by war and the modern ideologies of capitalism and communism. Yet, the important parts of this tradition survive in Le Ly, and in turn to all the people she is able to reach through her book.