Point of Origin, Place of Being in Lawrence Chua's Gold by the Inch

Steve Katona, English 365, Northwestern University (2004)


One of the main features of Gold by the Inch seems to be a lack of place of origin or place of belonging for a diasporic individual. The anonymous main character finds nothing but horrible relationship and unhapiness in the west, in both America and France. The man he is with, Jim, who is violent and controlling, breaks off their romance with physical violence and having him arrested. America and France are not places for him to belong by all apearances. By returning to Malaysia, he is more confident that he will find acceptance, as it is his supposed point of origin based on what he remembers. But his memory and nostalgic remembrances are not the Malaysia to which he returns. He finds himself changed by where he has lived and alone and ostracized in the country of his birth. He also tries to find a homeland in Thailand, the birthpace of his mother, and does find some comfort for a time in Thong. However, by the end of the novel this place becomes eliminated as an option toowhen the narrator and Thong quarrel about the narrator's treatment of the country and its people as things for him to use like an outsider and tourist. Thailand does not turn out to be his home, and it is not his pace of origin. He is trapped among multiple countries, with no true pace to come to a rest in any.

Chua makes the reader feel out of place like the main character with his creative use of second-person narration. We are placed in an unfamiliar situation and forced to cope with our actions. The drugs, feelings, rationality, and other issues are all right there to be expored by each individual reader, but most of all Chua shows the reader what it is like to be in a state of limbo, dispaced and disowned from any sort of home.

Overall, the novel seems to be a critique of current trends and definitions in Diasporic theory. Almost all Diasporic theories incorprate some sort of place o origin in their definition of Diaspora. However, the main character in the novel has no place which he can truly call home. Malaysia, Thailand, America, and France are all cut off from him, and make him the outsider. Even though he has claims to Malaysia, since he was born there, and Thailand, since his mother had a long Thai heritage, he finds himself drifting through these countries unable to connect with any of them. This search for homeland and pace of origin challenge the common views put forth by almost all current thinking in the field.


Chua, Lawrence. Gold by the Inch. New York: Grove Press, 1999.

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Last modified 8 January 2005