Study Guide

American Born Chinese Plot Analysis

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Plot Analysis

This might seem complicated, but it really isn't. Since there are three stories that eventually become one, we've got to give you three analyses, at least for the first half of the book. Kind of like three roads turning into one.


No Monkeys Allowed

Monkey hears a party going on in the heavens, crashes it, and then finds out he's a monkey in a world full of stuck-up gods and goddesses who don't want him around. So you've got the protagonist  (Monkey, even if he kind of acts like an arrogant jerk) and the villain (all those other beings who are even more arrogant and jerk-like than Monkey) meeting, only to find out that the real villain for Monkey is his stinky monkey self.

The Typical (Chinese) American Boy

Jin's this typical Chinese American junior high kid, only he's in a majority-white school and his only friend is a guy, Wei-Chen, who's more "Chinese-y" than he is. Life isn't easy for him, especially when it comes to getting a girlfriend, and particularly the popular (white) Amelia. You might wonder why this isn't part of the Rising Action. In another book, it might be, but the thing is, there are way meatier things up ahead. Think of this part of the plot as the set-up: you've got our main guy Jin, his loyal sidekick Wei-Chen, a setting, a goal (Amelia), and—most importantly—the potential for conflict. You want the really juicy stuff? Read on…

The Wannabe All-American White Boy

Danny's a blonde high school teenager who's trying to become a jock. Everything's going great, and he even (kind of) has a girl/friend. Life is pretty good. Which is how you know it's the exposition because everything starts out looking okay. Danny seems more or less happy—he's got two big goals (fitting in and dating Melanie) and he's getting there. So what next? Think downward spiral. But that's for the other parts of this analysis…

Rising Action

Who's Your Daddy?

The Monkey King goes around beating all those "superior" beings up with his master kung fu skills until he ends up confronting the head honcho, Tze-Yo-Tzuh himself (think God, only Chinese), who buries him under a pile of rock for five hundred years. You can't get more conflict than Monkey bashing others up in order to make himself feel more powerful, and you also can't get a greater complication than having to face the big guy up in the sky and finding out that you're pretty much powerless against him.

Boy Gets Girl, Boy Loses Girl

Jin gets past his insecurities and goes out on a great date with Amelia, only to have Greg tell him to stay away from Amelia. Oh the frustration. Greg basically acts like the major obstacle in Jin's path toward total happiness—he makes Jin completely insecure about his masculinity and about his ability to fit into a relationship with Amelia. So how does Jin overcome this complication? Read on…

Here Comes Trouble…

And do we mean trouble: Danny's super-stereotyped Chinese cousin visits and ruins (at least in Danny's eyes) Danny's chance at becoming one of the popular kids at Oliphant High. How? Chin-Kee is the major complication in Danny's life because he follows Danny to school and completely overshadows Danny in a totally embarrassing (for Danny) way.


And Then Came a Monk…

… who gets Monkey to free himself from the pile of rocks. How? By doing something totally selfless—saving Wong Lai-Tsao from a bunch of demons. Why is this the climax for Monkey's story? It's the climax because once he meets Wong Lai-Tsao, he totally transforms into a better, wiser, kinder Monkey. There's no better turning point than that.

Boy Screws Over Best Friend and Becomes… White?

Jin can't deal with the fact that he listened to Greg and avoided Amelia, so he goes and does the worst thing possible: he kisses Wei-Chen's girlfriend Suzy Nakamura. So yeah—that's pretty bad, right? Okay, but get this: then Jin wakes up from a dream and magically becomes a white boy named… Danny. Yep—there's probably no turning back from kissing your best friend's girlfriend, but there's definitely no turning back once you've changed your entire race. That's pretty irreversible action… which is what makes it the climax.

Chin-Kee, a.k.a. the Monkey King

How would you like it if your cousin got on a table at school and started singing Ricky Martin's "She Bangs," William Hung-style? (Who's William Hung? Check out our "Shout-outs" section.) You probably wouldn't, so you can understand why this might be the straw that breaks the camel's (or Danny's) back, right? And why, right after that, he beats Chin-Kee up so badly that he knocks off Chin-Kee's head.

All of that might be the climax in any other book, but what's really the climax here is how Monkey's head pops up where Chin-Kee's head was. That's not just a crisis—it's a major turning point. How could it not be? One character from one story just became another character from another story—nothing can be the same after this.

Falling Action

It All Comes Together

Danny, who's actually Jin, finds out that Chin-Kee is actually the Monkey King, who's actually Wei-Chen's father come to serve as a guide, first to his son, and now to Jin because it was Jin who turned his son into a jaded emissary of Tze-Yo-Tzuh. Got all that? This part is when everything comes together… and we mean everything. This is where you find out—quickly (hence: falling action)—how everyone connects to each other. It's a whole lot of craziness captured in just a few pages.


The Bromance Returns

Jin finally returns to his rightful body and follows Monkey's tip: he finds Wei-Chen and they make up. We don't know what happens to the girls in their lives, but that's not the point anyway. The end is all about the boys and how they resolve, not just their fight, but also their feelings about being Chinese American boys.

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