I am having problem understanding a first sentence in second paragraph. I can understand it superficially but it is a metaphor and I cannot figure out what it the really means. I appreciate your help in advance.

"Lum closes his volume with a poem that further points to the complex relationships between heritage and local culture in determining one’s identity. Pulling together images and figures as vastly disparate as a famous Chinese American literary character and an old woman selling bread,Lum avoids an excessively romantic vision of U.S.culture, while simultaneously acknowledging the dream of this culture held by many newly arrived immigrants.

The central image of a communal pot where each person chooses what she or he wishes to eat but shares with others the “sweet soup / spooned out at the end of the meal”is a hopeful one; however,it also appears to caution that the strong cultural emphasis in the U.S.on individual drive and success that makes retaining a sense of homeland tradition difficult should be identified and responded to in ways that allow for a healthy new sense of identity to be formed."

2 Answers 2


First, to be clear, the section in quotes is from a poem by Wing Tek Lum, Chinese Hot Pot.

I think the meaning the author is trying to convey is given in the last sentence - each can assert their own individuality, but the "sweet soup" was created only by everyone coming together as a community and preparing the meal in a single pot. While it may not be the only interpretation, the author interprets the poem as a warning about losing a sense of tradition.

The '/' in the middle of the sentence indicates a line break in the quoted poem.


The context in which the sentence is built is the very vast that the U.S is a country of diversity. With different groups, community, race, etc.

The communal pot here signifies that everyone has where he "belongs" - a community, race, cultural affiliation which he chooses to identify himself (he eats from that pot)...

But at the end of the day, he shares on thing in common with others - the fact that he's in the U.S, he's a citizen, he's regarded a part of the U.S society. That's why many people go to the U.S - everyone feels good to identify with U.S(the identification would ultimately be "sweet")...

PS: I'm using "he" as a generic term

  • Thanks! Could you also explain why there is / in the middle of the sentence?
    – user198952
    Sep 25, 2017 at 8:37
  • Its a kind of 'shorthand' way of indicating the words "and" or "or" without using the words themselves. Its is mostly used in informal writing, however.
    – Beveloper
    Sep 7, 2019 at 16:43
  • The phrase “sweet soup / spooned out at the end of the meal” is quoted from a poem; the slash marks the end of a line of the poem. wilkersonessayist.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/… Oct 10, 2019 at 23:59

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