Being a refugee is hard. It can be mentally and physically draining. Leaving everything you know to be somewhere else, a place that you potentially won’t be welcome is a very big sacrifice. Nothing will ever be the same, no matter how hard you try. But one thing that could be affected specifically is relationships. It is very rare that a set of people remain together for the entirety of their trip to wherever they decide to go. When this happens, particularly with children, it can cause many problems and strain in the relationship. And even if they stay together, the harrowing living and traveling conditions can cause arguments and any misstep can ruin the fate of everyone that you are with. Through reading all of the things that I’ve read in class within the past two or three months, I have come to realize that stressful situations can almost always cause a (sometimes permanent) strain on a relationship.
In Enrique’s Journey, the titular character, Enrique, has a mother that immigrates to the United States from Honduras when he was very young. She promises to return, but he grows up and lives a portion of his adult life without her. After a life of yearning for his mother’s love, he decides to travel up to the US to be with her. When he gets there, it’s not at all what he expected. On page 191, it compares this to that of the Odyssey and the works of O. Henry, stating, “Children like Enrique dream of finding their mothers and living happily ever after. For weeks, perhaps months, these children and their mothers cling to romanticized notions of how they should feel toward each other. Then reality intrudes. The children show resentment because they were left behind. They remember broken promises to return and accuse their mothers of lying… The mothers, for their part, demand respect for their sacrifice: leaving their children for the children’s sake. When their children say, “ You abandoned me,” they respond by hauling out tall stacks of money transfer receipts.” As you can presume, what ended up happening was something that neither of them would have expected. The relationship between him and his mother is so strained that they barely even know each other. Her decision to immigrate for a better life ended up messing up whatever great relationship she could have had with her son.
In the story Exit West, Saeed and Nadia are a pair of young people living in an unnamed city that end up falling in love with each other. However, a sudden war enters their city and they were forced to flee. Throughout the entirety of the book, we see Nadia and Saeed drift farther and farther apart from each other. They speak about it a little bit on page 204. “Saeed and Nadia were loyal, and whatever name they gave their bond they each in their own way believed it required them to protect each other, and so neither talked much of drifting apart, not wanting to inflict a fear of abandonment, while also themselves quietly feeling that fear, the fear of the severing of their tie, the end of the world they had built together, a world of shared experiences in which no one else would share, and a shared intimate language that was unique to them, and a sense that what they might break was special and likely irreplaceable.” We can see that all of this traveling and moving around has definitely taken a toll on their relationship. They ended up dating other people by the end of the book. Now, no one can be sure that they would have definitely worked out if the war never happened, but everything that happened in the book definitely expedited the process.
In the short story Wildwood, the main character (and narrator) is a teenager living with her mom and younger brother in New Jersey. This is one story that is not really focused on immigration/refugees; instead focusing on poverty, which is a different kind of stressful situation. The narrator has a very bad relationship with her mother; she constantly berates and abuses her daughter, verbally and sometimes physically.
Immigration is usually a grueling and unenjoyable process. If you add on being a refugee, the process becomes the ultimate test of strength and perseverance. You rarely ever end the journey the same person you were when you started. And based off of stuff that I’ve read in this class, many relationships cannot stand the aforementioned test. The situation is too stressful and strenuous on the psyche, usually in a negative way. In fact, I think that any stressful situation can take a toll on a relationship, in a multitude of different ways.
Works Cited: Nazario, Sonia. Enriques Journey. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2014.
Mbue, Imbolo. Behold the Dreamers: a Novel. New York: Random House Inc, 2017.
Meloy, Colin, Carson Ellis, and Junot Diaz. Wildwood. St. Louis, MO: Turtleback Books, 2017.