Throughout the book, Mona in the promised land, the main characters are faced with stereotypes which they cannot control. Stereotypes in society shape the way people are perceived. Everyone deals with their stereotype's in a different way. The two characters who deal with the most stereotypes are Mona, and Barbara. According to their stereotypes, Barbara is a better all around person than Mona, due to her social class, but when it comes to dealing with stereotypes Mona is a much stronger individual. Like all people, Mona and Barbara choose to deal with their stereotypes in different ways.
Mona chooses to deal with her stereotypes by trying to change them, while Barbara deals with them by changing herself. One of the first stereotypes that Mona is witness to in her life is when she misbehaves. Whenever Mona does not mind her manners her mother will snap at her, 'You be a good Chinese girl.' Mona recognizes this as a stereotype whenever her mother says it. She finally tells her mother, 'I am not Chinese, I am American.' By telling her mother that she is an 'American' girl, which implies to her mother that she is free to make her own decisions, Mona is trying to change the 'Chinese' girl stereotype. This shows that Mona is a strong individual willing to fight stereotypes. Barbara Gugelstein is Jewish.
It is brought up almost every time Barbara is talked about in the book. One of the first stereotypes that Barbara is faced with is the Jewish nose. Barbara asked her parents what a Jewish nose was and they told her that it is a large nose the classifies her as a Jew. According to her parents, a Jewish nose is unattractive. They also tell Barbara that she has a Jewish nose.
Instead of fighting to overcome the stereotype that people had of Barbara's nose, Barbara had her nose 'fixed.' Barbara's nose job showed that she is willing to assimilate to the norm. This is a huge sign of weakness that shows that Mona is stronger than Barbara. Mona too has to deal with religious stereotypes. 'You don't look Jewish,' is one of the most often heard sayings from the people at the pancake house who find out that Mona is Jewish. Mona's culture says that she should either be Buddhist or Christian.
Mona's appearance, that of a Chinese woman, makes people think that she is not Jewish, only whites can be Jewish, according to stereotypes. Mona's cultural stereotype causes Rabbi Horwitz to lose his job at the temple. Even though her Rabbi is fired, Mona does not stop going to temple. Instead of taking it as a threat, Mona becomes more involved in temple life to show that Chinese people can be Jewish.
By doing this Mona is showing her strength to overcome stereotypes. Barbara is Jewish and is assumed by her friends to be rich; a very old stereotype of Jews. This is shown when Seth meets Barbara at the community center and assumes she is rich. His assumption is shown later in the book when he say, 'I didn't think you were this rich!' Barbara's family too is under the pressure to show their wealth. To do this Barbara and her family move to a huge house. Barbara could have told her parents that she was uncomfortable with the move when asked, but instead went along with it because of her desire to conform.
Friends are sometimes thought to think alike, but when Mona and Barbara's ways of dealing with stereotype's are compared, it turns out that their view of what they should do is entirely different. Mona is a very strong person who will fight for self justice, while Barbara will conform to the norm so that she won't be 'weird.' Mona and Barbara are both wonderful people, but when compared to each other the stereotypes are wrong. Mona, 'the good Chinese girl,' turns out to be the stronger person who can deal with her identity.