This is a comic from the 1930s. The man says, “I love you too much, maybe even to the point that I will die.” To which the woman declares, “Oh I beg you. If you die then I will have to wait an entire three years before I can remarry.”

This comic captures the changing times of 1930s Vietnam very well. These two are obviously members of the small group of Westernized elite in Vietnamese society. He is dressed in Western clothes, and she is wearing a form-fitting áo dài, an “invented tradition” of the 1930s, as prior to that point the “purpose” of women’s clothing was to conceal the form of the body rather than to accentuate it as the modern áo dài did. Futher, they are alone together by one of the lakes in Hanoi, a very popular and romantic setting at the time (and today too, as anyone who walks around some of the lakes in the evening can tell. . .), romantic settings being a new concern for the educated youth of Vietnam who had recently become exposed to the idea of “free love” – the “right” of young people to chose their own marriage partners. All of this is very modern, but their conversation also reveals aspects of tradition, albeit tradition in the process of change. According to Confucian teachings, a wife should mourn for her husband for three years. However, she is never supposed to remarry. Hence the humor in this woman’s comment, that she has to wait three years before she can remarry. This simple statement and the image accompanying it do a wonderful job of capturing a moment when social practices were changing in Vietnam.