Amy Tan Short Stories
Description of History and Events in The Joy Luck Club, Written By Amy Tan
People should find their own cultural identities and feel proud of and empowered by their origin and identity. However, It is important to acknowledge that once people immigrate and immerse in a new culture, it is more challenging for them to have a clear definition of who they are and what their origins are. Such is the case in The Joy Luck Club, written by Amy Tan, which describes the lives of four Chinese women who have immigrated to America and their four daughters who have been raised in America. The novel focuses on the fact that it is hard not only for immigrants but also for their children to find their true cultural identities in a new country. The story of The Joy Luck Club was later adapted into a feature film with the same name directed by Wayne Wang in 1993. The movie and the novel are roughly the same; there are some commonalities between them, and of course, there is a little bit difference as well. A detailed comparison of the novel and movie clearly reveals that in both the theme is vividly and successfully conveyed through the strong characterization of the main characters and the revelation of their reflections and feelings. Besides, just like the novel, the movie draws upon the power of the symbol of Mahjong as a traditional Chinese game to show how the mothers respect their traditional Chinese culture. However, despite all the similarities, the movie does not spend as much time on showing the impact of Chinese superstitions on the life of the Chinese as the novel does.
The first similarity between the novel and the film is that they both effectively develop and express the theme of cultural identity. The author and the director develop the theme by telling the stories of 8 different characters and describing their characteristics and mental activities. In the film. When Rose Hsu is having a conversation about her marriage with her mother, An-Mei, An-Mei realizes her daughter cannot really find her identity. An-Mei admits that even though she “was raised the Chinese way;” that is, “was taught to desire nothing, to swallow other people’s misery, and to eat own bitterness,” she tried to teach her daughter the American way. Nevertheless, “even she taught [her] daughter the opposite, but she still came out the same way”. This explains the reason why Rose does not have a happy marriage, since she has learned to live neither the Chinese way nor the American way. Although her mother has tried her best to teach her how to be a true American, she still cannot discover her cultural identity because her mother’s characteristics affect her. In the old society of China, women were supposed to swallow the insult and humiliation silently because they had the lowest status in the society. People often say that mothers are the roots of daughters, so An-Mei’s personality has definitely affected Rose and has made her doubt her own cultural identity although she is being raised in the American way. In the novel, Lindo shows her lack of knowledge of her cultural identity by questioning herself about the way she has raised her daughter Waverly. She blames herself when she says, “It’s my fault she is in this way. I wanted my children to have the best combination: American circumstances and Chinese character. How could I know these two things do not mix?”. This quote reflects that the Chinese style upbringing does not fit in well with the American circumstance, leading to a cultural conflict. Lindo struggles a lot finding her true cultural identity. Because of her Chinese origin and her lack of the knowledge of cultural identity, she raises her child, Waverly, in a way that leads to a cultural identity crisis in her as well. Through the vivid portrayal of such scenes in both the novel and the movie, the author and the director are successful in developing and expressing the theme of cultural identity crisis among immigrants.
Besides the theme, another similarity between the movie and the novel is that they both draw upon the power of the symbol of Mahjong as a traditional Chinese game to show how the mothers respect and remember their traditional Chinese culture. Just like in the novel, in the movie, the characters are shown to be playing Mahjong in the club with June Woo’s narration in the background in the beginning of the movie. The narrator explains the reason why these Chinese mothers play Mahjong in America. They hope they can gain some happiness and luck by playing this traditional Chinese game. The novel also has a similar quote that explains the reason why they play Mahjong, which is narrated by June Woo’s mother, An-Mei Woo: “We feasted, we laughed, we played games, lost and won, we told the best stories. And each week, we could hope to be lucky. That hope was our only joy.” This quote demonstrates the symbolic power of Mahjong because it shows the audience even though these Chinese women have already immigrated to America, they still try to find their hope and happiness from something that is a part of traditional Chinese culture. They never try to forget the culture, and they show a kind of respect because they see Mahjong as having a magical power, which brings them joy and bridges the gap between the new Western culture and the Chinese culture, which they have in their bones.
However, even though the movie was directed and shot based on the novel, it still is not completely the same as the novel. Despite all the similarities, the movie does not spend as much time showing the impact of Chinese superstitions on the Chinese people’s lives as the novel does. In the novel, Lena, who is one of the American-raised daughters, admits that her mother Ying-ying has the ability to see the negative things everywhere. When Ying-ying sees there is some leftover rice in Lena’s bowl, she prophesies that Lena will marry a bad man in the future. Even though such a prophecy is only a superstition, Lena tends to remember it years later when she grows up. Lena says, “I remember something else she saw when I was eight years old. My mother had looked in my rice bowl and told me I would marry a bad man”. Ying-ying is a typical Chinese woman who believes in superstition. All she says about Lena’s future husband is based on the superstition because a mother cannot foretell what kind of person her future son-in-law will be by looking at her daughter’s rice bowl. This quote reflects that Ying-ying’s absurd prediction actually affects her daughter a lot, as it plays an important role in Lena’s life. She is worried that the prediction would come true when she is young. She believes that her obsession with her mother’s superstitious prediction ultimately has brought her a bad husband – Harold, a man with a stingy heart. However, in the film, there isn’t any scene that shows Ying-ying belief in superstition. Also, there isn’t anything in the film that shows how that superstition affects Lena’s life. Therefore, comparing the novel and the movie, the novel gives more details about some of the Chinese superstitions than the movie and it describes how such superstitions may influence people.
Considering the limitations of time and resources, it is very normal for a movie to not include all the details from of the novel; however, conveying a similar theme through relating the story and keeping the main elements of the story, such as the symbols, is the main task of any one director, which Wayne Wang has pulled off very successfully. Both the book and the movie reveal that it is hard or almost impossible for the immigrants to forget their past memories and their original culture, but it is also important to learn how to adapt to the new environment. In order to find a sense of belonging in another country, people must learn how to resolve the misunderstandings, how to endure the hardships, and also how to laugh at the setbacks.
Lessons in Life: Fish Cheeks By Amy Tan And Museum By Naomi Shihab Nye
“Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan and “Museum” by Naomi Shihab Nye written by two authors experiences in their teenage years. Both stories tell about teenage feelings of embarrassment. The main characters in both stories experience different circumstances but indeed similar feelings. The two stories are similar in the way both authors experienced embarrassing emotions, and both authors learned a great lesson in life. The two stories are different but have similar lessons that are learned in life. Both stories are about teenage girls experiencing their feelings of embarrassment and learning from their mistakes.
In the story “Fish Cheeks” this is about a young 14-year old Chinese American girl. The young Chinese American girl has parents who were born in China and practice their Chinese culture and heritage. Their young Chinese daughter has a crush on an American boy. The parents of the young Chinese girl decided to invite an American family with the boy that the girl has a crush on. The invite takes place on Christmas Eve with a traditional Chinese food. The type and amount of food that was prepared was “appalling mounds of raw food” (Tan 75). The young girl’s mother had gone overboard to present her cultural tradition of foods on Christmas Eve. She was also preparing these foods to show love to her daughter. Many of the food prepared were her daughters favorites. Tan’s ‘experience of being embarrassed is her worst nightmare. She feels emotional hurt because of what other people think about her unique heritage. She does not realize in her teenage years the importance of who and where she came from. “Her father pokes his chopsticks at the dinner table into the whole steam fish just below the fish’s eye and takes a piece of the soft cheek meat. He then says, ” Amy your favorite” (Tan 75). Tan is so mortified by her father’s actions and words. She wants to vanish and cry. Her mother displays a big lesson to her at the conclusion of the story. She presents Tan with a gift for Christmas after all the guests were gone. Tan ‘s mother says,” You want to be the same as American girls on the outside”(Tan). Her mother gives her a mini skirt Tad’s mother explains to her that inside “you must always be Chinese” (Tan 76). She describes to her daughter that being unique and different is the most important lesson in life. When you are proud of who and where you came from, your lessons are learned. “Your only shame is to have shame”( Tan 75).
Many years passed, when Amy finally realized the lesson in life her mother taught her on that Christmas Eve. of what her heritage and culture stood for. She was now a proud woman of her unique Heritage and Culture. Never again would she be embarrassed of who, what, and where she came from. Accepting who she was and feeling proud of her heritage and culture was now in her heart forever. A true lesson learned that will be with her throughout her life. Embarrassing moments will never be again for Tan!
On the other hand, in the story “Museum” the author Nye tells a story of two teenage girls taking a ride and visiting a Museum. Sally is the girlfriend of the author, Naomi. This museum was once an old historical mansion that latter was turned into a Museum. The girls did not have the address of the Museum, but the main character Naomi told her friend Sally that she would recognize the Museum because she had read an article in magazine. There was a picture in the article with information about the Museum. Sally claims that she would recognize the Museum. They find a house that looks like the picture of the museum in the article. The two girls who are young teenagers enter a house thinking this is the museum. The only problem is they did not realize they were in the wrong place. As they entered the house, people were in the living area siting and chatting. They stopped talking and looked at the girls strangely when thy entered the home. Each girl decided to go in different directions. This was a private home they were rummaging through. Suddenly a man came behind Naomi and he was standing right next to her. He said, “Where do you think you are ?” She said, The Mc Nay Art museum!” He told me that I was in the wrong place. ” He said. “Well, we thought this was our home” (NYE). Nye became so embarrassed. The feeling of intruding into someone’s private home was the most embarrassing moment of her life. Making that big of a mistake stayed with her for many years. Naomi yelled for Sally to come down at once. Nye felt so embarrassed in such an awkward situation. Sally finally comes downstairs to question what ‘s wrong. Naomi does not have the heart to tell Sally, the news of entering the wrong place. Naomi had made a big mistake because she took it for granted that this was the right place. The people who lived in the house were sitting right there wondering why two teenage girls walked into their home.
The two essays are similar in the way both authors experienced embarrassing times and lessons were learned from their mistakes. In the story “Museum.” Nye exposed her feelings of embarrassment by making an honest mistake. Both stories were equal in structure. Mistakes made in their teenage years were honest decisions. When a person makes honest mistakes, and he or she learns a lesson. That is a great experience result in life. Learning from our mistakes is all that matters. When we are young, we gain from our experiences in life. Our mistakes help us learn as we grow older. We become wiser and mature with all of life’s experiences. Mistakes they made as teenagers taught the characters to appreciate who, where, and why mistakes were made. A great lesson in life was pass on in both stories.
The Problem Of Parenting in The Story “Two Kinds” By Amy Tan
“Two Kinds” is a story about a mother wanting her daughter to be a child prodigy, but the daughter, Jing-Mei, doesn’t want this for herself. Jing-Mei doesn’t feel like she can amount to as much as her mother thinks she can. Her mother constantly barrages her to try out these talents that she sees other kids do, and eventually she decides on piano-playing. This, in a way, contributes to who she is as a person, sort of making her a little more defiant. It might seem as if she get worse as the story goes on, based on the way she treats her mother, but in fact she learns more about what she wants for herself. If it wasn’t for Jing-Mei’s mother pushing her to do her best, she might not be as successful in life.
When it comes to parenting, almost everyone is going to have a different view on how children should be raised. Jing-Mei’s mother raised Jing-Mei how she thought fit, but this did come with some side effects. Jing-Mei started to become rebellious due to her mother’s wishes. She may not have realized it but her mother was influencing her more than she thought. In the beginning of the story her mother has her do these tasks and Jing-Mei does them reluctantly. Although, as time goes on she becomes more and more reluctant until one day when her mother asks her to practice the piano she shouts out “No! I won’t!” and disobeys her mother, something she never did before. This shows that it is hard to get someone to do something if they don’t want to do it. They can get forced time and time again, but eventually they will snap. It is like a bar of soap, if you hold it too soft, it will slip, but if you hold it too hard, it will shoot out of your hands. This is exactly what happened in this story, her mother was keeping her too tightly in her hands, and she retaliated.
On the other hand, many would say children need to be guided to reach their full potential. If a child is not sometimes forced to do a task, they won’t be able to know how to figure out how to do things for themselves, and they will become lazy and spoiled. The child still needs that room to grow, however, and not for their life to be mapped out for them. Jing-Mei might’ve become lazy if her mother didn’t push her so hard. Even though not much is said of her life after the incident at the piano, it is probable to assume she has a job, and a family; something she had to get for herself, but still needed a little bit of guidance on. It is hard to tell all of these parts of the story, given the story is not very long, but it is still safe to assume a few things about her.
Parenthood can be an awfully hard task to take on, trying to get a child to listen to their parents, and the children sometimes need a little guidance in their beginning parts of life. Jing-Mei might’ve resented her mother for making her try all of these menial tasks, but at least she knows what she doesn’t like to do. Given this, in a way, misguided guidance, Jing-Mei was able to find out what she wants to do with her life. If it wasn’t for her mother, she might’ve not gotten as far.
The Joy Luck Club By Amy Tan: Conflict At The Hands Of Assimilation
Assimilation, for the most part, means that, over the course of generations, you lose your own culture in exchange for the culture of the land that you have moved to. This very process is a major theme in The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.
Throughout the book, language is a clear indicator of how detached someone can be from their heritage, and can display the process in which assimilation occurs. Over the generations, the native tongue is lost and is replaced with English. The resulting language barrier between generations within a Chinese-American family creates conflict because the children barely know Mandarin, and the parents barely know English. The language barrier is especially prominent in the chapter titled “The Voice from the Wall”. In this chapter, Lena St. Clair is the child of Chinese Ying-ying and Irish Clifford, and acts as the family’s translator since Clifford doesn’t know Mandarin and Ying-ying cannot speak good English. This means that Ying-ying communicates to Clifford in gestures and motions because they do not share a language in common, and it means that Clifford and Ying-ying aren’t as close as a husband and wife should be because they constantly require someone like Lena St. Claire for translation.
Assimilation can also lead to an identity struggle of sorts for the children of the immigrants. Their parents insist that they cling to their Chinese ancestry in an American environment, leaving the children to have to make a choice between their heritage and their new home, which means that they either stick to Chinese culture and struggle to live in America, or they assimilate and be resented by the family for not continuing tradition. It seems to be a catch 22 for the second generation immigrants, as expressed by the characters in The Joy Luck Club. The characters choose to identify with american culture and say that their family’s traditions are out of date and do not hold them to the same reverence that their families do.
The process of assimilation is further sped up when Chinese immigrant children mary and/or date non Chinese people, as all of the narrators in the book have done. This can cause the chinese family to be bitter about their daughter dating/marrying a white man and further divides the already large generational gap between the first generation and second generation immigrants. These generational gaps is a trademark sign of assimilation at work because as the family divides, culture and tradition is lost either because family members are bitter or do not want to force their children to make the same choice between family and functionality that they had to make.
The theme of assimilation is spread throughout nearly every page of The Joy Luck Club, from children being translators to family issues over Chinese traditions, and Amy Tan captures what it really is like to be a second generation immigrant.
The Perception Of Women in Asian Cultures in “The Kitchen God’s Wife” By Amy Tan
Xinran, a former radio presenter in China and currently a columnist indicated, “Men want a woman who is a virtuous wife, a good mother, and can do all the housework like a maid. Outside the home, she should be attractive and cultivated, and be a credit to him. In bed, she must be a nymphomaniac. What is more, Chinese men also need their women to manage their finances and earn a lot of money, so they can mingle with the rich and powerful”. This statement is sentiment to the perception of women that is held in the in today’s modern society and has been historically existent in China. It is also an indicator of the status of women in Chinese culture and society. Amy Tan is among the highly celebrated and recognized Chinese-American feminist authors globally. She has played a significant role in highlighting the plight of women in the Chinese society where they are expected to live under specific rules and conventions that are established by men. In her book The Kitchen God’s Wife, Tan highlights the predicament of who is an aspiring woman that suffers domestic violence in the hands of the husband who tirelessly strives to free herself from her established role in society while contending with her husband on a foothold of equality.
Women, as depicted in the book, have a subordinate status, and in this regard, they were obliged to duty towards the men. In many Asian cultures, the self is defined based on the duties and obligations towards others within their social network. Therefore, strong expectations exist for the malleable individual self to accommodate the relatively unmalleable realities of the society. Therefore, a central element inherent in Chinese culture is duty. In the book, this is evidenced where Winnie in her entire life displays a sense of duty to her husband regardless of the challenges she goes through in her marriage. When her husband Wen Fu makes his proposal to marry her, out of the obligation to duty inherent in Chinese culture and her knowledge of her duty to marriage she becomes eager to leave her uncle’s house to fulfill her duty.
According to Whyte and Qin (2003), daughters within the Chinese culture are considered to be temporary members of their natal families before they are married and after which they become servants to their husbands and their husband’s extended family. This is evident in the book where just after Winnie’s father approves of her union to Wen Fu, he is seen to advise and remind her of her duty as a wife and he asserts that she is expected to honor and obey Fu, her husband. However, following their marriage, she notices that Wen Fu is not the man she expected to be but rather he was evil and sadistic. Due to her cultural duty, she cannot leave him and is forced to stay in the union and perform her wifely duties regardless of her suffering. Moreover, even after she moves to America as an adult, she continues to take care of Auntie Du even in her old age. This is as indicated by Whyte and Qin (2003) that as part of their duty Chinese women are expected to take care of their extended family’s husband.
A similar sense of duty is transferred to Winnie’s daughter Pearl who also sees the importance of duty despite being fully born and assimilated within the Western cultural practices. This evidenced in the sense that she is present in all family gathering which is a typical requirement and expectation for most Americans. In the book, she seems unsure of where her need to fulfill such obligations originate from as she resents such practices but continues engaging in them. Furthermore, she later comes to understand the sense of duty to her husband and this where she realizes that following the birth of their first child, they argue about increasingly important issues rather than the petty issues they previously argued about. This she perceives as indicated in chapter one may be as a result of the development of a sense of duty by the husband towards the child, her, or her medical condition.
Love For The Language in Amy Tan’s Article
Amy Tan’s article, ‘Mother Tongue’ informs us of her love for the language. It tells us of how fascinated she has been by the language in her daily life. Amy spends lots of time deliberating on how powerful the language can be, with its ability to evoke an emotion, a complex idea, a visual image or a simple truth. The article’s theme of appreciating and diversifying the different kinds of English as used is evident because the author includes her mother’s struggles with the language and her personal experience with the various types of English and how she overcame them.
Amy gives out instances whereby she had improved on her mastery of the language, and it was not until she realized the presence of her mother in the room during her speech when she realized the difference in the kind of English she was using. She elaborates by explaining that it wasn’t the kind that she uses with her mother back at home. Amy says that all that had been achieved through learning at school, and reading of books. Even though Amy has developed her English, she explains that she still relates to the kind that she heard from home. Amy gave an example of a switch in English when walking with her husband and mother. She used the language that they could relate with- further explaining how diverse she had become.
Amy goes on to account for the amount of effort her mother puts into trying to grasp the language, and despite that, most people still don’t understand her. She explains how her mother reads Forbes report; listens to Wall Street Week, converse daily with her stock broker, all these are aimed at elaborating on the topic of study, which is diversifying the kinds of English. In spite of all the negative feedback on her mother’s language, Amy is proud of her and sees the positive side of the style. She appreciates it by stating how vivid, direct and full of observation and imagery it is. However, the language is entirely clear and natural to her. That was the style that helped shape the way she saw things, expressed idea and made sense to the world.
Amy tries to bring out the concept of not looking down upon those people who speak “broken” English. She begins by telling us of how she used to be ashamed of her mother’s English. States that as she was growing up, her mother’s “limited” English limited her perception. She believed that the quality of her English reflected the quality of what she had to say, and her imperfect way of expression reflected her incomplete thoughts. She further explains that she wasn’t the only one who looked down upon her mother, as people in department stores, banks, among other places did not pay much attention to her. This serves to show the extent to which the lack of appreciation of a different kind of English went. She tells us of the effect of the same, by giving an example of how her mother would let her answer phone calls on her behalf. This loosely translates to a lack of confidence in oneself. Amy tries to explain the importance of appreciating the diversity that exists in the English language through the example of her experience with her mother.
Amy explains how immense the problems associated with the different types of English have become. She explains that most of the Asian American students opt for mathematics and sciences rather than literature. She associates that to the “broken” English that the people are associated with, and the fact that most teachers also try and drive them away from the field of literature. She explains how she also faced the same challenge in college, and how she overcame it. Her persistence in the study of literature paid off as she began writing books that were a success. She goes ahead to explain that, even though her mother was not good at English, she didn’t hesitate to let her go through her work. I believe that she has done this to show that, even those that are not good at the language can be of help. This goes in line with the theme of appreciating the different diversities in the English language
In conclusion, Amy tells us through her article that, our various kinds of English should not be an object of prejudice, nor should we feel bad about it. Rather, we should appreciate the diversity in the language, and make an effort to understand each other.
Role Of Code-Switching in Mother Tongue And The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Foreigners in a new setting are faced with a very tough situation that can go either good or bad, and dictate the rest of their time in their setting. With transitioning to a new place being seen as either hit or miss, it can be said that a necessity of any foreigner is to use a language phenomenon called ‘code-switching’ when moving to a new setting and place to help adapt to the different norms and practices of the new setting. Code-switching is when one deviates from how they normally speak and dictate themselves, to basically fit in with who and what is around them. Bullies in the school? Act like a bully too. How about a teacher who back talks the class? Chances are that the teacher is going to get an earful too. Not limited to just cultural foreigners like immigrants, this type of almost ‘defensive code-switching’ can also be found in situations like people moving to a different school or city. In both Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” and Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, defensive code-switching is a prevalent theme that affects the characters in a positive way like allowing them to fit in with a certain group or societal norms, and helped contribute knowledge and experience to their stories.
Code-switching is also a very useful and seemingly vital tool for those who are at a certain disadvantage when compared to others in society, especially when faced with problems like crude stereotyping and blatant racism. In Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the novel centers around a scrawny and relatively different Native American high school boy named Arnold that lives amongst many vices, like pride and sloth, in a Indian reservation in the United States and all of his problems that he encounters from those vices growing up. From facing adversity and sadness his whole life because of his family’s crippling poverty to the racial hardships and stereotypes faced at a new school that he transferred to, Arnold has a crucially tough time growing up in two different high schools with two different groups of people. One can say that the author is exemplifying how hard it is to transition to something and anything totally brand new, and have to code-switch to have some sort of comfort and ease in that different setting.
Overall, Alexie can be said that his novel confirms the thesis of foreigners being in tough situations because Arnold has to defensively code-switch throughout the novel to get where he wants; to fit in with everyone else. Arnold can even be said that he offensively code-switched at times throughout the novel, such as when he became essentially better than everyone else in his old school and maybe even reservation by exercising his gift of knowledge to his own benefit in front of others and eventually at his new and better school, Reardan. Take for example, how Arnold himself stated that he wanted to better himself and get away from his life on the reservation. A smart Indian was looked down upon, by his own people and the people who stereotyped Arnold. Even in his own culture on the reservation, Arnold put on a false front for those because of that fact, though he did yearn to stand out and again, become better than the rest.
One of the most prevalent examples of Arnold’s defensive code-switching in the novel is when he moved to a different school, a school not made for foreigners and full of kids who stereotype Arnold negatively. Because Arnold was an intelligent person in a reservation school that was in shambles and was not going anywhere because of lack of funding, Arnold took it upon himself to do something about his shoddy life and make a positive change. That initiative alone is what makes Arnold a foreigner in his own culture and community, another problem that he faces and confronts with code-switching by changing his ways like putting up a false front for whoever he is with. On Arnold’s first day at his new school, Rearden High School, even before going to class “They stared [at me]…Those white kids couldn’t believe their eyes…like I was Bigfoot or a UFO.” (Alexie 53) demonstrates that the kids are already making it a tough job for Arnold to fit it and be accepted. He must defensively code-switch to not stick out as much, and does this throughout the novel. As Arnold is walking into his first class, the kids stare again at him until one decides to actually make contact and speak to him, a girl named Penelope. She asks for his name and where he is from, the “rez”, and goes on to say “Oh…That’s why you talk so funny.” (Alexie 58). This quotation embodies and backs up the fact that Arnold is so different that he even talks in a different way than everyone else, just like an actual immigrant from another country (or Amy Tan’s Mother). He must learn to defensively code-switch to fit in with everyone else and try fit in. Arnold must again defensively code-switch when he is confronted by the school bullies who are much bigger than him. The bullies’ leader, Roger, demeans Arnold by calling him names like “Tanto” and “Squaw Boy” and telling a very racist joke hoping for a reaction and he certainly gets one. Arnold puts Roger in his place with a hook to the head, and dumbfounded and shocked Roger said “…couldn’t believe you punched me.” (Alexie 62). Defensively code-switching from the quiet weakling Arnold was to someone who embodied the aggressive and prone-to-fighting Native American spirit by “… [staring] at Roger and tried to look tough” (Alexie 62), again it supports the thesis of any foreigner having to change up some ways of how and who they are to achieve a goal of being accepted or fitting in, whether it is by peaceful means or not.
This defensive code-switching is very important to Arnold because it not only allows him to seemingly match with everyone else and be seen as normal, but also allows Arnold to defend himself against unwanted attention and actions. Those unwanted things include even more bullying from people like Roger and the rest at his school to matching with the rest of the population on the reservation. In the end itself, Arnold’s aggressive defensive code-switching with Roger eventually did get him to his goal of fitting in and being accepted for the most part because in one instance, it gained Arnold numerous friends like Roger, who eventually stood up for him when discriminated against in class. That instance was when the teacher was unfair against Arnold, and everyone in the class walked out of the room to protest. The defensive code-switching done in the novel helps demonstrate how hard it is to be in a totally new place against societal norms and fit in with everyone else. This theme is mirrored perfectly in Amy Tan’s ‘Mother Tongue’ except from the essay collection The Opposite of Fate. In ‘Mother Tongue’, the author, a daughter of a Chinese immigrant, recounts numerous hardships and instances where her and her mother, a Chinese non-English speaking immigrant living in the United States, has to use some sort of code-switching in order to adapt or fit in with the norms they are both learning as they spend time in the States. Both authors capitalized on the fact that society tends to belittle and separate themselves from outsiders or immigrants to that place, and both authors used code-switching as a theme or way to help lessen that impact.
In ‘Mother Tongue’, there are many aspects that embody the stereotypical need to defensively code-switch. With Amy’s Mother being an immigrant in a new country, the language of the states is something new to her, and her almost deficiency in fluency and dictation of the English language can be seen as a debilitating factor that affects her life in a very negative way. One instance that exemplifies the fact that there really is some sort of a deficiency in her language skills is when Amy Tan recalled that even though her Mother reads various stately English magazine publications like Forbes or The Wall Street Journal, her friends can barely understand fifty percent of what Mrs. Tan actually says. That is to say, that at most, every other word that she speaks is just about understandable, while the rest are complete nonsensical Chinese-English mashed together, for the untrained ear at least. This shows that there definitely is a need to code-switch for Mrs. Tan, that if she even wants to begin to communicate to the rest of the new society she is a part of, then she will have to diverge from her usual language and dictation to fit in.
Other examples of code-switching in the excerpt share the commonality of how Amy Tan was affected by her Mother’s skills in the English language. The first instance is where Amy was helping her Mother with a problem with her stockbroker. The reader was told of how the lack of skills in communicating gave way to open and prominent discrimination, from tellers in banks to workers in stores and restaurants not taking her seriously or giving lackluster service. This almost ‘favoritism’ of English speakers over non-English speakers demonstrates that again, there is a need to defensively code-switch to get things that should be freely given, such as respectful service. The stockbroker that the Tans were dealing with can be seen as brushing Mrs. Tan off because of her skills, and Amy was the one who had to fix it somehow. On the phone with the broker and impersonating her Mother at her own request, Amy had to aggressively argue, complain, and threaten the broker using her English skills to be taken seriously. Their little ‘guise’, as they called it, shows one reason why she would need to code-switch, and that is again discrimination against outsiders or anyone or anything else that is different. A personal opinion of my own, I agree with the fact that in times of need, one who is in the middle of a very stark and different transitioning period must certainly code-switch to be accepted or adapt to the new setting. I say this because as far as I am concerned, everyone has code-switched at least once in their life, no matter what. It is a quintessential part of daily life, and does not discriminate. A process that I use every day when I go to class at SFSU, I must code-switch from my normal social and talkative self when with friends to someone who is quiet, critical, and really attentive in class. Just like how Arnold used it at his new school, I used it at my new school also.
One other ironic example of when code-switching was used defensively was when Amy herself used it to go against societal norms. Amy stated that she “…enjoy[s] the challenge of disproving assumptions made about me.” (Tan 278). She goes on to state that the stereotype in America is that so many Asian students, like herself, go onto Premed or Engineering programs, and that they are essentially steered away from Writing and Literature because of their parents’ wishes or their teachers. Amy Tan effectively code-switched from that Asian student norm and expectation to go against that and challenge it by becoming a writer and following what she has wanted to do.
When moving or transitioning to a totally different place while facing adversity like stereotypes and racism, defensive code-switching is a definite must because of the positives that it can bring. Positives like being accepted into a certain group of people or the relief from unjust and unfair discrimination are just a few to name.
Different Types Of Losses in The Joy Luck Club Novel
The Joy Luck Club: Lost and Found
In The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, the daughter of Suyuan, Jing-Mei Woo (aka “June”), experiences many different types of losses to which she later finds answers for her prying need for identity through an extraordinary journey of self discovery and courage in response to her mother’s death.
The beginning of the book starts to establish a narrative from June. There is a sense of shock in her, in that it hasn’t quite sunk in that her mother is dead. She has lost her mother, but her spirit still remains in the voices around her. She describes listening to various people describe the cause of her mother’s death; from the doctor saying it was a cerebral aneurysm, to June’s father saying that he thinks she was killed by her own thoughts. June’s mother, Suyuan Woo, was the founder of the Joy Luck Club. Suyuan always described the Joy Luck Club as something of a gathering to relieve the daily stresses of life after her engraved journey through China to San Francisco. It was from the inspiration of the Joy Luck Club that June always heard stories from her mother regarding her life before June was born. June notes that she hears her mother’s friends say that her mother died “…just like a rabbit, quickly, and with unfinished business left behind” (Tan 19).
June never took her mother’s story of the Joy Luck Club too seriously, until after her mother passed. Her mother always told her the story when they were sitting idle after a meal and was bored. June reflects on the story that her mother told her about her encounters in Kweilin, and realizes only after it starts to sink in that her mother is dead, that she took listening to the tale for granted. Because of June’s indirect relationship with China, being Chinese-American, she doesn’t feel the same losses that her mother described having, but now she has an urge to empathize. The story was always the same, except for the ending, which June describes as growing darker, casting long shadows into her life (Tan 21).
June’s mother was consistently critical of her, which made June feel like she was never good enough. This caused June to always try and impress her mother by making sacrifices to appease her. June lost her identity along the way trying to become what she always thought her mother wanted her to be. Later, June realizes that she misconstrued her mother’s expectations, and felt like she was being criticized and shamed, when in reality, this was her mother’s way of being protective and showing love.
This loss of identity reflects heavily in June’s character throughout her journey. Before her death, her mother lastly told the story of her immigration struggle to June as one of impacting facts and loss. She told June that she was carrying two babies and silk dresses and that “By the time I arrived in Chungking I had lost everything” (Tan 26). June remembers the first time her mother told her that she was not “those babies” and that her father was not Suyuan’s first husband. This recent memory puts June at a loss of words, rendering her speechless and leaving the rest of the Joy Luck Club to fill her head with their recollections of her mother.
Wondering how she will ever fill her mother’s shoes at the Joy Luck Club, June floods her nervousness with memories of her mother. This sort of transition from memory to reality is an acting bridge for the narrator to switch from June to Suyuan. When the other members of the Joy Luck Club (who June refers to as “aunties”) recommend that she seek out her two, long lost, half sisters, June is terrified. First, June feels obligated because they (the aunties) give her money to travel back to China, and second, even though June has lost her mother, she still feels like she may fail her. Her auntie Ying says “You must see your sisters and tell them about your mother’s death…most important, you must tell them about her life” (Tan 40).
“The aunties” are living vicariously through June in this instance. They see a reflection of their own children in that they worry that they do not have the relationship they desire with them because their children are Chinese-American, and do not have any raw experiences from the same struggles of being pushed out of China that they had. The aunties are afraid that they are losing their connected roots to China because their children take their heritage for granted, like June has with her mother (“The Joy Luck Club”).
In the chapter “Two Kinds” June narrates her memories of her mother’s severe criticisms for her and everything that she does. Despite June’s attempts to please her mother by playing the piano during a recital gone wrong, June describes her mother’s disappointment by saying “But my mother’s expression was what devastated me: a quiet, blank look that said she had lost everything” (Tan 140).
June’s emotional reliance on her mother’s approval was so sensitive, that in this moment, she referred to her mother’s face as an expression of “losing everything…” This is such an intensely sore feeling for June, that she comparatively implies her mother’s expression of “losing everything” as referencing when her mother lost everything in Chungking. Although June was always trying to meet her mother’s high expectations, her mother’s disappointed responses took an extreme role in June’s downfall. June lost her confidence and her pride under her mother’s shaming shadow and was never able to recover from the harsh reality that until her mother died, June would have no self-satisfaction in thinking she was good enough. Through her mother’s harsh verbal critiques and abusive actions, June felt lost, like a loser, and lost pieces of herself along the way. These pieces would eventually be redeemed when June actualizes her identity by researching her family history on her adventure back to China to find her sisters.
In “A Pair of Tickets”, Jing-Mei uses her memories of her mother as type of guide of strength and encouragement. She so strongly still feels her mother’s disdain for her every move that it actually gives her a familiar comfort and motivation to continue through China in search of her sisters. Jing-Mei’s mother’s voice echoes through her bones, forcibly making her embrace her Chinese heritage (hence the reference “Jing-Mei”, now, instead of “June”). She can hear her mother saying “Someday you will see…It is in your blood, waiting to be let go” (Tan 267).
In a sense, Jing-Mei found herself the second she stepped into China. She has an immediate sense of belonging and comfort ability that helps her realize she is her mother after all. She imagines the joy that her mother would have, experiencing her journey back to Kweilin and seeing her daughters again. Jing-Mei is traveling with her father, who she states for the first time that she can ever remember, “…is in tears” (Tan 268).
Ironically the initial experience is not what Jing-Mei expects to be a traditional Chinese one. All her life “June” had not craved Chinese tradition, and denied her true Chinese heritage, exclaiming that she did not want to be like her mother. Now, in China, in a fancy hotel, meeting with her Chinese family, she is self conscious of looking “too rich” and “too American”. When they order room service she craves traditional Chinese food, and they end up getting hamburgers and French fries from room service. This reverse role perspective is an important moment for Jing-Mei. She realizes just how Chinese she really desires to be, and instead of dreading her cultural history, wants instinctively to be a part of it, like her mother was (Tan 278).
In an emotional ending, Jing-Mei is anxious to meet her sisters. After spending some time with her great aunt and watching her father reunite with her, Jing-Mei is determined to hear her father’s side of the story that sparked the Joy Luck Club. Her father explains that Suyuan never gave up on finding her twin daughters. He explains about all the compassion his now deceased wife had and the strength and hope she carried the day that she lost her babies that they would be reunited again. He describes a heart wrenching and detailed quest that highlights Suyuan to Jing-Mei in a very different way (Tan 286).
On the day that Jing-Mei arrives to Shanghai to meet her sisters, emotions are unbridled with warm embraces. Jing-Mei describes seeing her mother’s image in her sisters, and recognizing that in an instance, she has finally lost her need to please her mother. She finds her sisters oddly familiar even though she’s never met them before. Jing-Mei feels that she is completing her mother’s wishes. Jing-Mei realizes that through her mother’s story of turmoil, struggle, sacrifice, and love that she has indeed found herself- a Chinese woman and proud to be, no longer lost in her mother’s image, but a reflection of her pride and identity.
The Fallacies on the American Dream in Two Kinds, a Short Story by Amy Tan
In the short story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, she writes about a child named Jing-mei and her experiences with her mother pushing her to become a prodigy, all while her mother deals with being a Chinese immigrant that just moved to the United States. The two countries obviously share very different cultures and this plays a part in the story as she pushes Jing-mei to live ‘The American Dream’. Her mother strongly believes that in America you can be whatever you want to be. This, to some, may not be true, however this idea is strongly pushed in the Chinese culture. This is shown when Jing-mei fails to do any prodigious task that her mother puts in front of her which leads to her mother being ultimately disappointed in Jing-mei. Her failures ends up causing a huge argument between Jing-mei and her mother. The argument could be called the climax of the story. This confrontation wouldn’t have happened if Jing-mei’s mother didn’t have the huge idea that The American Dream is a legitimate thing, and Jing-mei’s mother wouldn’t have that perception of America if the Chinese culture didn’t present the United States as such a place. Based on Chinese culture and perspectives, there are numerous fallacies concerning the American Dream, and these are displayed in Amy Tan’s short story “Two Kinds”.
Chinese culture is obviously extremely different than the culture in the United States, and not many Chinese citizens actually know what it’s like to live in America. This could lead to the United States being represented incorrectly. Most Chinese citizens have the impression that America is the land of dreams, and that you can go there and live a successful life, make money and be famous but that’s not always true. According to an article written by Patrick Kim of tutorming.com; there’s a huge list of shows that are popular in China that are originally from the United States. The most popular show on the list is a show called The Big Bang Theory. In the show, there are four geeks who all have their PHDs and all do wacky things. Since this is a popular show in China, a good percentage of the population is most likely watches the show. The show could easily give off the impression to Chinese citizens looking to immigrate to America that you can just come to the country and become a doctor or scientist since the show doesn’t display anything negative about America in terms of the economy. Chinese citizens would be filled with hope that their lives are changing only to be heartbroken and distraught when they find out that to become a doctor they need $40,000 a year that they don’t have because they didn’t bring any money with them from China. This is just one of many ways that China falsely displays American life.
In addition to China presenting ‘The American Dream’ as a legitimate lifestyle, China also glorifies child prodigies. There’s many talent shows that are similar to America’s Got Talent and The X-Factor that often feature children performing songs and gaining fame from being on national television. On the Chinese talent show titled Amazing Chinese, there’s a viral video of Zhang Junhao, a three year old boy, doing some dance moves that obviously makes the crowd love him. There’s an article on pri.org that’s written by Emily Lodish. In the article, Emily states “He’s got the judges eating out of the palm of his hand and an entire audience swooning.”She says that Zhang can do something that no three year old should know how to do, and that’s playing an audience. Before the performance, he says to the judges “When I dance, my mom laughs. My mom says laughing is happiness. My dream is to make people happy because I am happy. Are you happy?” This certainly isn’t something that a toddler should be able to do naturally, which could only mean that he was taught how to do this by someone. His parents or parent could have obviously pushed Zhang to dance incredibly hard until he had it mastered, and then told him just what to tell the judges to get that nice heartwarming feeling out of the performance. This is just one of many examples of Chinese parents forcing their child to do some sort of prodigious task, which leads me to my next point.
In Amy Tan’s short story Two Kinds, Jing-mei’s mother forces her to do all sorts of prodigious tasks so that her daughter can be the best daughter and be all sorts of talented. The only issue is that Jing-mei fails at all of the tasks that are put in front of her and makes her mother very disappointed. Just like when talking about Zhang Junhao’s dance performance, his mother most likely was forcing him to do all of that, just like when Jing-mei’s mother was forcing her to play the piano and perform in the talent show where she ended up embarrassed herself. Looking back at my first paragraph, Jing-mei’s parents were immigrants who moved to America straight from China for the sole purpose of finding and living a better life for their family. Jing-mei’s mother had the idea of the “American Dream” in her head while moving to America, since she believed that she could do anything in America.
In conclusion, it’s not unusual for Chinese culture to falsely present the United States as the Disneyland of countries to live in, but it brings false hope to immigrants who come from China expecting the holy grail of a wealthy life. They come to a new country, hoping to start living “The American Dream” yet end up getting ultimately disappointed.. It also gives parents the idea that they can make their children become a child prodigy and become the perfect child since they show Chinese versions of American reality shows on television networks.
The Concept of the Evils of Society in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Two Kinds by Amy Tan, and I Want to Be Miss America by Julia Alvarez
“Two Kinds” “TBE” “Miss Amer”
A person can change themselves or the people around them due to the pressure of society’s interests and expectations. Throughout “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, and “I Want To Be Miss America” by Julia Alvarez, the main idea of the evils of society is constantly mentioned and explored. In “The Bluest Eye”, Pecola desired to be accepted, but in the long run her interaction with people, such as Maureen and Junior, and the idea of beauty has negatively affected her self esteem thus degrading her idea of her own self worth. Similarly, in “Two Kinds”, Jing-mei Woo didn’t want to disappoint her mother and be a failure as her mother came to America for opportunities and to lead a better life. However, as she encountered Waverly, she realized what society expected of her, and knowing it was difficult for her to fulfill those expectations, it further degraded her self worth . Lastly, in contrast, “I Want to Be Miss America”, displays how the idea of beauty can negatively affect one’s self esteem as self doubt can come into play. Thus, the main character’s interaction with other people and ideas negatively affect the main characters self esteem
In “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, the main character as well as the protagonist, Pecola Breedlove ,is an eleven-year old girl who suffered two traumatic rapes as she is abused by almost everyone in the book. Trying to change her perspective on life, Pecola thinks being light skinned with blue eyes will give her a different lens on life as she feels that being African American bring’s nothing but bad luck in one’s life. Pecola’s interaction with the people around her and ideas had detrimental effects on her self worth by lessening her self value after being raped by her father. On page 63, Maureen Peal is introduced as she has and deals with interactions with Pecola, and as they develop an argument through Maureen asking the question, “Did you ever see a naked man?” (Page 71). In self defense Pecola responded as “Nobody’s father would be naked in front of his own daughter.Pecola at this point, started to regain vivid and descriptive details of her rape and the amount of shame that comes along with it. As an argument started to arise between Maureen and Frieda about Maureen being crazy about boys being naked, Pecola started to have a breakdown and denied that she never saw her father naked. Unfortunately this led to “Pecola tuck[ing] her head in a funny, sad, helpless movement” (Page 72). In addition, not only does Maureen demean Pecola but Junior does as well. Junior invites Pecola into his house saying that there are some kittens and being amazed by being able to pet it “He held the door open for her, smiling his encouragement” (Page 89). As he was giving the kitten to Pecola, he threw it in her face which left a scar on her face and as Pecola tries to leave, Junior says that she’s his prisoner. Geraldine calls Pecola a “nasty little black b*****” (Page 92). By judging her and touching upon a sensitive topic to Pecola, her skin color, Geraldine lower’s Pecola’s self esteem and as a result she wants to fit in with society more, having blonde hair and blue eyes and being light skinned as she believes it can change her reality or the current situations she’s in.
Similarly, in “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, the narrator and the main character Jing-mei Woo, has recently moved to America after the Chinese Revolution had occurred in 1949 as her mother wanted a better life for both of them and let Jing-mei Woo have more opportunities to be successful and become a prodigy. Jing-mei Woo’s mother wants nothing but the best for her and in order to prepare her to be a prodigy and be successful in America she started to compile an abundant amount of tests which ranged from predicting the daily temperatures of Los Angeles to multiplying numbers in her head. As time passed she saw her “mother’s disappointed face… I hated the raised hopes and fail expectations… [and she] began to cry.” (Page 2, paragraph 14) The event of seeing her mother’s disappointed face ruins her daughter, Jing-mei Woo’s self esteem as her mother sees more potential in her than she does in herself. By being pushed and breaking her limits she starts to question whether or not she can be able to make her mother proud. In addition, Waverly, Jing-mei Woo’s cousin also known as “Chinatown’s Littlest Chinese Chess Champion.” As the narrator is invited to play in the talent show to showcase her musical talents (playing the piano) Jing-mei thinks that she can wing it by not paying attention as long as she looked good on stage everyone would be clapping for her. Unfortunately, after the performance “Waverly looked at [her] and shrugged her shoulders. ‘You aren’t a genius like me,’” (page 4, paragraph 53- based upon page 1), which brought back those unpleasant moments in which case she failed her mother once again as she wasn’t a prodigy, a genius like Waverly.
In “I Want To Be Miss America”, Julia Alvarez experiences the pain of being different in a society where beauty has a different value as their “looks didn’t seem to fit in” (page 39). According to the text, she witnesses the Miss America Pageant on T.V. and the idea of being white and skinny was implemented into her mind as the beauty needed to become Miss America. As a result, they became self-conscious based upon the ideal standards of beauty set by society self doubt from within started to become present. They wanted to fit in but they were “short, [their hair were] frizzed, and their figures didn’t curve” (page 39) like others had. On page 44, the last paragraph, the narrator portrays how self doubt is nothing but an enemy to oneself. Since they have already been in America for three decades, Julia Alvarez “feel[s] like a stranger in what [she] now considers her own country” (Page 44). The constant self doubt further depreciates the self esteem of Julia as a woman and as an American due to her inability to match societal expectations.
Overall, at young ages, experiences and words have a profound impact on the development of self worth and self confidence. In “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, Pecola encounters Maureen and Junior and the concept of beauty which makes her feel worthless by degrading her self worth while being self conscious about herself. In addition, in “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, the protagonist Jing-mei Woo is bombarded with workload and this negatively affects her self esteem as she keeps on disappointing her mother. Also, in “I Want To Be Miss America” by Julia Alvarez self doubt starts to form as a result of beauty standards. Therefore, the protagonists interactions with people and ideas start to degrade their self worth in a negative aspect.