Mother Tongue by Amy Tan

1081 Words3 Pages

Identity and Culture Amy Tan’s ,“Mother Tongue” and Maxine Kingston’s essay, “No Name Woman” represent a balance in cultures when obtaining an identity in American culture. As first generation Chinese-Americans both Tan and Kingston faced many obstacles. Obstacles in language and appearance while balancing two cultures. Overcoming these obstacles that were faced and preserving heritage both women gained an identity as a successful American. In the work of Amy Tan’s “Mother’s Tongue” she provides a look into how she adapted her language to assimilate into American culture. She made changes to her language because her mother heavily relied on her for translation. She was the voice of her mother, relaying information in standard English to those who were unable to understand her mother’s broken english. She tells about her mother’s broken english and its impact on her communication to those outside their culture. Her mothers broken english limited others’ perception of her intelligence, and even her own perception of her mother was scewed: Tan said, “I know this for a fact, because when I was growing up, my mothers ‘limited’ English limited my perception of her. I was ashamed of her English. I believed that her English reflected the quality of what she had to say.” (419) The use of standard english was a critical component to Tan’s assimilation into American culture. Standard English was an element she acquired to help her mother but more importantly is was an element that helped in her gain success as a writer. Tan changed her ‘Englishes’ (family talk) to include standard English that she had learnt in school and through books, the forms of English that she did not use at home with her mother. (417-418) Tan realized the ch... ... middle of paper ... her essay “No Name Woman”. The Chinese tradition of story telling is kept by Kingston in her books. Becoming Americanized allowed these women the freedom to show their rebellious side and make their own choices. Rebelling against the ideals of their culture but at the same time preserving some of the heritage they grew up with. Both woman overcame many obstacles and broke free of old cultural ways which allowed them an identity in a new culture. But most importantly they were able to find identity while preserving cultural heritage. Works Cited Kingston, Maxine Hong. "No Name Woman." 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. 4th Edition. Ed. Samuel Cohen. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 227-39. Print. Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue." 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. 4th Edition. Ed. Samuel Cohen. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 417-23. Print.

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