American Prose Project

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Daniel Payne English 332-02 14 April 2013 Gish Jen: “In the American Society” American Prose Project “In the American Society” is a short story wrote by Gish Jen. It was first published in 1986 in The Southern Review (Hunter,”MELUS Interview” 6). The short story “In the American Society” was the spring board for her novel Typical American. The author Gish Jen was born Lillian Jen in 1955 in New York. Her pen name Gish was her nickname in high school. Gish is a second generation Chinese American. She is one of five children. Her parents were educated in Shanghai and emigrated separately to the United States around World War Two. (TuSmith 1) Her father was a hydraulic engineer who had been invited to the United States to…show more content…
He envisioned himself as an emperor or something to the like. In addition to his employee’s regular paychecks, He would give extra money to an employee who was in need. Things like a tooth that needed pulling, bail, etc… This caused some strive in the Chang family. Ralph’s wife, Helen would make comments Such as “But this here is the U-S-A!”(Jen 1) Helen had worked at a supermarket, rising to the position of manger before quitting when the Chang’s took over the pancake house. This had liberated her in a sense. She had “new words and phrases, new ideas about herself and about America…she had opinions.”(Jen 1) She would pump her own gas and check her oil. She became interested in the finer things, Things such as wallpaper, espadrilles and the country club. These personal and family dynamics sets the stage for the story. Callie and her little sister Mona try to talk their mother into joining the local country club. They want to swim. They know it will be difficult to convince Ralph to join due to the fact he will have to wear a jacket. Ralph hated to wear nice clothes. Helen makes the statement” Your father doesn’t believe in joining the American society, he wants to have his own society.”(Jen 2) The girls try to convince their mother to join without their fathers consent. But they know this will never happen due to the fact in their “fathers mind a family owed its head a degree of loyalty that left no room for
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