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Contrasting Cultures in Tan's Mother Tongue and Nguyen's The Happy Days Syndrome

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The teenage years and transition to adulthood is in itself a very difficult period. Blending or fitting in are omnipresent issues that must be dealt with. For children of immigrants, this difficulty is only intensified through language. Both Amy Tan and Khang Nguyen strategically use narrative anecdotes and employ several rhetorical devices to illustrate this struggle in their works, “Mother Tongue” and “The Happy Days,” respectfully. Amy Tan chooses her childhood home as the primary setting of her work. This allows her to focus primarily on her conversations and interactions with her mother. However, she also gives several anecdotes in which her mother’s background and improper English negatively affected her, outside the home. Through…show more content…
However, the setting of the bathroom with the mirror provides Khang with a means of reflection. Both Tan and Khang describe the struggle of fitting in with the added difficulty of growing up as a child of immigrants. Both compare and contrast their relationships inside and out side the home in order to clearly demonstrate the differences and difficulties. As the stories develop, so do their characters, allowing for subtle reflection.
At hoe, Amy Tan maintained a loving relationship with her mother. There, they were able to speak to each other the same way and understand each other perfectly. It was only outside the home that communication became a problem. She recalls how people disrespected her mother in department stores, restaurants and other places. Her mother, on a daily basis, received a constant condescending attitude from people. Tan became very uncomfortable with such attitudes. When her mother is disrespected or treated unfairly, Tan would simply “sit there red-faced and quiet”. She never felt angry toward her mother, like Khang did. However, she did feel that her mother’s informal English limited her perception of her.
As an adult, Tan understands that her mother’s English is the language of intimacy. She now understands that her “mother’s expressive command belies how much she actually understands” Her mother reads “The Wall street Journal” and converses with their stockbroker on matters Tan doesn’t comprehend. It becomes evident that her initial
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