This paper gives a critical comparison of Amy Tan’s Two Kids and Gish Jen’s Who’s Irish? These are two invaluable novels written by reputable authors to give a detailed analysis of the assimilation process in the highly diversified American society especially in the second half of the 20th centuries. The two books were written by the American authors who are known to have been enjoying a mixed identity as a result of immigration of their parents from their original homelands into the United States of America (USA). Meaning, they share a lot of similarities and differences in their presentations. This can be found in the use of stylistic devices, settings and themes.
As already highlighted, the Two Kids was written by Amy Tan. She is an American novelist who was born and raised by her parents of Chinese descent. After being born in the year 1952, Tan was taken to Switzerland by her mother, Daisy. After completing her secondary education here, she proceeded to San Jose State University where she pursued a Bachelors Degree in Linguistics before going to UC Berkeley for her doctoral studies. Just like in this novel, most of her writings are centered on family conflicts especially between the mother and daughter. On the other hand, Who’s Irish? was written by Gish Jens. Jens belongs to the second generation of American-Chinese. Her parents migrated to USA from China in the 1940s slightly before she was born. In 1955, she was born in New York City before relocating to Yonkers and Scarsdale where she grew up. Later, she completed her education at the prestigious Harvard University. As a contemporary American author, Jens has been credited for writing invaluable novels sensitizing readers on the mixed US culture (Mona, N., 2006).
In the Two Kids, Tan brings out a clear theme of conflict. There is a great conflict between Jing-Mei Woo and her mother. They disagree in most of the issues concerning their lives especially Woo’s career. Her mother does not give her freedom to choose the type of profession to pursue. Instead, she often imposes on her certain activities that she believes are suitable for her as her beloved daughter. At the beginning, she urges her to be a child prodigy. She has very high expectations for her because she wants to be made a proud mum of a successful child. This makes her decide to take Woo to a beauty school in order to enable her become a successful actress just like the other role models she had known before. However, this does not work out because she does not leave the college with pleasing results. The narrator says, ‘she came out of the school looking like a Negroid Chinese!’
Despite such a disappointment, her mother never gave up. She was still determined to get the best out of her. Hence, she took Woo to perform a series of tests to gauge her pomading abilities. According to her, she thought that this was a very simple test that Woo would perform without any problem. After all, she used to read about Woo’s age mates who had excelled in such tests. However, never came to be since Woo could not stand on her head. She was also not able to memorize the capital cities of all the countries she was given. Moreover, Woo failed to perform a simple task of predicting the whether of Los Angeles, a very simple task that anyone could do. After realizing such disappointing results in these tests, Woo lost interest and finally stopped making any trial. This was so demoralizing to her mother who later compelled her to playing piano.
In Who’s Irish, Jens presents the theme f conflict in a narrator’s family. There is a very great disagreement between the narrator, grand mother, son, daughter in law, and Sophie. In the first place, the grand mother is portrayed as a very wild old lady. She is so authoritative and imposes conservative ideas on everyone. Because of sharing different world views, she disagrees with most of the opinion of other people in her family. For instance, she conflicts with his daughter Natalia and son in law John over the best way to instill discipline on their children. Whereas the young couple advocate for a friendlier punishment, the granny insists on corporal punishment. Hence, when infuriated by Sophie, she spanks her using a cane. This does not please John who later disagrees with her to decease from such a brutal conduct.
Meanwhile, there is a conflict among Sophie, Narrator, Sinbad’s mother and the grandmother. When Sophie is taken to play at the park, she interacts with a subversive kid who misleads her to disobey her parents. A result, she decides to kick Sinbad’s mother. This forces the Narrator to spank her for his mischievous behavior. However, this is not taken lightly by Sophie who ten decide to hide in the foxhole which had been dug by the grandmother. Because of this, she throws her with dirt. After the Narrator punishing her, both John and Natalia became so infuriated. Instead of commending the narrator for instilling discipline in their daughter, they openly condemn her for bruising their kid (Gerald, P., 2000).
It is important to acknowledge that these novels are giving out a very clear message to the readers. They make us understand the nature of life in a highly dynamic society in which people from different backgrounds are supposed to adapt to the new environment and harmoniously live together. While Tan sensitizes the readers on the dangers of conformity, Jens brings out a more liberal view which enriches the readers’ minds with assimilation process in such situations. Jing-Mei Woo found herself in problems because of the unlimited demands of her mother. Instead of understanding the different abilities of kids, she believes that all children are equal and can perform similar tasks. This is why she was forcing her daughter to perform similar duties she had seen other do. This is typical of a family conflict which may stem from confusion and unplanned adaptation into new cultural practices.
On the other hand, Jen brings a different kind of conflict which is brought by cultural practices. The positions taken by the Narrator, John, Natalia and grand mother portray them as people who represent different cultural ideologies. Narrator is a conservative character. Her disciplinary approaches represent old ideas and are obsolete. They do not apply to the current generation which needs to be nurtured and treated cautiously. On the other hand, John and Natalia represent the current population which believes in liberalism and freedom. This is typical of the contemporary American society which is characterized by freedom, democracy and plurality. Lastly, the Grand mother is brought up as a dynamic character that belongs to the conservative and liberal groups. She is not so rigid in her ideologies. Hence, she plays a role of an intermediary who connects the old ways to the modern ones (Branda-Williams, N., 2009).
Conclusively, I would like to agree that Who’s Irish and Two Kids are invaluable novels. They were written by renowned authorities who have sensitized the readers on different aspects of assimilation. Despite their differences, we can use them to learn that it is good to be dynamic individuals who can cope up with life in any kind of the environment. If we learn to be flexible, we can exist in a harmony without being at a logger horns with any of us.
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