Characterization of Two Kinds and Who's Irish

Ivan Tellez Eng.

102 Professor Moore 10/28/10 Characterization Essay Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds” explains a lifestyle a Chinese family begins in America. The family consists of a mother and a daughter. The mother is a hard worker and did a lot to come to America, but her daughter is not doing much to stand out and is wasting an opportunity in America. Gish Jen’s “Who’s Irish” tells the story of a sixty-eight-year-old Chinese immigrant and her struggle to accept other cultures different from her own.The Chinese mother has a daughter who she has to babysit for, because the daughter’s family could not afford a babysitter. In her short story “Two Kinds,” Amy Tan utilizes the daughter’s point of view to share a mother’s attempts to control her daughter’s hopes and dreams, providing a further understanding of how their relationship sours. The daughter has grown into a young woman and is telling the story of her coming of age in a family that had emigrated from China. In particular, she tells that her mother’s attempted parental guidance was dominated by foolish hopes and dreams.

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This double perspective allows both the naivety of a young girl trying to identify herself and the judgment of a mature woman. “Two Kinds” is a great example of differing personalities causing struggles between parent and child. In every parent-child relationship, there are occurrences in which the parent places expectations on the child.

Some children fall victim to a parent trying too hard or placing expectations too high, or, in the case of “Two Kinds,” a parent trying to live her life through that of her child.Gish Jen’s “Who’s Irish” the main character is a Chinese grandmother who previously owned a restaurant and now devotes her time to babysitting her 3-year-old daughter. The grandmother has been living in the United States for a while but she is still critical of other cultures and ethnicities, such as her son-in-law’s Irish family and the American values in which her daughter insists on applying while raising her granddaughter. The grandmother finds it very hard to accept the American way of disciplining and decides to implement her own measures when babysitting her granddaughter Sophie.When the grandmother’s daughter finds out that she has been spanking Sophie she asks her mother to move out of the house and breaks any further contact between them by not taking Sophie to visit her grandmother in her new place.

The central idea of the story is that being an outsider depends on one’s perspective and that perspective determines how one’s life will be. Chinese-Americans authors Amy Tan and Gish Jen have both grappled with the idea of mixed identity in America. For them, a generational problem develops over time, and cultural displacement occurs as family lines expand.While this is not the problem in and of itself, indeed, it is natural for current culture to gain foothold over distant culture, it serves as the backdrop for the disorientation that occurs between generations.

In their novels, Tan and Jen pinpoint the cause of this unbalance in the active dismissal of Chinese mothers by their Chinese-American children.Works Cited Tan, Amy. Two Kinds. 1. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2010. 43-48.

Print. Jen , Gish. Who’s Irish?. 1.

New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2010. 105-110. Print.

Author: Pedro Price


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