Question: compare and contrast ‘My Two Lives” by Jhumpa Lahiri and “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan
Narrator’s voice, emotions, and experiences
Lahiri narrates her story in a bitter tone and it seems she is humiliated about her ancestry because she tries to keep it a secret from her American friends. Even in her adult life, she considers her parents to be a constant reminder that she is an impostor in a foreign country (Lahiri). This is in contrast to Amy Tan as she tells her story in an eager manner as she values the diversity of the languages and the power languages have in evoking emotions, simple truths, visual images and even complex ideas. She is fascinated by language and even resolves to pursue a career of being an author despite performing averagely in her English language tests (Tan). Both Lahiri and Amy had it tough while they were growing up in the foreign society but Lahiri hid her origin from her friends and even regrets the time she spent with her family on vacation to India instead of going to Sunday school and learning to ice-skate like her friends. However, Amy Tan is sympathetic with her mother and does not consider herself superior to her mother just because she can speak English fluently but seeks to help her out in her conflicts like the CAT scan in the hospital (Tan).
The difference each narrator has with her parents
Amy has a close relationship with her mother and is supportive of her in instances that require her language proficiency. She even talks to her mother in her language and sometimes she admits it happens automatically. When she seeks to publish a book, she says she feels she succeeded in her writing when her mother read her book and told her it was “easy to read” (Tan). Lahiri on the other hand feels her parents are a hindrance in her life as she hates the way they dress, their constant menu of dal and rice, and even she is ashamed of the enthusiasm her American friends that had never been to India showed when they attended her wedding in Calcutta. She even terms her parents as an anchor that will set her free when they die and then she can assent to being American (Lahiri).
What similar challenges did both writers have growing up and balancing two languages and cultures?
Lahiri and Amy had the challenge of their parents not being fluent in speaking English limiting their understanding of the language. They felt shame that their parents could not speak English fluently and often conversed in their native language in their house. This influences the immigrant children on achievement tests. Another challenge is the lack of parental support in learning new language but instead views the person as an outsider and this is evidenced when Lahiri is told by her parents that she will never be an American no matter how hard she tried (Lahiri).
The differences apparent between the two stories and lessons learned
In Amy’s story, it seems she is raised by a single mother as the whole story revolves around her and her mother and the experiences they underwent through together. Also the story of Amy shows a strong bonding between mother and child despite their differences in English language skills and Amy seems to get satisfaction when she realizes her mother understands her (Tan). Lahiri on the other had seems to be raised in a family of two parents but she does not appreciate who they are and she hates their way of life from dressing, what they eat, the music they listen to and the insistence they speak Bengali in their home. This makes her even angrier and sees that only the death of her parents, who she terms as an anchor, can separate her from her origin (Lahiri).
The morals of the story is that people should appreciate their traditions as they make them who they are and once someone embraces this truth, their life will be fulfilling. Lahiri lives her life being ashamed of her origins and this makes it difficult for her to relate with her kids. Amy Tan who has embraced her origins is joyous and even admits that they use “broken English” as an intimate language with her husband (Tan).
Lahiri, Jhumpa. “My Two Lives.” In Newsweek Magazine., 5 mar. 2006. Web. 29 Sep 2012.
Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue.” In G. Sibylle (Ed.). Composing Identity through Language, Culture, Technology and the Environment. 2nd Ed. 2005.