Mother-Daughter Relationship in "Seventeen Syllables" and "Everyday Use"

Topics: Difference, Japanese popular culture, Japanese diaspora Pages: 4 (1438 words) Published: December 7, 2011
In “Seventeen Syllables”, written by Hisaye Yamamoto, and “Everyday Use”, written by Alice Walker, the relationship between the mother and the daughter is portrayed. In “Seventeen Syllables”, the protagonist, Rosie is an American born Japanese (Nisei) who does not understand well about the Japanese culture, whereas her Issei mother, Mrs. Hayashi was born and raised in Japan and married to America. Mrs. Hayashi loves writing haiku, a traditional Japanese poetry, to escape from the reality of her loveless marriage. In “Everyday Use”, Mama is a traditional Afro-American woman, who receives little education and raised her two daughters by doing ‘man’s job’. Dee instead influenced by the Black Power Movement, tried to trace back her African root. She learned the African culture and changed her name into Wangero. This essay hopes to explore the similarities and differences of the mother-daughter relationship depicted in these two short stories, which is Rosie and Mrs. Hayashi, and Dee and Mama respectively.

To start with, one of the similarities is that there is alienation in the two pairs due to cultural differences. In “Seventeen Syllables”, Rosie represents the American culture and Mrs. Hayashi represents the Japanese culture. Rosie was born and raised in America and English is her mother language; whereas her mother, Mrs. Hayashi ‘had even less English, no French’ as her mother tongue is Japanese. She came to America as a picture bride to deveop a loveless marriage with Rosie’s father and her Japanese culture is deep-rooted. She loves to write haiku, which Rosie fails to understand it. She thinks “English lay ready on the tongue but Japanese had to be searched for and examined.” Due to their difference in cultural background, Rosie finds it difficult to communicate with her mother. She has to ‘pretended to understand the haiku thoroughly and appreciate it no end’ when her mother reads her the haiku she wrote. Therefore, she turns out communicating less with her...
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