The Struggle for Communication in Gish Jen’s “Who’s Irish”
Gish Jen’s “Who’s Irish?” tells the story of a Chinese immigrant grandmother who has a hard time adjusting to life in America. The story primarily focuses on the difficulties in communication between family relationships. The different lifestyle her daughter’s family lives is quite different from the household she raised in China. Throughout the story, the narrator voices her opinion on different morals and values her daughter’s family practices, which becomes the root of her family’s communication issues. The primary problem in the household is the lack of communication between the narrator and the Shea family.
Communication issues arise at the beginning of the story between the narrator and her relationship with her son-in-law, John. The grandmother and John have difficulty communicating, because she does not understand what he values in life. She thinks he always has something to complain about and that he never is genuinely happy. Going back to her Chinese heritage, in her opinion, John would be happy in China: “If John lived in China, he would be very happy, but he is not happy” (Jen 273). She has a terrible understanding why Sophie’s own father does not help take care of her while Natalie is at work. His reason for this is that “he is a man” (273). When John finally gets a job he becomes an “expert” (276) at everything, according to the grandmother. Suddenly he knows more about raising Sophie now than ever before. Ultimately the miscommunication between the narrator and John is that the two never discuss their differences, making the grandmother resent him even more; not only as a husband and a father, but also a man.
The narrator and Sophie also share a huge miscommunication when they are together, especially when Sophie plays in the park. Sophie does not listen to her grandmother, and the more she tries to correct her, the more Sophie tests her patience. Even when her grandmother...
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