This reaction paper features the nonfiction story titles Who Will Light the Incense When Mother’s Gone by Andrew Lam and Salvation by Langston Hughes. The authors’ timeline do not overlap yet the subject theme of having an adult teach the young the ways of their ancestors either through culture or religion is found a commonality in both essays. Another similarity prevalent in both stories is the misunderstanding of the representatives of each party either in insistent communication or failed communication. This portrays that a gap exists between these two generations regardless of the period one is in. However, the approach of the protagonists to the issue at hand is found dissimilarly distinct. While the Vietnamese teenager retains his newfound culture of America due to pressure of current times, the black American was disillusioned to follow Christianity to project obedience within the community. Both stories are of different cultural perspectives but mirror a reflection on the values retained by the young through the methods used by the old.
Lam narrated a picture of his Vietnamese culture immersed in the culture of the West. In the story, a young boy in the first person of Andrew Lam identifies a mother figure preserving the culture of their Vietnamese origin. A mother, in this story, is a representation of being an educator of the family where she passes on the heritage of their race to the young so that the spirit of their origin will not die. The specific culture that the mother shared to her sons and daughters is to remember those who have already departed for there is a spiritual connection that bonds the living world and the after life. She strongly demonstrates the importance of talking to the “ghosts” of those who have already left the world as if they could still see, hear, and feel amongst living. She believes that in doing so, the “ghosts” will provide guidance and protection to those living for they are wise and can see all things. Although the intention of the mother relishing the tradition and sharing it to the young is a formidable task, a conflict arises as a crash culture erupts between the originating country and the newfound home in America. The new environment that the young is growing up is in essence killing the interest and habits of the young towards their cultural heritage. The cultural mix is in a battle ground as if oil and water are fighting to get hold of a territory. In this story, the American culture overpowers the Vietnamese ways with language as one of the main reasons. The protagonists had spoken clearly that speaking Vietnamese at the house weighs no value as there is of no use with it once he leaves the house. Another main reason is that the American dream of achieving personal ambitions weighs over cultural roots. The mother had told the boy that he is blinded by the American dream and had chosen to become a cowboy. As a cowboy, he is equated to a selfish individual who leaves home or translated as someone who intentionally forgets his past to carry on with his personal goals. The drive to achieve as a value of American representation is symbolized with the awards and trophies finely arranged right below the altar where the mother chants her prayers. In this position, we can observe that the altar and the trophy stand are both in the perspective of where one took idolize. Both stood proudly on a fine cabinet where everyone can see and appreciate. Although the mother took value of the altar, we cannot doubt that she too appreciated the achievements of her sons and daughters as she had regarded them in a place near her worship. We can interpret that although the boy is visibly seen as the cowboy, the educator or the mother had also been a cowboy herself by allowing the achievements or gains is finely arranged as like the altar. The mother is the one...
References: Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W.E. (2013). Literature for Composition An Introduction to
Literature (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document