Tan’s use of pathos can be read throughout “My Mother’s Secrets”. The love between her and her mother is a feeling that many readers can relate to and understand. Tan shows a filial piety, an important philosophy in many cultures. Filial piety is a belief that describes the way one should behave toward one’s parents. The Chinese believe that if one doesn't have piety towards one’s parents, then how can one be loyal to another? Her mother experienced many losses in her lifetime: her mother’s suicide, her three daughters she left in China, and finally her son’s and husband’s death from brain tumors. When her mother is put in the hospital for angina she makes a vow to God, “I will get to know her. I will ask her about her past, and this time I’ll actually listen to what she has to say. I’ll even take her to China”(1). This can be seen as an attempt at redemption after she realizes she doesn’t really know anything about her mother. Many people turn to religion to atone for guilt or regrets. After her mother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Tan explains it to the family, who believes it’s “an illness of guilt, their guilt for having been inattentive”(6). The family then begins to try to redeem themselves by giving food and visiting the mother more often.
In addition to Tan’s efficient use of pathos, her audience is vast, as it can cover any parent-child relationship, as well as Chinese Americans. As she becomes closer to her mother she says, “I began to see how much I actually knew about my mother and myself”(8). In the Chinese culture, they believe that the child inherits the parents’ legacy. Tan states, “It was a part of a larger legacy passed from generation to generation, grandmother to mother to daughter”(4). In