Self Identity

Topics: China, Overseas Chinese, Song Dynasty Pages: 9 (3436 words) Published: April 17, 2006
Self Identity

The identity of one's self can largely be defined by one's culture and heritage, but it is certainly not restricted by these elements. Family makes up the most part of your culture as well as the place you call home. Traveling can help put you on a road to self-discovery, and can help you find a balance of who you are in specific environments. To fully understand yourself you have to investigate all the cultures you are comprised of through your family and heritage. Then you can contrast different parts of yourself that come from different backgrounds and find a happy medium. These elements are all present in Amy Tan's short story, "A Pair of Tickets", and the poem "Lost Sister" by Cathy Song. The two works have similar concepts, although there are some differences in setting and tone. It is also interesting to note that the authors show a great deal of similarities between themselves as well.

Before jumping into the content of the two works themselves, it is interesting to note how similar the two authors' backgrounds are, and how they intertwine their childhood experiences into their literary works. Cathy Song was born in 1955 in Hawaii with a mix of Chinese and Korean ancestry (Song's). She adapted to Chinese culture the most, and associates with this side of her upbringing. She grew up with the ancient oriental culture of her immediate family in the midst of Western culture present in the environment surrounding her (Song's). The poem "Lost Sister" contrasts these two types of lifestyles, those of China and the Western culture of the United States. As will be discussed later, Song's ancestors did not get to experience the joys of freedom present in the United States, but Song had to endure the ambiguity of being a "hyphenated American" (Song's). She also did not get to experience a true form of her Chinese culture that her roots had built for her.

Amy Tan had a very similar childhood and life experiences that also helped shape her literary works. Tan was born in Oakland, California, in 1952, just two and a half years after her parents immigrated there from China (Beaty 10). Tan's parents wanted Americanized children but expected them to think like Chinese (Bookrags). In 1987 she visited China for the first time and announced, "As soon as my feet touched China, I became Chinese" (Beaty 10). This experience is the main inspiration for the story "A Pair of Tickets", which was written to sort out Tan's cultural heritage. The experience also deepened her sense of Chinese-American identity.

The poem and the story both describe the setting of America and China, but both take place during different time periods so there are differences among them. The poem seems to describe America and China as totally different, while the story shows that there are parts of China in America and vice versa. It appears as if the poem is describing both countries from more of a historical context. It seems to take place during, or shortly after, WWII, when Chinese immigration to the United States was skyrocketing. The woman in the poem was "Rising with a tide of locusts" (31). A locust is defined as, "a grasshopper commonly migrating in swarms that strip the vegetation from large areas" (Random). "A tide of locusts" implies that there was an increasing amount of these "locusts" coming in from the ocean, and they were overwhelming the shore (31). The locusts are the immigrants coming over from China across the ocean, and they are causing overcrowding because so many of them are arriving. Americans showed discrimination toward the immigrants because they felt as if they were taking over their land in the form of natural resources, and their lifestyle in the form of jobs. The "dough-faced landlords" only care about getting their money from their tenants (48). They are sneaky and "slip in and out of your keyholes", trying to rip off the foreigners by using the language barrier as an advantage (49). There is also the common...

Cited: Beaty, Jerome, and J. Paul Hunter. New Worlds of Literature. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1994.
Random House Webster 's Dictionary. New York: Ballantine Books, 2001.
Shan, Jun. Jade Culture. 06 Dec. 2004
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