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Tongue Tied

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Sometimes silence is the best as many people say. Maxine Hong Kingston agrees to this statement in the text, ‘Tongue tied.’ This study intends to explore how silence transforms the learning environment and how the Chinese students adjust towards the challenges they face.

Maxine Hong Kingston explores her life as a Chinese student in an American school where together with other Chinese students, they form a linguistic minority and how they struggle to cope in school. In this context, silence is a creation of dissimilarities between American and Chinese culture greatly affect students of the linguistic minority groups. The language of silence that is exhibited by the narrator is due to cultural apathies.

The story is presented from a first person point of view, which gives the story-heightened significance because the information given is firsthand. Maxine Hong Kingston offers a detailed description of the challenges she goes through as a Chinese American. She describes learning in an American school, the stereotypes and open discrimination from teachers and fellow American learners, ‘Dumbness- a shame- still cracks my voice in two-------.-- My silence was thickest-total- during the three years that I covered my school paintings with black paint.(Ana, 2004). Moreover, the narrator suffers from a feeling of discontent through her proposition of good speech and what she believes it should be. It is clear that the problem of speech has led her through a life of denial and a feeling of disability as indicated by the expression, ‘A telephone call makes my throat breed and takes up that day’s courage.’ (Ana, 2004).Towards the end of the text, the narrator shows fear even when she is in a Chinese class.

The narrator describes the kind of voice her sister produces as well as hers when they are told to recite what they learnt to a Chinese class. They both struggle to finish and they successfully accomplish their target.  At least she is glad that she did not whisper while she is above some Chinese girl who whispered. She is glad that she can make it and that she is not alone in the battle for good speech and identity. It sounds like an achievement considering what she had undergone in th American school,‘I was glad I didn’t whisper.’ (Ana, 2004).

The tone of the text is very clear. The narrator’s attitude is presented in her style of expression in regards to the subject matter. For instance, she employs a sadistic and hopeless tone when highlighting the plight of the Chinese- Americans and their treatment. The overall mood of the text is created by the emphasis made by the writer on the characteristics of the tussle felt during reading by use of various figures of speech. It is notable that the narrator is going through psychological torture due to her status of distress and displeasure. She clearly does not understand why she had to go through a ritual that has made her life difficulty in an American school. ‘The Chinese say that ‘a ready tongue is evil’ as the narrator realizes from her mother that it was necessary to go through the cut of the tongue although she does not understand why other children were not cut. Somehow, her attitude changes when she realizes that silence is an aspect of Chinese girls, ----‘I knew the silence had to do with being a Chinese girl’(Ana, 2004). She has a negative attitude towards the Japanese students and therefore distances herself from them. The contemptuous tone is expressed when she says, ‘I liked the Negro students---------the Japanese kids were noise and rough.(Ana, 2004). It creates a compassionate mood in the reader. In addition, the environment created is that of a torturous ambiance, which she uses in influencing the emotional retort of the reader.

There are various themes developed in the text that are greatly interrelated. The direct address with the mother indicates the urgency and need for the narrator to know what had really happened to her. It explores the Chinese cultural heritage, which differs, from the American one. Language barrier is a major concern brought out by the narrator in her struggle to pronounce words correctly. The description of the ‘I, you, here’ and how the words were pronounced in Chinese are different and this gives the narrator problems when reading the words. In addition, cultural issues arise not only in reading, but also in other aspects of life. Kingston identifies that the values she is subjected to learn contradict her values as a Chinnese. That is why the American standards seem different from her heritage, ‘I drank out of a toy saucer-----------I didn’t know that Americans don’t drink from saucers (Ana, 2004).

Through diction, metaphors, similes and descriptions, the author has employed a variety of strategies to create a secondary interpretation.The text contains a very inimitable form of linguistic elements, that is, the way words and phrases are arranged so as to form grammatical structures. Feminism is brought out through the metaphors used to place errors on a Chinese woman. The American girl seems to be equal to the boy while the Chinese girl is meant to keep quiet. This kind of perception makes the Chinese girls quiet because that is what is expected of them by their society. The kind of words she uses when describing her situation makes her gain sympathy from the readers and helps in accentuating the subject matter. We understand that her situation is bad through terms like ‘crippled and jagged.It is further emphasized through metaphors and similes that give a clear picture of the situation at hand when she was reading as well as her sister ‘Breaking up her voice like twigs underfoot. ----When it was my turn, the same voice came out, a crippled animal running on broken legs. You could hear splinters in my voice, bones rubbing jagged against one another’ (Ana, 2004). It is notable that the words used contain an artistic satisfying balance of opposing forces in the message of the text. It is possible by employing imagery and unique usage of language.

In conclusion, the kind of employed diction creates an effective tone, mood and attitude of the text. The work is truly inscrutable since the descriptions, comparisons create an evocative feeling, and an eerie mood associated with the theme she is dealing with. The use of concrete images and descriptions create a clear mental picture of the situations, which author wishes to depict. The comprehensiveness and authority used in presenting the text’s subject matter is splendid. Through the comprehensive outline of faced experiences, the narrator seems like he is acting them out hence giving the entire piece of art a touch of reality.  The literary aspects are easily identifiable and thus the story is enthralling.

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