Literary analysis: Who's Irish by Gish Jen - Essay Example

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The story “Who’s Irish” by Gish Jen is an intriguing piece of work which makes one think about not just the differences but also the similarities between different cultures. The following account seeks to explain the probable difference in the perspectives of Natalie and her grandmother on the story…
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Literary analysis: Whos Irish by Gish Jen
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Download file to see previous pages The story is written in the form of a narrative, from the point of view of a grandmother. The interesting element of the story lies in the conflicting cultural values of the Chinese and the Irish culture. The grandmother in the story is of Chinese origin where as her son in law is an Irishman. Therefore, when told from the perspective of a grandmother, the story does become reminiscent of one’s own past experiences with a nagging yet loving grandmother. After reading the story one cannot help but feel that the grandmother’s perspective shapes the narrative significantly the way she perceives her household. The narrative might have differed had it been written from Natalie’s perspective who would have been more tolerant of the differences between the different cultures and also would have had a more easy going approach towards the upbringing of her child.
Time and again in our lives we have heard how our elder are old school and how they simply cannot keep pace with the changing demands and the dynamic environment in which they live. The grandmother in the story is from a Chinese background and the narrative makes it very obvious that she believes that the Chinese are a far more superior race than the Irish. It would be unjust to blame her for thinking highly about her culture because whether we accept it or not most of the people tend to be ethnocentric and there is nothing really wrong with it, it is fairly understandable to be emotionally bonded to the cultural values which one has been brought up with. However, our lack of tolerance for other cultures and openness to the acceptance of their beliefs and values is where the cultural conflicts arise. Sophie’s grandmother’s accusations on the Irish culture are backed by certain facts made clear in the story for example she accuses Natalie’s (her daughter) husband and in fact all his brothers for being very laid back and taking life very easy but the question is should she be labeled as someone who is just looking for a reason to accuse the Irish or is there some truth in her accusations? The facts in the story state clearly that Natalie is the sole bread earner of the family and she gets really tired because she has to work just so hard to support the family and her husband, John on the other hand goes to the gym to keep himself occupied. Natalie is supportive of her husband, she is very caring, she supports his gym and listens to his whining as to how he pulled a muscle and how he feels tired after going to the gym and so forth but where is John’s contribution in the family? He does not earn and then there is no real evidence in the story that suggests that John helps with the housework or taking care of little Sophie since Natalie and John have a free baby sitter in the form of Sophie’s grandmother. Now considering for a moment how this trait of John and his family of preferring to sit at home as opposed to earning for the family and taking the responsibility of a husband and a father, would be portrayed to the reader had the narrative been written from the point of view of Natalie. Natalie would have given a sympathetic account of how John tries really hard to work but somehow things just do not seem to work out. It would be a reasonable assumption to not expect Natalie to mention the fact that even John’s other brothers do not work and prefer to stay at home. Natalie’s point of view towards her husband’s habits would be very understanding as opposed to the evident sense of disapproval in the account of Natalie’s grandmother regarding her son-in-law. Towards the end of the story, it has been mentioned by the narrator that Natalie was working hard to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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