Ellen R. Freitag
WRT 101 061 Composition I
March 27, 2016
Analysis of “The Struggle to be an All-American Girl” byElizabeth Wong
The Struggle to be an All-American Girl by Elizabeth Wong is ashort story that revolves around a Chinese girl attracted to theAmerican culture. Her mother wants Wong and her brother to learntheir culture and language. She cuts some of the few evening hours ofplay and take the children to get to speak and write Chinese throughacculturation. Wong and her brother remain in constant conflicts withtheir mother because they do not want to be part of the Chineseheritage. It is a relief that they finish the classes but still Wongregrets not accepting her culture at the same time trying toassimilate entirely into the American one.
The story takes place in America where they attend an American publicschool and where she tries to fit in. She tends to love everythingabout the American culture, the learning system and dressing. Wongdoes not like most of her Chinese way of life. For instance, sheperceives their language as a source of embarrassment and that shehas tried to detach herself from the irksome voice whenever shewandered outside Chinatown (Wong 144). She hated the Chineseclassroom smell that she “equated to Chinese medicine, an importedmustiness like ancient mothballs or dusty closets,” (Tyner 16).Moreover, she favors new scents like her teacher’s soft Frenchperfume (Tyner 16). Besides, Wong thinks that people view Chinese ascrazy and gibberish talk. People regard Chinese daily tasks aschaotic and frenzied an association she refuses to be part. WhenWong spoke English, people nodded and smiled sweetly at her and herpeople would chuckle that Wong is doing well in life. However, Yeh,and Hwang contend that when people nod their approval, it isnot necessary a welcoming approval hence, the need for one to pridein their culture (420). As such, although, Wong feels comfortablewith the American culture, she needs to realize that her culture isthe only identity she ought to take pride in.
Elizabeth Wong is the central dynamic and indirect character whoattempts to conform to the culture that surrounds her instead offollowing her traditional one as directed by the family. She longs tobe an American girl like several of her friends by turning downChinese language and tradition lessons. Wong’s mother is a staticdirect character who forces her children to learn more about theirculture along the other American program by taking them to a nearbyChinese school. Wong’s brother is also a static direct characterwho in fact refutes his culture more than Wong does. He is moreextreme than Wong is as shown through his speech. He cautious onpronunciation and he keep on correcting her mother whenever shemispronounces a consonant. More so, he blames her mom when hemisspells words and gets infuriated at his mother for setting a badexample.
The author expresses her emotions through a diverse diction althoughshe uses negative connotations to describe the Chinese school,language and the ways of life, she hated. She also employs similes todraw comparisons of the ideas and thoughts she includes in the story:“the room smelled like Chinese medicine …new scents like the softFrench perfume that my American teacher wore…” (Wong 144). Wonguses hyperbole in the story in paragraph three as an exaggeration tohelp readers understand that the principal of the Chinese school wasnot a child killer. She also includes an allusion to relate her storywith that of Nancy Drew experiences in stereotypes and racism in abid to represent the classic American culture. Eventually, sheconcludes the story by applying situational irony to express herregrets, “I preferred tacos to egg rolls I enjoyed Cinco de Mayomore than Chinese New Year” (Tyner 21). The author appeals to thereader through a well-selected language use that brings the readerclose to the events.
Many are familiar with the feelings of wanting to fit in to be likeothers. Unfortunately, abandoning one’s culture for another doesnot bring the pre-perceived satisfaction. People lose part ofthemselves when they give up on tradition or interests merely becausethey want to be like everyone else (Kandiyoti 41).For instance, Wong preferred spending the evening hunting ghosts andanimal bones like her friends and not waste time learning a languageshe terms as a source of embarrassment. Wong wants a completepersonality change, giving up everything that would have defined her.Unfortunately, re-making herself in the American way does not fullycut it given that she realize what she had lost after accomplishingher goal. “At last, I was one of you I wasn`t one of them. Sadly,I still am” (Wong 144). The statement shows that the narrator’saudience is the Americans, as she badly wants to be like Americans.Giving up on one’s culture identity for approval from others is afutile job. In fact, Barker asserts thatpeople should not relinquish their identities to assume a culturethey think is strong, as the new culture will always reject them (9).People are what they are in regards to personalities that root fromcultures, hopes and dreams that chiefly define them and notconformity to seek acceptance.
This short story is relevant to people who are carried away by othercultures. Elizabeth Wong writes first-hand experience from theeffects of giving up on one`s cultural background for another. Asmuch as Wong dreams of becoming an All-American girl came true, sheends up losing herself as well as her traditional culture not tomention that the American culture in her did not bring the desiredsatisfaction. Perhaps the story encourages people to cross-culture orassimilates various cultures to bring the very best of them. Learningone’s culture and the surrounding tradition adds on interculturalempathy and promotes optimum self-growth.
Barker, Chris. Culturalstudies and discourse analysis: A dialogue on language and identity.Sage, 2001. Print.
Kandiyoti, Deniz. "Identity and itsDiscontents." DOSSIER 26 ACollection of Articles, 2004. Print.
Tyner, Thomas E. Writing Voyage: A Process Approach to Writing.Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2003. Print.
Wong, Elizabeth. "The Struggle to Be an All-American Girl."The short Prose Reader. Ed. GilbertMuller and Harvey Wiener.McGraw-Hill Education, New York. 2012, 144. Print.
Yeh, Christine J., and Mary Y. Hwang."Interdependence in ethnic identity and self: Implications fortheory and practice." Journalof Counseling andDevelopment: JCD 78.4 (2000): 420.