It often surprises me how different individuals from different cultures and backgrounds all come together in one country and share many experiences. Individuals like Amy Tan who was born among Chinese immigrants, John Cheever from Massachusetts and Louise Erdrich who comes from a Chippewa Indian and German background and was born in Minnesota. A vast variety of origins and they all come to have several good or bad things in common in their work. Hardships of immigration is stated or implied in these pieces as well as parent-child relationship.
Nearly all of them carry a sense of determination of different levels and stories of this kind not unlike the ones examined in this piece have a blend, colorless and depressing tone. ““Pleading child” was shorter but slower, “Perfectly Contented” was longer but faster and after I played them both I realized they were two halves of the same song” (Tan, 105) Now I usually avoid long quotations but this one by Tan should be engraved on gold and kept in the museum of great metaphors. Growing into your long and fast adulthood through your short and slow childhood is indirectly implied throughout Cheever’s Reunion as well.
Here is a confession: When I read that last paragraph of Tans two kinds I got goose bumps. The Last sentence is the strongest and most beautiful ending I have ever read. That moment of clarity was more audible than the construction workers who made it nearly impossible for me to focus on the story as I read it. The Red Convertible on the other hand is of a different style, and looks at the relationship between Henry and Lyman. Two brothers who are in excellent terms and Erdrich emphasizes on that point by mentioning the trust they have for one another. They buy a flashy car together and that is the proof to the argument.
A wise man once told me that “War will burn your soul and from your ashes it shall raise a new person”. I sensed a close relation to that quote reading Erdrich’s story. As Henry is dramatically changed after witnessing what went down in Vietnam first hand. The most interesting story award by far goes to “Reunion” by Cheever. One of the most interesting points in that piece was the fact that the son never showed any disapproval toward his father’s behavior no matter how out of line he went. Which implies the conflict the son had inside although never mentioned in the story.
The conflict between his pre-approved father as he thinks to himself “I wish someone saw us together” (cheever, 106) and his own sense of right and wrong. How could someone seem so proper and successful and act like a drunken fool simultaneously . A potion of confusion and amazement that will take him years or decades to digest. Not unlike the confusion that accompanied Jeng mei trough her childhood and teen age. While the undeniable respect for a parent is carved into her brain, she sees her mom as a rival. Preventing all of her be-myself teenage dreams to come true.
The tone of a story is like the background music to a scene from a romantic movie. It could either make it or ruin it for the audience. “Two Kinds” will bring your eyebrows closer to each other while “Reunion” will raise them up to the top of your forehead. “Two kinds” takes place in china town –not the best part of New York City – . An immigrant mother with broken English who yells at Jeng Mei for every mistake she makes on top of that, is definitely not helping her cause. The story does not calm down until the very end and when it does it is superb. While on the nearly parallel line reunion never changed its tone.
It goes from blend to blend. It is amusing all along but it definitely misses a good climax maybe not as exotic as Tan’s but “And that’s the last time I saw my father” and the format has ended way too many stories. I see “Reunion” by Cheever and Tan’s “Two Kinds” as a closer match up and “The red convertible” is just as distant to the rest as its title is. The story still shares the common conflicts but the other two get into much more details and as a reader who has come from a third world country and has seen poverty and prosperity living next door to each other I can very much relate to them.
Courtney from Study Moose
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