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The story by Maxine Hong Kingston is a breath-taking description of her personal life experience and one of the peculiar methods used by Chinese people to prevent their children from being ‘tongue-tied’. This method was aimed at removing the possibility of children struggling with speaking languages other than Chinese. A little Chinese girl, who is the protagonist of the story, had a difficult experience related to being ‘tongue-tied’ that challenged all her childhood years growing in the USA and trying to start speaking English. The difficulties this girl had to come through made her recall those years as the period of her always being silent since it was difficult for her to adjust to the new surroundings. Thus, the most important aspect of the story ‘Tongue-Tied’ written by Maxine Hong Kingston that is analyzed in the paper is connected to highlighting the issue of adjusting to a new culture and society.

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Critique of 'Tongue-Tied' by Maxine Hong Kingston

In the story ‘Tongue-tied’, Kingston presents a detailed personal life experience with the language barrier she had growing up as a Chinese American. The start and the ending of the story are quite sudden and take some time to understand. It uses a deductive way of presenting information beginning with a short introduction to one of the aspects of Chinese culture and then explaining the evidence-based on it.

The story starts with a little girl trying to understand why her mother cut the frenulum on her tongue. The girl heard her mother saying that it was done to ensure she does not have problems speaking other languages in the future. However, she tries to compare herself to other children that did not have this done to them, but she still cannot answer the question whether it helped her at all taking into account her major problems speaking English.

It takes away the girl’s confidence and affects the process of her adaptation to the American culture. She is always quiet and hardly ever talks to anyone but her family and some Chinese children. Speaking English and hearing her voice stresses her and makes her very unhappy about the noises that come out of her throat. She does not seem to be able to overcome the challenge of speaking a new language and socializing with others.

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Furthermore, the ending of the story is also sudden and quite abrupt. Mentioning the girl’s little gain when she manages to speak loudly in the class, the author contrasts it with another girl who whispers. This little detail has a hidden meaning that demonstrates the similarity of the problem for other Chinese people who live in this country.

The author has a unique writing style that is expressed in describing everything from the point of view of a little girl who she was back then when the story took place. Reading the story makes a reader see and comprehend everything that was happening with the girl’s eyes. It builds a special attachment between the protagonist and the readers, especially those who had a chance to understand for themselves how difficult it is to adjust to new surroundings and start speaking another language.

The author cleverly used a comparison that was proving that both Negro students and Chinese students did not have the same rights as others. She calls these groups of students ‘Black Ghosts’ and ‘Ghost’ respectively in order to show that they are absolutely not like others.

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The contradiction between American and Chinese worlds is one of the main features of the story. This aspect explains the feelings of foreigners when they try to adapt to new conditions. The story demonstrates how not easy it is to comprehend the difference between the values of two cultures and lifestyles on the example of the little girl. She has noticed that her silence must have something to do with being Chinese since other Chinese kids did not speak much in the American school either. However, when the Chinese children were meeting at the Chinese school in the evenings, almost all of them became different. They way they were behaving, screaming, and talking loudly to each other showed that they felt much more confident in their native surroundings amongst their Chinese peers.

Even the girl found herself talking to others and participating in school activities more when she was surrounded by Chinese kids in their little Chinese community in the USA. Thus, the author shows that being such a young age, the girl was already able to make relevant conclusions on the difficult issues like the cultural difference and the problems with adjusting to the new society.

The way Kingston describes all events makes it understandable that she felt very different from the American students but accepted everything. She did not negatively react to the mocking from other children. In fact, the girl was quite detached and independent which is very impressing for such a young kid. Kingston mentions the teachers excluding her and other Chinese children from the activities that all the rest of the students were participating in.

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And again, the author does not express jealousy or sorrow because of being treated differently. She presents it just like a fact that was expected to happen since they were different from American children. Furthermore, mentioning the pictures that the girl painted black at school, the author gives another hint on how unhappy and confused she must have been. Her internal world has always been searching for the correct path in between Chinese and American worlds.

Interestingly enough, Kingston’s story is quite emotionless in the way that strong emotions like sadness or this girl’s feelings of being rejected by the society are not present. I suppose it is because of the modesty and unpretentiousness traditional to the Asian culture. Children are taught to be quite reserved and accept life the way it is with its problems and hardships. That is why this little girl does not complain or describe her sufferings from being in a foreign environment.

Additionally, her family does not participate much in her social life at school and kindergarten because of the language barrier and probably other reasons too. Apparently, this factor contributes to the girl acting like an adult that understands everything and has the courage to carry on. She has no choice but to tolerate everything the way it is and stand for herself.

Literary Analysis Essay Conclusion

Therefore, the story by Maxine Hong Kingston presents an extremely interesting narrative about something that happened in real life. The way the author describes her feelings and everything that she had to go through while trying to adjust to American society is a perfect guide for the readers to understand what it was like. Thus, it is easy to imagine yourself in the place of the little scared and confused girl who has always felt different from the rest of the kids.

Moreover, the story contradicts Chinese and American cultures demonstrating how difficult it was for the little girl to adapt to the new culture. Even though the girl has never shown her real emotions or expressed how stressful it was for her, her internal world was in a state of constant contradiction. The words chosen by the author and her writing style make it very engaging to read. Moreover, the naïve feelings clearly described by the author from her childhood memories in the USA make the story absolutely trustworthy and believable.

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