Amy Tan is a first generation American born writer who details her personal experience with the contradictory feelings and the advantages of a girl with feet in different cultures
Amy Tan is a first generation American born writer who details her personal experience with the contradictory feelings and the advantages of a girl with feet in different cultures. Amy Tan uses the essay, “Fish Cheeks,” to address the difficulty of living in two different cultures for teenage girls and young women. Consequently, the essay allows her to identify with the audience through her explanation of her feelings of cultural ambivalence. In “Fish Cheeks,” Amy Tan argues that people should be proud of their culture in order to persuade the audience to value cultural identity.
Tan begins the book by focusing on identifying with her audience of teenage girls and women struggling with cultural ambivalence through an appeal to emotions and strengthening of her credibility. She employs rhetorical questions in order to portray her insecurities, saying “What would Robert think of our shabby Chinese Christmas?”, “What would he think of our noisy Chinese relatives”, and “What terrible disappointment would he feel upon seeing not a roasted turkey…but Chinese food?” to evoke a shared feeling of concern. Tan knows her audience asks and struggles with similar feelings and questions regarding a clash of cultures, so she creates this sense of unity. Consequently, Tan can more easily persuade her audience and establish her credibility on the topic due to her personal experience with cultural ambivalence.
Additionally, Tan uses distasteful diction to emphasize her uneasiness with the combination of two cultures. She describes the meals as “fleshy”, “rubbery”, and “slimy ” to show her embarrassment of her ethnic dishes. Tan uses these negatively connotative words to better relate to her audience because they have also felt this embarrassment of their culture at some point. This further bolsters her credibility and persuasive ability by showing again how Tan is similar to her audience.
In addition to building her credibility, Tan uses the contrast of two cultures to strengthen her persuasion to highlight her main point of being true to oneself and his or her culture. She shows her “despair” and embarrassment of her culture through repetitive contrast of mannerisms. Throughout paragraphs five and six, Tan intertwines the American culture with the Chinese culture through reactions of Robert and his family and the food and traditions of Tan’s family. For example, she describes how her “relatives licked the ends of their chopsticks and reached across the table” while “Robert and his family waited patiently for platters to be passed to them.” Tan also describes how “her father leaned back and belched loudly…,” astonishing their guests. She uses the repetition of the contrast of the two cultures to show how she would rather be an average American with polite manners and is embarrassed by her own culture. Tan shows her audience that she relates to them since she similarly felt embarrassed of her Chinese culture and wished to be American.
InShe uses her personal experience to show her audience how she was embarrassed by her family and traditions; however, this served an opposite effect. Through her embarrassment, Tan portrayed her main argument that people should be proud of their culture.