Family Love Lasts Forever
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Each person has his or her foretimes. No matter it is good or bad, delighted or painful, it is a true story of one’s life and the past cannot be changed or wiped away. There are two essays in the book Brief Bedford Reader, “Champion of the World” by Maya Angelou and “Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan, both authors tell the reader their own story. Maya Angelou and Amy Tan, who were growing up in different environment and communities, have different experiences and different ways to tell their stories. Compare the two authors Angelou and Tan, Angelou is more effectively on using description to depict her sense of isolation from the isolation from the dominant culture in the time and place of her story, in comparison with Angelou; Tan is more effectively on using narration to tell her story.
In “Champion of the World”, Angelou tends to have more elements in her article. Her depiction is meticulous. At the beginning of the story, she first introduces uncle Willie’s store as the environment settings and use it as a basic setting throughout the whole story. Afterwards, Angelou starts to picture the people’s behaviors in the store. For example, “Women sat on kitchen chairs, dining-room chairs, stools, and upturned wooden boxes. Small children and babies perched on every lap available and men leaned on the shelves or on each other.” (93) She depicts the image of the store before the fight begins. After that, the voice from the radio starts to appear in the story. Moreover, the author also uses multi-angle description to tell the story to the readers.
In addition to the first person view, Angelou uses third person narrative on the radio narration. At the time when the radio is broadcasting the fight, she has not forgotten to insert some setting description about the situations in the store, for example, “there were only a few calls for RC Colas, Dr Peppers, and Hires root beer,” she makes the reader to feel like they are one of the audiences who is listening to the broadcasting in the store. Angelou put her message in the middle of the article, she explains her anger, she feels hopeless and helpless to the situation that black people are inferior and are looked down upon by the white people.
They cannot decide their own destiny and are being oppressed. Angelou states, “If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help.”(95) Joe Louis is representing all the Negroes around the world. Therefore, Joe Louis is their only hope. Louis is their hope to prove the ability of black people; Louis is their hope to change their life. During the time of the fight, all differences are erased. They are as one: “We didn’t breathe. We didn’t hope. We waited.”(95) They are waiting for the change of their life.
This is the reason why the atmosphere in uncle Willie’s store is so tense and everyone eager Joe Louis to win the fight. Throughout Angelou’s article, it can be seen the story is aroused to indignation; she recounts the unfair of the black people but at the end she states “Joe Louis had proved that we were the strongest people in the world,” because of the victory of Joe Louis, she and the people in town can see the dawn of their race. According to above, it can be seen that Angelou is more effectively on using description to depict her essay and brings sensory stimulation to the readers.
In “Fish Cheeks”, Tan is more effectively on using narration. Tan’s article is more focus on her own perspective and is more subjective. She uses the Christmas Eve dinner as the background setting, but she dose not describe the details about the environments, she tends to focus more on the plot and wants the readers to follow her thoughts and focus on her feelings, so she questioned herself “What would Robert think of our shabby Chinese Christmas? What would he think of our noisy Chinese relatives who lacked proper American manners? What terrible disappointment would he feel upon seeing not a roasted turkey and sweet potatoes but Chinese food?”(99) Those three questions let reader know how excited is the author and how she feels.
Tan introduces some characters in the article, for example, Robert, her parents, her relatives and Robert’s parents, although she did not do the in-depth description of the characters, the reader gets a clear idea of how the author feels about the characters. Tan makes the story or image seem clearer and more real to the readers, she gives readers information that they can easily to get a grasp. Throughout the essay, there are not many dialogues, but mainly Tan’s thoughts. As being a narrative essay, firstly, it is easy can be seen that Tan writes this essay on purpose. The purpose of “Fish Cheeks” is to tell people who are growing up in a different culture do not have to force themselves to fit in another culture. Tan mentioned what her mother said in the essay “inside you must always be Chinese.
You must be proud you are different. Your only shame is to have shame.”(100) Tan struggles desperately to fit in, yet by trying to fit in, she lost sight of who she actually was. Secondly, it is obvious with the four elements in the essay: who, what, where, when. The author clearly showed the characters, the story plot, and her home as the location and the Christmas Eve as the time setting. Thirdly, Tan uses first person point of view to tell readers the story. Finally, narrative essay always has a purpose on telling a story to illustrate an idea or want readers to learns a lesson or gains insight. At the end of the story, Tan finally figured out that she understands and agrees with what her mother has been said to her, she said she was totally appreciate the lesson her mother has taught her and the true purpose of the Christmas Eve dinner’s menu. This is the love her family gave her, the best and precious things in the world. The story of “Fish Cheeks” is gentle than “Champion of the World”.
Compare the essay “Champion of the World” to “Fish Cheeks”, “Champion of the World” has the sensory stimulation, the readers can hear and see. The images are very strong, for example, the babies perched on their mothers’ laps, nearly falling to the floor as their mothers get wrapped up in the fight. Therefore Angelou’s essay is visually attractive. On the contrary, “Fish Cheeks” has less visually attractive to the readers. For Tan’s essay, it is more focus on the story plot, as the story goes; readers can follow tan’s thoughts, but for Angelou’s essay, she is more focus on the settings.
In “Fish Cheeks”, Tan mainly use the first person point of view as the tone, but in “Champion of the World”, in addition to the use of first person point of view, Angelou also uses third person in the radio broadcasting. There are differences between those two essays’ endings. At the ending of “Champion of the World”, Angelou shows that there will be a dawn for the Negroes and they can dream of a better future for themselves and their children. The ending of “Fish Cheeks” is leading people to think more and teaching people a lesson. When Tan grows up, she finally understands what her mother has told her and Tan gives a message to the readers through her mother in the article. At the end of a narrative essay, there is always a moral of the story, and this is the symbol of “Fish Cheeks” for being a narrative essay.
From different perspective, it can be seen that Angelou is more effectively on using description to depict her essay and Tan is more effectively on using narration to tell her story. “Champion of the World” is a powerful story. It brings us directly into the minds and experiences of the people in African American community. For Joe Louis to win and maintain the championship belt means that African Americans can aspire to equality with Whites, and this means everything to them. The images are very strong. Besides, “Fish Cheeks” is a meaningful story. Tan was unhappy and even thought her family and their traditions embarrassed her.
Finally, Tan herself had realized that her actions were not determined by Robert’s presence, but blurred by her determination to impress Robert. “For Christmas Eve that year, she had chosen all my favorite foods,”(100) is the most touching words through the whole essay and it shows that she has gone through her struggling. Life is long, different people may come into one’s life, but after all, family will accompany till the very end.
Angelou, Maya. “Champion of the World.” The Bedford Reader. Ed. X. J. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kenndy, and Jane E. Aaron. 10th ed. Boston: Bedford, 2009. 93- 96. Print. Tan, Amy. “Fish Cheeks.” The Bedford Reader. Ed. X. J. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kenndy, and Jane E. Aaron. 10th ed. Boston: Bedford, 2009. 99- 100. Print.