“The Struggle to be an AllAmerican Girl” by: Elizabeth Wong English I ECHS C. Edge Vocabulary stoically – indifferently; calmly kowtow – show respect by kneeling and touching the ground with the forehead ideographs – written symbols representing objects or ideas chaotic –completely confused in total disorder Literary Elements audience – who the story is intended to be read or heard by main idea – the message, opinion, or idea that a writer wants to communicate What is the main idea of this selection? The main idea seems to be that her mother wanted her to find value and pride in her native culture and language, but she refused and feels remorse. supporting details – details that support the main idea of a selection List two supporting details for the main idea. She describes the exercise of politeness that the students display to their teachers everyday which lends support that perhaps being polite is a good quality. She also describes her mother’s attempts to speak English and her brother’s unrelenting criticism of their mother’s attempts which later helps to reveal the remorse she most likely feels for their cruelty. Bias – prejudiced, close-minded. What bias exists in this story? The bias that exists is from the view point of the writer. She is Chinese American and reveals the prejudice she felt against her Chinese heritage as a young girl because of her desire to fit in with other Americans. Her denouncement of this decision at the end shows a bias towards Chinese culture as superior after having experienced both. Objectivity – an unbiased account that relies mainly on facts Subjectivity – an account that is based on emotions and feelings, not necessarily on factual information Is this selection more objective or subjective? Why? This selection is more subjective because it is based on her personal emotions, feelings, and experiences, not on factual information. memoir – a personal account of a shared event essay – a writer’s thoughts and feelings about a certain topic Study Guide Selection Questions #1 Where does the narrator go with her brother everyday at 5 p.m.? The narrator and her brother go to the Chinese school on Yale Street. #2 How do they feel about having to go? What evidence is there to support your conclusion? They do not want to go, but “no amount of kicking, screaming, or pleading” (p. 344) could change their mother’s mind. #3 What is their purpose for going? Their mother wants them to go to the school in order to learn the language of their heritage. #4 What vision does the narrator have about the principal? To the narrator, the principal is a stern man who sways back and forth on his heels with his impatient, twitching hands clasped behind his back. She envisions the principal as a maniacal child killer. #5 Describe the sensory details used to describe the smell of the auditorium. The auditorium smells like Chinese medicine, an imported faraway mustiness, ancient mothballs, or dirty closets. #6 What scents does the narrator prefer? What does this preference reveal about her? The narrator favors crisp new scents like soft French perfume that her American teacher wears at the public school. This reveals that she sees her culture as stale and inferior to the superiority of American culture. #7 How did the students greet their teachers every day? Why? The students practice politeness by kowtowing and saying “Sing san ho,” or “How are you, teacher?” whenever the teacher entered the room. This showed great respect. #8 How does the narrator feel about the Chinese language and her grandmother? She is embarrassed by her grandmother and the language of her culture. She feels that her grandmother is loud and raunchy and that the language is quick, loud, and unbeautiful. #9 What does the narrator’s view of her native Chinese culture reveal about her view of American culture? The narrator seems to view American culture as superior to her Chinese culture. To her, the Chinese culture and language is too common and lacked the beauty and refinement of other languages like French and English. #10 What is “pidgin speech”? Pidgin speech describes when the narrator’s mother tries to speak English, but keeps slipping Chinese words or phrasings into her conversation. #11 Why do you think that their mother wants them to learn the Chinese language and culture? She wants them to be proud of their heritage and where they come from. #12 Explain what the narrator means by a “cultural divorce”? She was allowed to separate herself from the Chinese culture completely in order to immerse herself in the culture of America. #13 Who is the narrator’s audience? The narrator’s audience seems to be the American people since she wants so desperately to be like Americans throughout the selection and states at the end that “At last, I was one of you; I wasn’t one of them” (p. 346). #14 What is implied by the last sentence? The last line “Sadly, I still am” implies that she ultimately isn’t happy that she divorced her native culture. The word sadly seems to indicate regret that perhaps her chosen culture didn’t turn out to be as superior as she had imagined.