“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.
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