The Power of a Mother
In their articles, Chang Rae-Lee and Amy Tan establish a profound ethos by utilizing examples of the effects their mother-daughter/mother-son relationships have had on their language and writing. Lee’s "Mute in an English-Only World" illustrates his maturity as a writer due to his mother’s influence on growth in respect. Tan, in "Mother Tongue," explains how her mother changed her writing by first changing her conception of language. In any situation, the ethos a writer brings to an argument is crucial to the success in connecting with the audience; naturally a writer wants to present himself/herself as reliable and credible (Lunsford 308). Lee and Tan, both of stereotypical immigrant background, use their memories of deceased mothers to build credibility in their respective articles.
Chang Rae-Lee, author of "Mute in an English-Only World," moved to America from Korea when he was only six or seven years old. He adopted the English language quickly, as most children do, but his mother continued to struggle. "For her, the English language…usually meant trouble and a good dose of shame and sometimes real hurt" (Lee 586). It is obvious, though, that his mother was persistent in her attempt to learn English and deal with her limited culture experience, as Lee accounts of her using English flash cards, phrase books and a pocket workbook illustrated with stick-people figures. Lee sympathetically connects with the audience through his mother, and forces them to make a personal conclusion when he ends the article with a lingering question in the reader’s mind; what if they had seen her struggling? Would they have sat back and watched or stepped up to help?
Amy Tan, writer of "Mother Tongue," is from a Chinese background, but grew up in California. Tan, of course, speaks English very well, but she also speaks in another language, her "Mother Tongue." Tan has reluctantly described it as "broken," "fractured" or "limited." But that is how an outsider’s ear hears it; to Tan, her mother’s English is "perfectly clear, perfectly natural" (Tan 590). This dialect, Tan says, became their "language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk, the language [she] grew up with" (Tan 589). This type of language creates an identity for Tan, one which she was ashamed of growing up. This feeling of...