Clash of values is one of the dominant characteristics of human nature as individuals tend to possess conflicting interest and morality. Differing perceptions and opinions are some of other contributing factors to conflicting moral values (Inglehart 20). The clashing social and racial values have been presented in various ways by different authors. This essay compares how Alice Walker and Amy Tan stories are the presentation of the clash of social and ethnic values.
Summary of Two Kinds and Everyday Use
In the story ‘Two Kinds’, Amy Tan depicts a mother and daughter who have great clashing viewpoints of what it means to have a sense of self-identity as well as conflicting social values. In the story, a mother (Suyuan) wants her daughter (June) to possess exceptional skills in life. The mother forces the daughter to attend piano classes. However, Suyuan is greatly disappointed as her daughter fails miserably in the music recital. The author portrays the conflict between the mother and the daughter as unresolved for years (Tan 132-148). Other areas in which the Suyuan wants her daughter to excel in include acting, mathematics and overall life greatness in which the mother expects the girl to exploit her perceived exceptional abilities.
Alice Walker in Everyday Use illustrates the differences between a mother who still lives by her traditional African cultures and a daughter who has embraced the American social norms. The narrator is referred to as ‘Mama,’ a short form for the mother. Her daughter Dee is returning after an extended period, and Mama is nervous as she waits for Dee in the yard. Whereas Mama is embarrassed about looking a white man in the eye, Dee is portrayed as more assertive and is said to impose her ideas and life perceptions on the family during her trips home (Walker 4). The mother is clearly not happy with the kind of ideas and values that Dee brings home.
The author illustrates the clash of values regarding a family (mothers and daughters) who possess different values. The mother who is the narrator and the second daughter (Maggie) in the story portrayed as a conservative who still values believe in her racial values. The first daughter (Dee) is educated and therefore has gained new worldview and societal expectations (Hoel 35). Dee is seen to use some of the African cultural items such as quilts for a different purpose from what they are traditionally meant for. It can also be seen that she changes her name sticks to her African roots.
Similarities of Socio-Cultural Conflicts in Two Kinds and Everyday Use
Both stories present a cultural or racial values clash that result from migrating into a new country or region. In both stories, the authors present a conflict between mothers and daughters due to the difference in American and either Chinese or African cultures. Social values are majorly based on the cultural perceptions and societal expectations.
It can also be seen that both stories are centered on the American dream. In the Two Kinds, the mother is excited about the American way of life in which excellence and top performance are considered an essential feature of the society. In Everyday Use, Dee is keen to impose new ideas and education that she considers relevant for fitting in the modern African American society in which personal expression and assertiveness are emphasized. Dee is seen to urge her younger sister Maggie to improve herself given that a new dawn has come for the African Americans and the only way to fit into such society is by changing and abandoning the old habits.
Differences in of Socio-Cultural Conflicts in Two Kinds and Everyday Use
Despite the fact that both present stories of a clash of values in the society some stark differences can be observed in the authors’ presentation of the situations. In Two Kinds it is the mother who is placing pressure on the daughter for a societal change and expectations (Rosinsky 3). Suyana’s perception of America is a land of opportunities in which people should utilize all their potentials to exploit the opportunities that are available. As such Suyana expect her daughter to be a prodigy with excellence in various areas in life. On the other hand, in Everyday Use, the daughter attempts to impose her newly acquired societal values on her family arguing that a new dawn for African Americans.
In conclusion, it is observed that clash social and racial values are always observed in most societies of human existence. The stories by Amy Tan and Alice Walker represent tensions that arise between parents and children due to conflicts in cultural and societal expectations and perceptions. In comparing the two stories, it can be seen that the two authors apply different approaches in presenting the tension. The similarities exist in the fact that the two stories present mother-daughter tensions because of the clash in societal values.
Hoel, Helga. “Personal Names and Heritage: Alice Walker’s” Everyday Use”.” American Studies in Scandinavia 31.1 (1999): 34-42.
Inglehart, Ronald, ed. Human values and social change: Findings from the values surveys. Vol. 89. Brill Academic Pub, 2003.
Rosinsky, Natalie M. Amy Tan: Author and Storyteller. Capstone, 2007.
Tan, Amy. “Two kinds.” The joy luck club (1989): 132-48.
Walker, Alice. Everyday use. Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, 2004.