Short Story Analysis

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The plot continues with Amy Tan feeling fear as she discovers that her crush, Robert, will be spending Christmas dinner with his family. The minister’s uncle, Robert, was American, while Amy’s family was Chinese. She was concerned that the food on sale would be unpleasant to the American family. She was embarrassed and despised the whole evening’s activities. She chooses to believe that because they are special, they must be viewed differently from most individuals. This demonstrates that she saw Americans in a new way.
Amy, for one, assumes that Americans are all white. Robert’s blonde hair and slender American nose amuse her. This is illustrated when she says that Robert is not Chinese but as white as a Mary in the manger(Tan, 2000). This is, however, not true as Americans are of diverse ethnicities.

Secondly, Amy believes Americans eat with one hand while the other is placed under the table on their lap. Amy was afraid of what Robert’s family could think of her relatives. This is illustrated when she says,” What would he think of our noisy Chinese relatives who lacked American manners.” The Chinese use chopsticks to eat. They use both hands on the table, and they lick the ends of the chopsticks. (Tan, 2000). She adds that her people were used to dipping their chopsticks into dozens of plates of food. These disgusted Amy. She felt embarrassed. I tend to disagree with her. While the Americans are thought to have good table manners, she should have realized that her people had their own set of norms. Notably, not all Americans have good eating habits contrary to her assumptions.

Thirdly, most of the Americans, especially the teenagers, wear strange clothing and as such she concludes that Americans must be trendy. Additionally, they have tattoos and body piercings. This leads to her feeling self-conscious over her traditional clothing. She wants to fit the American system; this is illustrated when her mother gives her a miniskirt as her Christmas gift. She tells her,” You want to be the same as American girls on the outside.” Furthermore, her mother emphasizes that she must remain Chinese inside. She should maintain her menu and cultural practices. This, I feel, is somewhat true. The Americans are generally trendy with most of the worldwide trends having their origin in America. Her skepticism over the Chinese culture is however unwarranted as that aspect actually makes her unique.

Moreover, after food, the Americans thank the cook in a more kind, polite and quiet way. Amy is more humiliated by her father when he leaned back and belched loudly thanking her mother for the excellent meal.(Tan,2000) She feels terrible when the guests remain astonished, and she notices her crush, Robert was looking down on his plate with a reddened face. Her father tries to explain to them that it is their polite way of thanking the cook. I agree with her that the Americans have a courteous way to thank the cook. Her concerns on the matter were founded.

In conclusion, Amy Tan is embarrassed with her own culture. She regrettably fails to accept herself and her culture. Amy thinks the Americans are way better than her own people and they should never be disappointed, especially her crush Robert. She yearns to learn and adopt the American way. As the narrative concludes, she finally accepts her culture and predicaments. Much as her view of what was American was exaggerated, Amy successfully embodies the attitude and reasoning of foreigners in America.


Tan, Amy. “Fish cheeks.” Glencoe literature: The reader’s choice. Course 2 (2000).

Snodgrass, M. E. (2004). Amy Tan: A literary companion (Vol. 3). McFarland.

Adams, B. (2005). Amy Tan. Manchester University Press.

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