Who’s Irish Analysis. Essay on Chinese Immigrants
Who’s Irish, by Gish Jen expresses the struggle of a chinese immigrant to accept her daughters new life through cultural assimilation. Although the Grandmother and daughter struggle with their relationship because of their first impressions of each other, first impressions are often driven by cultural beliefs, and should make one question their own culture.
The Grandmothers first impressions of the Shea family and her daughter's new life, exemplify the cultural differences between the two and how this becomes a challenge. When the Grandmother first moves to America she lives with her granddaughter, Sophie, her daughter Natalie, and her unemployed, Irish son-in-law John. She describes Sophie as having her “Chinese side swallowed up by her wild Shea side” (6), blaming her Irish side for this. Demonstrating the Grandmothers first impression of Irish culture is negative. She claims: “she is not like any chinese girl I ever saw” (8) conveying she thinks Sophie should act more Chinese and that the Irish culture, her daughter has come accustomed to causes her to act poorly. The Grandmother babysits Sophie during the day to help her working daughter. Because of her Chinese culture, she believes that when Sophie has been acting up, spanking her is an acceptable discipline. Natalie and John oppose this idea, but when Sophie continues to act up the Grandmother spanks her, despite their beliefs.
Her intentions here are not malicious, rather she is sure her way is the right way, and wants her Granddaughter raised properly. The Grandmother describes herself as “fierce” (3) which she clearly demonstrates when she speaks her mind on how she feels towards Natalie and the Sheas. The Sheas laziness disturbed her and she is not afraid to speak her mind to them: “Even the black people doing better these days” (4).She blames Sophie's Irish side for her behavior problems, and strongly believes spanking her is justifiable. This causes challenges between the two families, and demonstrates how culturally different they are.
When John claims he cannot take care of Sophie because: “he is a man” (5) this surprises the Grandmother and she disagrees with him. Because the men in the Shea family do not work or look after their children, they seem lazy shaping the Grandmothers negative first impression of them. She thinks her daughter's decision on raising Sophie as American and not teaching her their Chinese culture causes Sophie to disrespect her. She thinks Natalie is raising Sophie poorly, and needs to reflect on her relationship with her husband and his Irish culture. At times in the story it seems like the narrator is not trying to work on changing her impressions of the Sheas and her daughter, but she does try to adapt. Although it may seem this way, it must be challenging for her to live in a culture so different from her own.
Natalie’s negative first impression of her mother trying to adapt to this new culture, cause problems with their relationship. She thinks her mother does not try to conform or respect irish culture. She views her mother as insensitive and disrespectful to daughter and the Shea family. Natalie considers herself a “fierce” (5) women and works hard to support her family, causing her constant tiredness. Her relationship with her husband is struggling, something she thinks her grandmother is ignorant to. She eventually tells her mother to move out because she cannot handle the challenges she has brought to her and her family. She does not wish to make her move out, but fears John will divorce her if she does not. She says, “I have a young daughter and a depressed husband and no one to turn to” (15), to which her mother tells the reader: “When she says no one to turn to, she mean me” (15).
Although the narrator loves Sophie, she cannot come to terms with their new live living in America, creating Natalie's negative impressions of her. The cultural differences between Natalie and her mother fosters challenges with their relationship and ulimily leaves the Grandmother to stay with Bess, John's mother. Their different cultural beliefs shape their first impressions of each other. If Natalie were to raise Sophie Chinese like the Grandmother intended her to be, their relationship would have succeeded. This should make one question their own culture, and beliefs. Basing someone offs of just their cultural beliefs is not enough to form a permanent impression of them. Being in america and eurocentric may not always be the best culture.
The narrator speaks in broken English throughout the story connecting to the first impressions between the reader and grandmother. “Broken” has a negative connotation, but she speaks english well for learning a second language. Even though her english is good the readers first impression of her is that she is uncultured. The first impressions between the grandmother and her daughter are similar to that of the reader and grandmother.