Living in the Dominant Culture

Everybody knows that the United States are open to the world and are welcoming people of all nationalities to visit it. Thus, many people from around the world go there annually. Some of them come as tourists; others are looking for a job. Despite declared hospitality not everyone is welcomed in the country. People of ethnical minorities may face some difficulties there. Maya Angelou and Amy Tan write about it in their stories. The problem of sense of isolation from the dominant culture is what they describe. Maya Angelou writes about living in community opposite to the main “white culture”. In her Champion of the World, Angelou shares the feelings of little girl who witnesses the victory of black people. She is somewhat isolated from the main culture, but she is accepted in her own. On the contrary, Amy Tan writes about what it means to be Chinese among white Americans. Her Fish Cheeks show a teenager in love with a white guy. This girl believes that the dominant culture is better. She is embarrassed of being Chinese and realizes that she is far from the Anglo culture. The feeling of devastating isolation from it tortures her. Thus, in my view Amy Tan more effectively uses narration and description to depict a sense of isolation from the dominant culture.

In both Champion of the World and Fish Cheeks there is one character telling the story. There are no multiple perspectives; therefore readers can notice the sense of isolation better.

When the Champion’s protagonist is telling about her situation one would realize that she is not alone. The story starts from the point when people are getting together into the store. The main character, little black girl, appears later. She is integrated with her people. These are her brother, uncle and grandmother who support her as well. They are all waiting for the victory of a black boxer. This little girl is conscious that this is the chance to prove they are no worse than the white people. She just wants the whole world to know about it. This heroine does not feel herself lonely. She is loved and understood in her own culture.

The second heroine in Fish cheeks is not an orphan either. She has loving parents and many relatives who come to visit then on Christmas Eve. Nevertheless, she feels very isolated from the dominant Anglo culture. Her origin is a burden to her for she believes that Chinese people are worse than the white ones. Thus, she feels lonely among her people. She is embarrassed for her parents who do not try to imitate the white people – her ideal of a culture.

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In my view, Amy Tan uses narration and description more effectively to depict a sense of isolation from the dominant culture. It is obvious from her story Fish Cheeks that the girl feels isolated not only from the dominant culture but from her own as well. She is frustrated with the way their family celebrates Christmas. But she is the only one Chinese person who feels that way. The rest of the relatives are having a good time eating the delicious dishes. They do not care if their white guest would think negatively of them. Comparing to that, in Champion of the World the situation is different. The main character is united with her community. They are at one with each other and want to prove they are better than the white people. That is the whole nation’s desire, so the girl is not lonely and isolated. She is supported by all those present.

Both authors show the conflict of two cultures in their stories. Maya Angelou tells about black people who have a gathering place for the black community in Arkansas. The fact they have a special gathering place means that they are not allowed to gather in other places. They cannot be where majority is. But they are united. They can delay their actions and wedge along the walls and sit on the upturned wooden boxes to hear about the victory of the black man. It is obvious that they treat white people negatively but the reason for that is easy to understand. Readers can see from the plot that white people do not treat black people as equals. For them members of black communities are lower types of human beings, stupid, ugly and lazy.

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On the other hand, Amy Tan shows the conflict within the girl’s head. That girl falls in love with a white minister’s son Robert. She understands what a huge chasm is there between them and thinks that she does not deserve them. She wants to hide who she really is and what her people are like. She has to fight with herself all alone. Her parents do not share her feelings. They do not consider the culture differences a problem. They are proud to be Chinese and want their daughter to be proud of that either. However, their teenage girl cannot accept her origin, herself and her culture.

Both authors express the isolation from the dominant culture with the use of such narration elements as a setting of time and place. In both stories the events take place in the evening. It intensifies the sense of isolation. Evening is a time when people stay at their homes when there are no outsiders left there. In the evening people leave alone with themselves, deprived of other people presence. It is difficult to determine the historical period of time to which these events belong. One could only guess it by finding out the time of author’s childhood for both authors write these stories about themselves.

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The depiction of places is the following. In story Champion of the World the event take place inUncle Willie’s store, a gathering place for the black community. This store is not large for people have to wedge themselves along the walls of it. However, there is a radio in the store and the community gathers there to listen to it. The fact that people have to wedge along the walls of a small store shows their position in society. They cannot lay claim to something more than that. All they have is a symbolic store to spend time with the people alike.

In Fish Cheeks the events take place at Chinese girl’s home. There is no information about the interior of that house. These are the inhabitants of that house that are described. The only one thing that is known for sure is its menu. The dishes which girl’s mother cooks highlight Chinese ethnic flavor. This menu represents the cultural differences between the white people and Chinese people – two separate worlds with different outlooks and traditions.

In both stories settings influence characters and create a certain mood. There is an apprehensive mood there in the story about Champion of the World. People are intense and concentrated on the event. The main girl character feels like people in the store do something prohibited, something that the world would not approve. Such intense atmosphere reflects the tension between the dominant culture and that of a black minority. Nevertheless her uncle does not want to shake up that kind of atmosphere.

The atmosphere of Chinese girl’s house is also intense at least for her. She is embarrassed for everything that is happening in her house. It is obvious that invited white guests felt ill at ease also. Nevertheless, the majority of people there has fun and celebrates Christmas. They do not care of the fact that the dominant culture may not approve them.

Authors use certain symbolism to depict a sense of isolation and confrontation between the two cultures. In Champion of the World, the boxer’s fight is symbolic. The black boxer represents the entire black community, while the white one represents the whole society. This fight shows the opposition of two cultures, therefore the victory of the black people is so important. This is the symbolic victory on the dominant culture. The protagonist girl is very glad for this victory. It proves that her people are no worse than the one of the dominant culture.

In Fish Cheeks, that is the festive menu that is symbolical. It shows that Chinese minority challenges the dominant culture. By inviting the white people on their territory Chinese people make them feel as a minority. By doing so, Chinese people are saying something like: “Look at us! We are the minority but we are proud of that. We are no worse than you are. We are just different.” The protagonist girl does not share such feelings. She believes her people are worse than the dominant culture.

Maya Angelou and Amy Tan each write about being a young minority person in an Anglo culture. They both write about it from their own experience. But it is more understandable that Amy Tan suffered from the sense of isolation more. She had to deal with both lack of understanding from her parents and the people of dominant culture. Maya Angelou did not enjoy being the member of black minority as well, but she at least was supported by her community. She was proud of being black. That is the main point and luckily Amy Tan understood it after many years. The most important thing is to be proud of who you are, even when you are a young minority person in an Anglo culture.

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