It is in human nature to share feelings and experiences, especially unpleasant ones, with other people. To do this, the narration and description are used. They help to create an image or visually describe some event, person, or place. Amy Tan and Maya Angelou did the same in their short stories “Fish Cheeks” and “Champion of the World” respectively. Both writers tell the stories from their lives. They describe themselves as minority persons who have to adapt to the dominant culture. This essay aims to compare short stories “Fish Cheeks” and “Champion of the World” to find out which author uses narration and description better in their writings to show the feeling of isolation.
Short story “Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan presents her experience of being a part of ethnic minority. The author uses a first-person narrative and the past tense in the story as she describes the story that happened when Amy was a teenager. “I fell in love with the minister’s son the winter I turned fourteen” (Tan 116). The author hooks the reader when she writes about an American boy whom she fell in love with, and she was Chinese. Therefore, the audience can think that “Fish Cheeks” is a simple love story between an American boy and a Chinese girl. However, further reading reveals that in this story, little is written about love. There is no clear thesis statement in the story. In other words, the readers can understand the plot only when they read the entire story. The author describes herself as a part of an ethnic minority (Chinese), who wishes to belong to another ethnicity – American culture. “For Christmas I prayed for a slim new American nose” (Tan 116). It follows that the girl thought that Chinese were lower in the rank than Americans. “What would Robert think of our shabby Chinese Christmas?” (Tan 116). The use of such phrases shows the reader the feeling of shame that the young girl experienced being Chinese without “proper American manners” (Tan 117). She felt inconvenient in her house among her relatives because they were Chinese. Moreover, in her family, she was the only one who felt uncomfortable because of her origin. On the contrary, her family was not ashamed of being Chinese: “You must be proud you are different. Your only shame is to have shame” (Tan 117).
In her story “Champion of the World”, Maya Angelou tells the story about African Americans at certain moments of time. The story happened in the past when the author was a child. The event took part in a store, whose owner was the author’s uncle. The author is a participant, which is why the fist-person narrative is used. According to the author, the story that she depicts is of great value for the black people in the world. They rooted for Joe Louis, an African American boxer, who defended his title. The author tells that moment was important not only for Joe Louis but also for black people around the world as his victory in the match contributed to the self-esteem of the black people. They felt stronger, “when Joe Louis had proved that we were the strongest people in the world” (Angelou 113). Otherwise, they would feel miserable, taken over all those prejudices: “If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help” (Angelou 112). Maya Angelou started her narration with the description of the store full of people. “The last inch of space was filled, yet people continued to wedge themselves along the walls of the Store” (Angelou 110). Such a beginning rouses the readers’ interest in the story. They do not know what is happening yet, but it is definitely something important. In addition, such amount of people gathered together signifies the community but not the lonely person, who experiences something pleasant or, even, significant in solitude.
Comparing these two stories, it is worth mentioning that Amy Tan’s use of description and narration is better that Maya Angelou’s one. First, Amy Tan gives more details in her writing. For example, the readers know that the girl is fourteen years old. The age of the character can help the reader to understand her feelings better. In “Champion of the World”, the readers know that the author was a child, but they do not know how old she was. They also do not know whether she was a little child or a teenager. In other words, it is harder to understand her feelings: she described what she felt or she listened to the words of the adults. In “Fish Cheeks”, the author uses personal pronoun “I”, so that the reader clearly understands that the author is personally involved in that situation. “I” also points out the feeling of isolation of a minority person in the Anglo culture. Maya Angelou uses pronoun “we” in her story. This pronoun can show that the author was a participant of the event. The pronoun “we” also identifies the group of people, so in this case the feeling of isolation is not felt so much.
To sum it up, it is worth saying that both authors use narration and description to tell their readers about their personal experiences in the past. In their stories, Amy Tan and Maya Angelou describe themselves as the minority persons in the Anglo culture. They both point out the difficulties that young people face when trying to adapt or survive in the country where your culture is regarded as a lower one. Nevertheless, Amy Tan describes her personal feelings while Maya Angelou speaks on behalf of the African American community.