Literary Analysis: “Fish Cheeks”
In Amy Tan’s “Fish Cheeks,” a young girl learns that she should not be ashamed of her of her culture. The author employs strong symbols and vivid imagery to depict this very theme as she traces the events of a memorable Christmas gathering. The cultural differences that serve as the narrator’s main conflict are symbolized through the contents of the dinner the “smiley rock cod with bulging eyes that pleaded not to be thrown into a pan of hot oil” was demonstrating Tan’s own desire to not sit through the embarrassing dinner. Additionally, the main course, fish cheeks, represented her mother’s love for her, “as she had chosen all her favorite foods.” Other symbols utilized by Tan include the “miniskirt in beige tweed” which represented her mother’s acceptance of their differences, and the father’s belch which was an acceptable custom in one culture and frowned upon in another. “For Christmas I prayed for this blonde-haired boy, Robert, and a slim new American nose” helps the reader see the way she thought of Robert and his American ways.
Tan uses this to describe this American boy who she has this huge crush on and wants to be more like, instead of being herself in her own culture. “My relatives licked the ends of their chopsticks and reached across the table, dipping them into the dozen or so plates of food.” Is another quote that helps describe vividly of how the dinner started off, and how right away her family started to embarrass her. Tan uses these simile’s and metaphor’s; “Tofu which looked like stacked wedges of rubbery white sponges, a bowl of soaking dried fungus back to life. A plate of squid, their backs crisscrossed with knife markings so they resembled bicycle tires.” To show the readers how she compares the food prepared to weird things as if she didn’t like them. Tan’s attitude in the story is she is embarrassed of who she is and where she comes from. “when I found out that my parents invited the minister’s family over for Christmas eve dinner, I cried” is a perfect example of how she’s embarrassed of her culture. Never be ashamed of who you are and where you come from.
Through the effective use of symbolism, imagery, figurative language, and tone, Amy Tan has shown her readers the conflicts that cultural differences create. In retrospect she learned she must always have pride in her own cultural heritage.