what is the purpose of "Who Will Light Incense When Mother's Gone?" by Andrew Lam?
n both essays, the main conflict between the new and old cultures lies in the generation of mother to child. [ Whether or not this is because of the families being a matriarchy cannot be said, but within the context of each story it is clear that the mother is the dominant figure and representation of the culture. There is no mention of Lam’s father in “Who Will Light Incense…” It is his mother
that performs the customs and tells Lam what she thinks of the American culture. In “Fish Cheeks,” however, Amy Tan mentions her father, but he is not a main character. He only “poked his chopsticks just below the fish eye and plucked out the soft meat,” and later “leaned back and belched loudly.” There is no insight to her father’s view on the new culture, only doing what is natural to his own.
t is how the mothers view the American culture that provides the contrast to how each of the children views it. For example, Amy Tan’s mother takes pride in the meal selection, having “outdone herself,” and her relatives “murmur with pleasure when my mother brought out the whole steamed fish.” Even after the dinner, she knows how her daughter is feeling, yet she tells her that her “only shame is be ashame” and to take pride in her own Chinese heritage.
The mother in Andrew Lam’s essay shows her devotion to her Vietnamese culture by following the ancient ritual of lighting the incense and praying to the dead “the way she would in Vietnam” (1037). At the same time, just below the shrine that she has set up to honor the dead, she has placed the trophies of her children’s accomplishments, showing that she respects the new culture at the same time. Lam recognizes this contrast. He points out that the “agrarian-based ethos” is blending and “slowly gives way to the glories of individual ambitions” (1037).
There are no new answers.