what means switch2222 - Professor Hamilton ENG109H-012 20...

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Professor Hamilton ENG109H-012 20 September 2005 What Means Title How much of racial or cultural integration relies on a personal desire to change? How much of it relies on the acceptance of those established in the country, society, or community in which a person seeks to be integrated? Regardless of how much of these a person has, or if there is even more involved, these factors definitely contribute to a person being accepted into their community. But more than just being accepted or “integrated”, the latter of which has had multiple meanings and implications in American history, is it possible to completely “switch” into a new way of life without completely changing who you are? In her short story titled “What Means Switch”, Gish Jen explores what a person needs to be integrated or “switched” into a foreign society -- namely the two factors of acceptance and willingness to be accepted -- and their relationship to individuality through the irony created by the limited viewpoint of an American-born Chinese girl named Mona Chang. The limited viewpoint approach allows the reader to fully connect to the writing in a way that a third-person narrative would be unable by providing a character with whom the reader most likely shares the common experience of being an adolescent, and by generating the sympathy that comes with knowing a character's personal thoughts. From Mona's perspective, anyone can “switch” into a new country, culture, religion, or similar institution at any time through a simple desire to do so. She tells her Japanese immigrant friend Sherman that “you only have to learn some rules and speeches” (185) in order to become American, or that she “ could become Jewish” (185) if she wanted to. In reality, she has a
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recollection that indicates she has experienced firsthand a situation that suggests the contrary -- she is unable to “switch” in Yonkers, “Where the Whitman Road Gang used to throw crabapple mash at my sister Callie and me and tell us it would make our eyes stick shut” (177), but she is able to switch in Scarsdale because the people there make her feel “not so much accepted as embraced” (177). Irony is created by Mona's limited perspective of the world; she understands that Scarsdale is more accepting than Yonkers, but fails to make the connection between that acceptance and the “switching” she still believes is easy to do.
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This note was uploaded on 04/03/2008 for the course ENGL 109H taught by Professor Paul during the Fall '07 term at University of Arizona- Tucson.

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what means switch2222 - Professor Hamilton ENG109H-012 20...

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