September 22, 2011
Rhetorical Analysis of Mother Tongue
In “Mother Tongue”, an essay from The Threepenny Review in 1990, Amy Tan explores the various forms of English that people from around the world utilize as they immigrate to the United States and adapt to the American culture. Her mother plays a prominent role in telling of how her perspective on language has transformed. The occurrences with her mother helped her acknowledge not only that language allows one to be a part of a culture, but that it structures and helps define one’s identity in society. Tan’s article conveys reasoning, credibility, and an appeal to emotion because she shares her story and supports it with examples of how others reacted towards her and her mother. These rhetorical strategies of logos, ethos, and pathos are vital in comprehending the purpose that Amy Tan wishes to make with the essay.
In “Mother Tongue”, Amy Tan discusses how “broken” English around the world compares to common English in the United States. Using her own mother as her inspiration, she discusses the power of language; the way in which it can induce emotions, construct mental images, and enhance our daily routines of communication (118). By including personal instances of her mother and herself, Tan illustrates how one’s speech can influence how people perceive them and respond to them. This sends a powerful message of how humans should not allow someone’s shortcomings to impact the way in which they see them. Tan also brings attention to the subject of an individualist society versus a collectivist one. Because America identifies more with individualism, it is especially tough for immigrants to integrate themselves with the natives, thus emphasizing the hardships that Tan’s mother must have faced.
Throughout the piece, Tan uses several rhetorical strategies-- particularly logos, ethos, and pathos—to show her readers that a limitation in speech does not necessarily...