The story “Who’s Irish” by Gish Jen is a story of an elderly Chinese woman, living in America, trying to help her daughter and her family raise her granddaughter Sophie. She struggles while watching Sophie grow up in this culture and wishes to discipline her the way a proper Chinese girl is raised.
This brings conflict between the grandmother and her daughter, Sophie’s mother. The two women argue and eventually have very little involvement in each other’s lives. The idea of conflict between mother and daughter is seen in other stories. In “A Short Story” a grown woman has decided to visit her mother and step-father. She is going back to visit and she is dreading it. She even takes drugs in order to mellow herself out for this occasion.
When she gets to the house she sees her mother and the step-father whom she hates. This story ends quite a lot worse than the mother and daughter not communicating or being involved in each other’s lives. Instead, the daughter kills her mother, to either save her from a boring life with this horrible man or just out of spite for a bad life. These stories both deal with relationships between mothers and daughters, even though they are very different.
In “Who’s Irish” the grandmother states “In China, daughter take care of the mother. Here it is the other way around. Mother help daughter; mother ask Anything else I can do? Otherwise, the daughter complains mother is not supportive.
I tell daughter, We do not have this word in Chinese, supportive” (Jen 179). Here we see that she is struggling to become accustomed to the way American family works.
In America people are selfish, and we see in this story that Natalie, the daughter, expects her mom to do as much for her as she can, and not to interfere with her way of discipline at the same time. She does not respect her mother’s culture and has completely abandoned her customs and cultures.
This type of mother-daughter relationship we don’t see. Instead, both mother and daughter have issues with each other. It is more as though the daughter is angry at her mother for marrying this man, who she obviously dislikes greatly. However, the mother is dead set on defending herself and her husband by stating “I chose him” (Bowering 543). She is content in living a monotonous life of television re-runs and being her husband’s maid.
Donna has become tired of being the one that is cast aside for her mother to ignore her for her new husband. She isn’t able to accept her mother in this role and decided to take her out of the picture altogether by killing her.
In “A Short Story” we do see that Donna loves her mother very much, but isn’t willing, or able to adjust to the idea of her step-father. The story states “Donna wanted to be with her mother, and especially because she never wrote letters home. She did not even imagine writing “Mrs. A Jacobsen” on an envelope.
She felt as if, yes, she still loved her mother, that strange older woman in polyester slacks, though they had not once spoken to each other on the telephone since Jacobsen had mounted her as his casual season’s trophy” (Bowering 544). In contrast to “Who’s Irish” we don’t see this problem with the husband as clearly, although we do see that the grandmother has a slight issue with John because he is lazy and doesn’t help support the family financially or help take care of Sophie.
“Who’s Irish” doesn’t show this violence and anger like “A Short Story”, although it does have some, where the grandmother spanks little Sophie and then hurts her with the stick while trying to get her to come out of the hole at the park. Obviously, Donna lived a very depressing and messed up life in order for her to blow her mother’s face-off, trying to save her from her new husband.
The two stories aren’t very similar in the way they depict mother and daughter relationships. One shows the mother and daughter having differences and difficulties dealing with Sophie, whereas the other story shows a mother and daughter who love each other very much being torn apart because of a man.
Unfortunately “A Short Story” ends very dramatically and traumatically with Donna killing her mother, most likely to save her from the life she was living. Donna then went into the woods and we think possibly killed herself. It is universally known that kids and parents have their issues and it is common for mothers and daughters to fight. These stories just happen to show extreme cases of this, where the relationships are ended.
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