Everyday Use vs Rules of the Game: Compare & Contrast
Cultural assimilation and adaptation in foreign countries are critical aspects of the immigrant population. In ‘Everyday Use’ by Alice Walker and ‘Rules of the Game’ by Amy Tan, these issues have been tackled with great sensitivity through mother and daughter relationships. Cultural assimilation mainly defines one’s efforts to adopt foreign culture so that they are able to integrate with the mainstream population. In assimilation process, the individual loses one’s cultural identity in order to get accepted within the new social structure. Adaptation, on the other hand, is distinct in its adjustment within a new society by adapting some cultural values while maintaining their own cultural identity. It highlights cross-cultural understanding to integrate within the mainstream population or society.
In ‘Everyday Use’, changing dynamics of mother and two daughters is shown with great insight. It is an interesting story where one daughter exhibits a desire to change in order to climb the social ladder. She assimilates within mainstream society by adopting new values and changing her language or way of speaking. The other daughter is timid and remains satisfied with her own cultural values and beliefs. Initially, the mother supports the elder one and her ambitious plans which excite her and at the same time, frightened her as ‘with one foot raised in flight’ (49). This interesting analogy and shows the fear of losing one’s identity in the process of assimilation as was observed in the character of her daughter, Dee.
Walker has used language as her main tool to express the myriad emotions of minorities where there always lurks the fear of losing one’s socio-cultural identity. When the mother says, ‘I did something I never had done before’ (58), she acknowledges her own heritage and accepts it as such. Indeed, when she snatches the quilt from Dee and gives it to her more unpretentious daughter, Maggie, the message is not only loud but clear that cultural identity is intrinsic part of a person and needs to be preserved.
On the other hand, Amy Tan’s book reflects the conflicts between mother and daughter when the daughter, Waverly Jong starts defying her mother. Waverly Jong was a child prodigy in Chess who had to learn the art of inner strength from her mother. She had to learn the rules of the game before she could use the knowledge in her game of chess to win. The author has shown subtly that rules and regulations are also intrinsic parts of life.
Amy has sensitively explored the helplessness of a mother, who is desperately trying to inculcate their own cultural values in her daughter and guide her. Mother’s efforts and pride in her daughter is smashed when Waverly wails at her, ‘Why do you have to use me to show off? If you want to show off, then why don’t you learn to play chess?’ (51). Waverly’s selfishness is also her desire to gain independence which is not understood by the mother.
Amy Tan is explicit in her dialogues and illustrates the dynamics of personal and social relationships that are important for immigrants. In the story, Waverly’s character is unique. While the assimilation process is unconscious, Waverly is driven by her desire to win. Mother, on the other hand, is anxious because she can anticipate the dangers and pitfalls of a new value system if they are adopted without understanding.
Thus, both novels have described the immigrants’ dilemma. They have successfully shown the stark difference between assimilation and adaptation. Indeed, the authors were explicit in their desire to maintain their cultural heritage and portrayed the dilemma of the immigrant population.
Tan, Amy. ‘The Rules of the game.’ In Joy Luck Club, 1989. 45-52. http://eng.hzu.edu.cn/yg/upload/2009-06/09062517462157.pdf 13 May 2012.
Walker, Alice. ‘Everyday Use.’ In Love and Trouble. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973. 47-59.