Sameer Dhar, Karan Seth, Taj Madebattula
November 17, 2008
The Power of Stories
Mother Tongue vs. "Jade Peony"
Stories are more than a simple communication of events. They are a connection between people, infused with symbolism, tradition, and otherwise unspoken emotion: they have the power to bring people together regardless of distance, time, and space. Mother Tongue, by Betty Quan, and "Jade Peony", by Wason Choy, both use stories to illustrate the relationships between characters. Quan and Choy use the power of stories to bridge the distances between characters. However, it is not only the act of telling stories that connects people - it is the significance of specific elements within the stories that gives them meaning.
Stories use symbolism to assign meaning to objects: when understood by a group of people, this shared meaning brings them together. In Mother Tongue, the "jingwei bird" legend is used as a metaphor to display the family's inability to communicate effectively.
Mimi is described as being a "jingwei bird" (24), which is part of this legend. The metaphor shows how she serves as a bridge between her deaf brother Steve, and her mother who does not speak English or American Sign Language (ASL). It is interesting to note that the mother in Quan's play comes to Canada when she is eighteen years old, and Steve has been deaf for five years, yet the mother still has not learned English or ASL. Mimi, therefore, feels trapped, "like a bird in your handÃ¢ÂÂ¦"(21), between her mother and Steve. She refers to this when her mother shows reluctance towards her leaving home for university. At the end of this piece, the mother realizes that Mimi feels trapped: "Are you that little bird, Mimi, my jingwei?" (46) Mimi uses...