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					Wendi M. Brooks

Intro to Lit

Professor Maguire

11 March, 2004

                    Moms and their Daughters

    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 mother. Here it is the other way

around. Mother help daughter; mother ask, Anything else I

can do? Otherwise daughter complain 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 all together 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.