Theme of Identity in Fish Cheeks by Amy Tan

Fish Cheeks by Amy Tan is a personal narrative about a young chinese american girl who has a crush on a blond American boy named Robert. On christmas eve, her parents invited Roberts family for dinner and Amy was mortified about the idea of him witnessing her chinese customs. Throughout the narrative the author uses literary devices such as imagery, duction and symbolism to teach readers that one should not be ashamed of their identity for the sake of others.

Amy uses imagery to vividly describe the foods found at the dinner. To develop the conflict she intentionally describes the food to the readers to paint a negative metal picture. She graphicly talks about the preparation of the foods, so the readers can be repealed by the image of her mom “pulling black veins out of the backs of fleshy prawns”,and the “ slimy rock cod with bulging fish eyes that pleaded not to be thrown into a pan of hot oil”. She purposely describes the food in an unattractive way develop the conflict and show why she is embarrassed.

Tan compares the food to strange things like the tofu, “which looked like stacked wedges of rubbery white sponges” and the “plate of squid, th ir backs crisscrossed with knife markings so they resembled bicycle tires. And then” to make the food sound unaptasing to the readers. Throughout the essay Tan the readers learn that tan was only describing the food in the way that she thought Robert would see it as not how she actually felt. She revels at the end that her mother actually prepared her one of her favorite dishes and even brought her a beige skirt because she knew Amy’s heart.

The diction used in fish cheeks to emphasizes the height of her discomfort concerning the dinner. She uses the words such as slimy, bulging, fleshy, rubbery and fungus to reveal her embarrassment of her family’s tradition. Evidence of amys embarsemt is shown through when she says things like “threw me deeper into despair” and “I wanted to disappear.” Amy revels the climax of the the story when her father leans back and bleaches,. The ministers family succeed to show discomfort and amy is utterly silenced in unease. She is left in shame as the diner proved the gap of differences between their two families and their costumes.

Another way the theme of the story is shown through is symbolism. One of the symbols shown is fish cheeks is the mini skirt. The beige mini skirt represents how amy wants to be more American. The other one is fish cheeks symbolises her asian culture. Her mother made her all her favorite dishes understanding how she felt and is shown through when her dad offers her her “favorite” which is fish cheeks, something she liked but tried to hide.

In conclusion Amy uses imagery, diction and symbolism to show the importance of being proud of one’s identity, a lesson that she didn’t realize till she was more mature and understanding.

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