English Literature » Notes » Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” : Analysis of Pathos, Ethos and Logos
Amy Tan's Mother Tongue

Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” : Analysis of Pathos, Ethos and Logos

Analyze Pathos, Ethos and Logos in Mother Tongue.

English should not be considered as a single language. There are inferences that English is a single language, but in reality, people develop diverse versions of English as their mother tongue such that it is very uncommon to discover two people that speak the exact same English because there are so many different forms of the language. A well-known author, Amy Tan recalls “all the Englishes that she grew up with”, all of which influence her perception of the world as well as her own English.

In sequential instances alluding to her “broken English”, Tan conveys the development of preconceived notions of her mother’s intelligence measured solely on how fluently she spoke. Through the use of pathos, ethos and logos, Tan suggests that the spoken word is meant to captivate an individual’s “intent”, “passion”, “imagery”, “rhythms of speech”, and “nature of thoughts”- his or her truest self while communicating with others.

In addition, by analyzing how Tan’s perception of her mother was affected by her mother’s English, it allowed Tan to come to the realization that she, too, forgot the true objective of the English language – to reflect one’s personality in its entirety. Tan’s emotional side confesses that “she was ashamed of her English”. Just as any average Joe, Tan belittles her mother’s thoughts simply because she could not express them perfectly. However, she comes to the revelation that the quality of expression does not correlate to quality of thought. Tan confirms this train of thought when she affirms that her mother’s tongue “was the language that helped shape the way she saw things, expressed things, made sense of the world” which asserts the power of language. The language we are accustomed to hearing affects our thoughts as well as our beliefs which in turn influence the type of language that we use to express these ideas. Thus, Mrs. Tan taught her daughter that spoken English is a reflection of one’s truest self. Could add example of hospital incident where the hospital did not apologize when they lost the CAT scan and remove some above to make it more relevant to pathos”. Amy Tan uses ethos to present the idea that societal expectations must not negatively influence one’s perception. When Mrs. Tan visited the hospital for a CAT scan “the hospital did not apologize…or have any sympathy…”, which exemplifies the repercussions of letting society negatively affect one’s views. While the hospital did not provide proper service to Mrs. Tan due to her broken English, they were able to address all of the concerns once Tan was involved and was able to communicate with the hospital staff in proper English.

Furthermore, Tan addresses “why are not more Asian Americans represented in American literature. Why are there few Asian Americans enrolled in creative writing programs? Why do so many Chinese American students go into engineering?” with the fact that many teachers steer students toward math and science degrees, while diverting them from reading and writing even if that is what they enjoy more.

Lastly, Tan puts forward logos in providing evidence by her analogies to her mother as well. Mrs. Tan proved that she could understand people when they spoke perfect or regular English as well as when she read in English such that Amy expresses “…my mother’s expressive command of English belies how much she actually understands. She reads the Forbes report, listens to Wall Street Week…and reads all of Shirley MacLaine’s books with ease — all kinds of things I can’t begin to understand.” The logic behind this validates her point that if she can comprehend English perfectly while still speaking in broken English, then perhaps other people who are treated as if they cannot understand actually do.

Conclusively, Amy Tan exemplifies emotional, ethical, and logical strategies to develop a strong argument the English language can be quite diverse. There are instances where an emotional approach allowed Tan to come to the realization that Mrs. Tan is treated unfairly in society due to her poor language skills. Meanwhile, Tan’s ethics allow her to diminish thoughts that Mrs. Tan’s spoken English represents her ability to comprehend English. While some may believe that English is a single language, many individuals would argue that they develop diverse versions of English as their mother tongue.

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