This question is about the essay "Mother Tongue" by Amy Tan. Even though the focus of the essay is the author's experiences with languages and her mother's influence on her writing, an underlying theme of the essay is the identity of a first-generation American. Like other children of immigrants to America, the perceptions of her language abilities almost limited her career path in math or science, yet Tan eventually realized her own American Dream of becoming a full-time writer. What is similar between Tan's more contemporary version of the American Dream and the novel Of Mice and Men? How do they differ?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tan's version of the American Dream is similar to that of Lennie and George in Of Mice and Men because she wants to express herself and live out dreams that speak specifically to her. When she started publishing fiction, she wrote using the English she had grown up hearing from her Chinese-born mother. She used English that was called "broken" instead of conforming and only using standard English. This dream is similar to that of Lennie and George because they also want to claim something that is their own--in their case, land to raise crops and rabbits. Amy Tan's version of the American Dream, like that of Lennie and George, does not involve bending to convention but instead means living her life the way she wants to, as a full expression of herself.

In addition, Tan's dream is in part to explain people who have been misunderstood in America, such as her immigrant mother. She writes of her mother, "I wanted to capture...her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech and the nature of her thoughts." Similarly, George wants to help Lennie find a place where he is accepted for himself, though Lennie is developmentally disabled and not always understood by others. Therefore, winning acceptance for marginalized people and voices is part of both dreams--that of Tan and that of Lennie and George. Their dreams are different because Lennie and George seek land where they can be apart from other people, living without bosses. They seek a life of solitude and separation, while Tan's dreams involve connecting her world with a wider world. She wants to use writing to connect with other people rather than to separate herself from them. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial