“Not only the entire ability to think rests on language… but language is also the crux of the misunderstanding of reason with itself. ” This quote by Johann G. Hamann talks about language and how it can be misunderstood. What he means is if you don’t understand someone because you don’t speak that language how things are going to work out. Everything will just be you listening to someone but you can’t comprehend what the person is saying. Just like in the two short stories “Wrong Channel” by Roberto Fernandez and “The True Story of Mr. and Mrs.
Wong” by Marilyn Chin. In the two stories both main characters are in disbelief of what is going on in the culture around them. In the short story “Wrong Channel” by Roberto Fernandez, the main character Barbarita is a Cuban immigrant in the United States. This story portrays a miscommunication between cultures. In the beginning Barbarita was waiting nervously in her home. We know that she was nervous because the first line in the story says “Barbarita waited impatiently for her ride as beads of sweat dripped from her eyebrows into her third cup of cold syrupy espresso”.
Barbarita’s friend Mima had pulled up and told Barbarita to make sure she looks healthy for the doctor. Here we find out that Barbarita is living in Miami and going to the doctors to get her green card. At the doctor’s office Barbarita was more nervous than ever she knocked over the reader’s digest and bibles off the table in the office. Before entering the exam room we friend out that not only is Mima a friend but also an interrupter for Barbarita.
When the doctor entered the room he wanted to know if Barbarita had ever had TB (Tuberculosis), but because of the accent in America, Mima had misunderstood the doctor causing Barbarita to be confused. Mima thought the doctor asked if she had a TV which is funny because no matter the language it is easy to misunderstand because they sound the same. Barbarita did not understand why the doctor wanted to know if she had a TV, and why it mattered to get her green card. Mima says to Barbarita “How many times did I tell you you needed to buy one?
Don’t you know, Barbarita? This is America”. This story gave a lot of insight about how easy it is to misunderstand someone. It could be just the way it was said or the lack of knowledge about different cultures. In the Short Story “The True Story of Mr. and Mrs. Wong” by Marilyn Chin, Mr. Wong is a very wealthy Chinese man and only wants one thing to have a son. Mr. Wong and his Wife have four daughters but in Chinese culture it is socially acceptable to have a son, who will carry on the family name.
We found out in the story that Mr. Wong’s wife cannot bear him a son. When he found this out he was very angry and yelled “What do you get from a turtle’s rotten womb but rotten turtle eggs? ” In this quote he is comparing his wife to a rotten turtle because she is not able to produce what he wants. Mr. Wong gets fed up and quickly marries off three of his daughters, which all go to guys with very decent jobs. The other daughter ran off to Hollywood, she just needed to get away from it all and start a new life there. Mr.
Wong is in disbelief about his wife so he decides to get a divorce. An irony in the story is that the wife ends up being a beautician for the dead, but it is ironic because she was basically dead to her husband. As the story continues Mr. Wong finds a new bride and although she could not conceive at first it was okay. After surgery on her womb to remove polyps she was able to give Mr. Wong three boys. In the end it was funny that he got his three boys but none of them carried on his family business but all became tax accountants. Mr.
Wong just wanted to fit in and be like his family before him, to have someone who would carry on your name and be proud of it. Mr. Wong couldn’t believe how difficult it was to have a son and blamed his wife for their problems. In these two stories there are many similarities but also a deal of differences. One similarity is both stories are written by a third person narrative. Third person narrative allows us as readers to get a sense of feeling and thought to what the characters are going through. Unlike first person neither the narrator nor the character is in the story.
Another similarity between the stories is that both portray a feeling a confusing. In the first story the confusion is between TV and TB and it’s important because without that information she doesn’t get a green card. In the other story even though his confusion may not be as noticeable as the other story it is still there. Mr. Wong doesn’t know why his wife couldn’t bear him a son, he thought she was dirty and couldn’t take it anymore. He had a find another woman and hope she could give him a son and he would learn the family business but things didn’t go as planned.
Some differences from bother stories are that they are talking about two different cultures Cuban and Chinese. Chinese believe that the things they do in life should stay within the family and that’s why families needed to bear a son. In the Cuban society it didn’t matter what sex you were but how well you learned. The two main characters in both stories are very different from each other. Barbarita is a Cuban lady who just wants to get her green card and be happy in the states. She is very nervous and not too sure about her surroundings.
Now Mr. Wong on the other hand he is very angry and delirious. Wants one thing but can’t just seem to get it all together. Each story has its own special meaning and understanding about different cultures. From these two stories we can see how language ties in to culture. If you don’t know something it could be misunderstood. Even though these stories may not be so similar they both deal with two separate cultures. If in one culture things are done a certain way, it might be looked at differently by someone from another culture.
Being able to understand a culture and finding ways to deal with those surroundings are difficult. This doesn’t mean that Mr. Wong in the second story is wrong for wanting a son. This is part of his culture where sons are just worth more to the Chinese. Barbarita can’t understand why someone needs a TV to be an American but she doesn’t realize TV isn’t what the doctor meant. Each culture can be looked at in different ways but in the end it’s about doing what’s best for you. Being able to learn about your surroundings and making choices from them.