The narrator of the poem is a Chinese American, who takes us through his childhood and adulthood through different memories which have a certain connection. His childhood life is shown in the first stanza as he narrates how his teacher, Mrs Walker, hits his back of the head for not knowing the difference between persimmons and precision. We can presumably say the narrator is not properly familiarized with the English language as he mistakes many English words that start with the same letter and end in the same letter and probably sound similar such as precision and persimmon, “fight and fright, wren and yarn.” This tells us he is either an immigrant or a Chinese American boy (Strachan et al. 2000).
His adulthood is shown when he is now a man and finds an American woman by the name of Donna. They are in love with each other and in their conversation it is clear his English improves showing he has accustomed to the English culture. Now he has a problem with remembering easy Chinese words when he tries to teach Donna Chinese and finds it difficult to recall Chinese, which means that he loses connections with his culture.
In this poem the main theme is reminiscence. The narrator has many memories of persimmons, a Chinese fruit he grew up eating. He takes us through these memories clearly showing the effect that persimmons have had on his life. In the first stanza the narrator tells us how cruel his teacher is when he hits him as he cannot differentiate between the persimmon and precision. Therefore, the word “persimmon” brings some painful memories. This shows the teacher has the authoritative power and only wants proper English to be used during classes. A literary device here is symbolism. This is shown by the teacher hitting the boy, which explains he has power. He is an authoritative figure in the class commanding discipline. Another literary device is the tone used in the 1st stanza. The narrator tone sounds angry because the teacher hits him and it is not his fault that he is familiar with the language.
He also remembers how to choose the persimmon and how to eat it; he precisely elaborates the process according to the Chinese way. He describes the fruit “ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted and the sweet one will be fragrant.” The narrator also describes how to eat it by saying one should put the knife away and peel tenderly illustrated by the words “peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat” (Strachan et al. 2000). The narrator uses vivid description when showing how to eat a ripe persimmon. Therefore, the reader can clearly picture it, which is shown in second stanza. .
He also draws memory of himself all grown up with a female companion named Donna. This shows that his difficulty in understanding the English language is gone and now he has a problem with his ethnic language. He uses imagery to show us the night by explaining how dewy, cold it is and one may hear the sound of the cricket at night. Consequently, we clearly visualize the night.
In the forth stanza the narrator gives us additional words that used to have problems with “fight and fright, wren and yarn.” This clearly elaborates the theme of reminiscence. He expounds on the word meanings and we notice they also have an effect while he is growing up. In the same stanza he brings up the depiction of his mother who used the yarn to make birds. The narrator seems to have affection for his mother as he says he enjoys watching her making the rabbits and birds. He uses rhyme as a literary device which emphasizes how the words are closely related when spelled, thus confusing him.. Another device he uses is comparison and contrast as he compares fright and fight.
There is also the theme of reminiscence associated with the persimmon when he recalls his teacher bringing to the class a persimmon and calling it a Chinese apple. The teacher improperly prepares the fruit by cutting it while using a knife. The narrator can tell it is not ripe and chooses not to have a piece of it when the teacher prepares it for the class. He instead opts to watch the others reaction as they are eating it. He also recalls his mother describing how a persimmon looked. There is contrast and comparison between the narrator’s knowledge and the teacher’s ignorance. The narrator knows the fruit is not ripe and knows how to eat it but the teacher’s ignorance makes her prepare the unripe fruit in the wrong way and call it a “Chinese apple” illustrated in stanza five.
Also reminiscence appears when he remembers his mother telling him that persimmons have a sun inside, something golden, glowing and warm as his face. The mother uses metaphor which states that, persimmon always has a sun inside, to show the color of the persimmon being orange or yellow.