Theme of Justice and Empathy

Amy, a girl with Chinese origin, remembers her love affair when she was just fourteen years old. She loved Robert who was an American and a minister’s son. The news that Tan’s family had extended an invitation to host Robert’s family over dinner on the Christmas Eve, makes her not only unsettled, but also very uncomfortable, mainly because she feels embarrassed of race and her Chinese origin. Several questions circle in her mind; she hesitates what Robert will think about her family’s eating mannerism, the type of food, and almost about everything as they do it the Chinese way.

This is unusual for a normal feeling of love that usually makes a girl happy and anxious to see her boyfriend. Amy is full of empathy and spends time thinking more of what will become with her. Social injustice manifests in her thinking as she perceives her Chinese culture and origin as being ‘less important’, and she strives to adopt the American culture considered being superior.  The heroine is worried of the food her mother is cooking, because she is deeply involved in finding American ways to please Robert. At the dinner table, Amy finds fault with almost everything her parents do from the eating style to the sitting position and feels so ashamed about them. Robert and his father get impatient with the eating mannerisms of Tan’s father and they feel awkward about it. In this case, they perceive such mannerisms as illegal in the American way, hence manifesting the theme of social injustice where minority groups like the Chinese in America are despised.

Tan’s mother confirms her worries and empathizes with her thinking. In the end, the mother emphasizes the message that to avoid social injustice issues and inferiority complex, no culture should feel less or more important than others and people must be proud of their origin.

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