Thursday, May 26, 2011

Note Taker's Reply to All

    The idea of parents cutting their childrens' tongues for them to easily master various languages somewhat portrays a society that is in close proximity to its early ancestry, and far from changing. Besides evidence based off of later research, parents of Korean children still believed in primitive methods of achieving mastery in different languages. Since this concept has been passed down for generations, it is apparent that not enough people have questioned its legitamacy, and instead just do as their ancestors have done, thus showing just one of the many ancestral customs untouched by contemporary society.
    As cultures diffuse and blend internationally around the world one can still see the original customs instilled into someone by their ancestry. In modern society, it easily evident that there are students who excel in the classroom greater and at a faster pace than others. Perhaps, like many of the Chinese families, children are being forced by their parents to achieve excellence in school, yet the parent-child relationship is much closer than generations ago.
   Of a world filled with many differences in origin and growth, there is a similarity with all people. Everyone, atleast generally speaking, wants to be accepted by their surrounding society. Kingston, "being associated with a mute girl as her friend became angry" because she did not like her classmates' interpretaion of her. Wherever people may be, everyone wants acceptance and tries to achieve a certain status, when that is not achieved they become angry.

Summary and Quotes for "A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe"

The story starts with Kingston, the narrator of the story, recalling how her mother cut a little of Kingston’s tongue out. In her defense, the mother, Brave Orchid, said she did so that her little Chinese baby, Kingston, could speak more easily. On the contrary, Kingston grew up most of her life unable to speak fluently or with pleasure to the ears.
        It’s this inability to speak well that haunts Kingston into her school years. Unable and unwilling to speak, Kingston is ranked in the bottom of her grade school class, along with another girl who does not speak at all. Fed up with being associated with being this mute girls’ friend, Kingston reacts harshly and lashes out at the silent girl with hate and tormenting actions, trying to get her to speak. The girl does not speak, and Kingston grows more infuriated with her, lashing out in harsher ways. She does not stop until the silent girl’s older sister finds them. Afterwards, Kingston comes down with a mysterious illness; her punishment, she believes, for tormenting the small, silent girl. 
          The story transitions into a dialogue about the ‘crazy’ people in Kingston’s village. Crazy Mary, a young woman who goes insane after her parents leave her for China, reminds Kingston of herself. Kingston is afraid of being the one in her family who is destined to be crazy, due to her peculiar thoughts and her outlandish appearance. There is also a crazy ‘witch-woman’ who terrifies Kingston and her brothers and sisters because she chases them around like a demon. 
        The strange thoughts that Kingston has had makes her feel like she should tell them to someone. She makes a ‘list’ of all the bad things she has done, and plans to tell her mother them over a period of time. After a few days of telling her mother her dark thoughts and actions, Brave Orchid explodes and tells Kingston to shut up and leave her alone. After a few more days of harsh silence on Kingston’s part, she shouts at dinner one night everything that is bothering her, about being married off, about being thought ugly, about not being able to speak well, and ultimately the feelings her mother has for her. The mother yells back with equal ferocity, and calls Kingston a Ho Chi Ghost, which is said to mean that a person has all the advantages available in America. 
        The story ends with Kingston telling a story, using her mother’s storytelling methods as well as her own to tell about a poetess named Ts'ai Yen. This poetess was caprtured by barbarians and brought back a traditional Chinese song, “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe”, thus giving the story it’s name. The name of the passage reflects how far Kingston has come, from being silent to being able to tell a famous story. 
“Be careful what you say. It comes true. It comes true.”(Kingston 204)
“I shut my mouth, but I felt something alive tearing at my throat, bite by bite, from the inside. Soon there would be three hundred things, and too late to get them out before my mother grew old and died.” (Kingston 200)
“‘My goodness, he’s not too stupid to want to find out about women.’ I heard the old women talk about how he was stupid, but very rich.” (Kingston 197)
“So I discovered the next plan to get rid of us: marry us off without waiting until China.” (Kingston 192)
“I thought every house had to have its crazy woman or crazy girl, every village it’s idiot. Who would be It at our house? Probably me.” (Kingston 189)
“It is the way Chinese sounds, chingchong ugly, to American ears, not beautiful like Japanese sayonara words with the consonants and vowels as regular as Italian.” (Kingston 171)

Literature Connections for "A Song for a Barabarian Reed Pipe"

The strained mother/daughter relationship here is very reminiscent of the strained relationship between Jing Mei and her mother in Joy Luck Club. The demand for excellence from the parents is similar, and so is the lack of communication, however, Kingston implies that this maybe common amongst all Chinese families, and that parents do not explain customs to their children, children merely pay attention and figure things out.
Like in Things Fall Apart, the protagonist is estranged from not only the white man, but his own kind at sometimes. In Things Fall Apart Okonkwo was distrusting to both whites and men of different tribes, just as Kingston is distrusting of “Ghosts”, who can be white or Chinese.
Both Kingston and Okonkwo are brought up with similar religious attitudes – that “’gods you avoid won’t hurt you’”, Okonkwo with his disrespect of the Week of Peace and his lackadaisical attitude about his personal god, and Kingston with her relaxed attitude concerning the necessity to learn the unspoken traditions, that either way “’neither ghosts nor deities would harm her’”. 
Her day schooling is similar to that in “The Ancient History in Which I Learn Is Not My Own” where both the parents and the girl know that this is not her history, not her education. It is foreign to her and seemingly irrelevant. 

Research of "Song for a Barabarian Pipe"

In the beginning of the story Kingston was talking about how her mom “cut her tongue.” This is common ritual done to school-age children in Korea. The children’s parents cut their tongues in order for them to acquire full proficiency in English. Their parents believe there is a certain size the mouth has to be in order to have unlimited language capacity. They would cut off a centimeter of the tongue with the hope that their child would become fluent in any language they want, especially English.
This story had to have taken part around the end of WWII, because Kingston mentioned “the Japanese kids…appeared one day in kindergarten, released from concentration camp, which was a tic-tac-toe mark, like barbed wire, on the map,” the children would have only been released from the concentration camps if the war was over. During WWII Japanese Americans were kept in concentration camps during the war, because we were suspicious of Japanese spies. The sudden attack on Pearl Harbor increased this fear. On March of 1946 the last of the camps were closed down. 
The background of the story’s title is shown through Ts’ai Yen. She was a poetess born in 175 A.D. She was the daughter of Ts'ai Yung, a scholar. Ts'ai Yen was captured by the lead bandit of the Southern Hsiung-nu. He gives her a horse as a gift for having his children. As a barbarian, she rides with the bandits for twelve years and has two children. The barbarians use reeds for weapons and instruments. The sound of their tune makes Ts'ai Yen feel cold, disturbed. One night, the barbarians hear her singing from the tent. Her sound matches the reed's. The song she sings has some of the barbarian's language in it about "forever wandering," and her children sing along. Ts'ai Yen marries Tung Ssu, a person of the Han race in China. She passes on songs, including "Eighteen Stanzas for a Barbarian Reed Pipe." 

Socratic Seminar Questions

1. What was the motive behind Kingston’s abuse towards the “Silent Girl”?
Kingston’s actions were a result of anger, built up from the constant criticism of her relationship with the “Silent Girl”, by her student peers.
2. Why were traditional customs, such as the “tongue-cutting”, still practiced despite modern beliefs?
It seemed that traditional customs like “tongue-cutting”, had been practiced for so many generations, that it became to some families, a necessity.
3. How did language and speech play a role in Kingston’s classroom?
Language and speech was the obstacle Kingston had to overcome in order to be accepted by her fellow students, and essentially have confidence in herself.
4. What was a reoccurring theme?
The theme of clashing and fusing various cultures/beliefs reoccurred throughout the novel by using various settings and scenarios.
5. How could the “dinner at the table” scene, be seen as a turning point?
At dinner, it was the first time Kingston basically said everything that was on her mind, that troubled her. This was important because it would later make the strained relationship she once had with her mom, become closer. 

Oops...Done Cut the Tongue