Voice From The Wall Essay, Research Paper
Title: The Voice From the Wall By: Amy Tan
- the voice that the narrator hears is all in her imagination, she hears the voice of her neighbors killing each other
- Amy Ruth Tan, a Chinese American novelist was born in Oakland, California, in 1952. Both her parents immigrated to the United States from China
- Amy Tan focused her writings on the lives of the Chinese American women. Tan s novel and short stories introduce characters who are as she once was and about their Chinese background
- Throughout her childhood, Tan s mother told her stories about their Chinese heritage. Tan, uses this technique in this story to enhance the importance of storytelling
When I was little, my mother told me my great-grandfather had sentenced a beggar to die in the worst possible way
- Tan s writing is most of her life down on paper. The setting in the short story is held in Oakland and later the family upgrades to San Francisco were said by Lena ( main character )
They might be able to leave all their old fears behind.
- Even in Tan s life, she was born in Oakland and later forced to Europe with her mother felt to be.
The evil of their deceased house in Oakland, California.
- Tan follows the same idea in the short story.
Even as a young girl, I could sense the unspoken terrors that surrounded our
House, the ones that stressed my mother until she hid in a secret dark corner
of her mind .
- Another example of how Tan uses her life in this short story is by expressing her Chinese background in both the mother and the daughter in the story. Tan writes about how the mother immigrated from China, and where the daughter received her Chinese parts.
- I saw these things with my Chinese eyes, the part of me I got from my
Point of view
- This short story is a memoir of a girl observing her family life seeing only the bad not the hope
- This can be seen by the way the narrator, Lena describes certain situations in which she has to understand her mother s life.
Example As I remember it, the dark side of my mother sprang from the basement in our old house in Oakland. (Pg.307)
- Lena tries to understand why her mother seems to show no emotion, but she cannot understand
- It is only until her family moves into a small apartment that she can finally hope for the best for her mother as she observes the life of another family in the next apartment.
Sometimes I heard this loud family across the hallway that separated our two apartment doors. (Pg. 314)
- While trying to comprehend her mother by watching and waiting, we can slowly see the point of the story is not Lena herself, but her mother.
And in my memory I can still feel the hope that beat in me that night, I clung to this hope, day after day, night after night, year after year. (Pg.318)
Lena St.Clair (narrator/main character)
- born in Oakland
- moved to San Francisco
- half Chinese half Irish/English
Most people did not know I was Chinese maybe because my last name was St. Clair . When people first saw me, they thought I looked like my father, English-Irish, big boned and delicate at the same time. But if they looked really close, if they knew they were there, they could see the Chinese parts. Instead of having cheeks like my father s sharp edged points, mine were smooth as beach pebbles. I did not have his yellow hair or white skin, yet my coloring looked too pale, like something that was once darker but faded into the sun. (Pg.307-308)
- observant of her surroundings
- vivid imagination
Betty St. Clair
- mother of Lena St. Clair
- Chinese immigrant to America
- has lost two babies due to birth defects
- tells her daughter frightening stories
- psychologically disturbed, condition worsens as time goes on
- is married to an over bearing husband
My father proudly named her Betty St. Clair , crossing out her given name of Gu Ying-ying. And then he put down the wrong birth year. 1916 instead of 1914.
- despite living in America and the efforts of her husband Betty does not speak English
- Lena s next door neighbor in San Francisco
- about twelve years old
- is the voice from the wall
- Teresa s mother
- Italian with a slight accent you stupida girl
- strict parental figure
- is the other voice from the wall
Setting / Mood
- Oakland and san Francisco California, hospital, school yard, and Lena s apartment (bedroom)
- stories are told that take place in China
- the story is set in the late thirties or forties
- a story about a child developing their mind and character as they go into adulthood
- At the beginning of the story the child Lena lives in the thoughts and the stories of her parents. As the story progresess he begins to see her life in her eyes ands sees that her parents are not what she thought
- she begins to see the poor mental state of her mother when she becomes pregnant
You can t understand these things, she said, why not/ Because I haven t put them into your mind yet.
- her vivid imagination turns her mothers stories into a reality for her
I used to play out the beggar s last moments over and over again in my head. In my mind, I saw the executioner strip off the man s shirt and lead him into the open yard. This traitor, read the executioner, is sentenced to die the death of a thousand cuts. Then the girl pulled out a sharp sword and told her mother, then you must die the death of a thousand swords.
The story, The voice From the Wall, by Amy Tan, is about a little ten year old girl Lena St. Clair and her family. The story starts out with Lena explaining an old family legend, about her great-grandfather and how he sentenced a beggar to die. Lena has a powerful imagination. This is shown at the beginning of the story, where she imagines how the beggar died. When Lena asks her mother about the death she said that he died because he was sick. Lena s mother is incapable of accepting the truths about life and always tells Lena lies. This is shown on page 307 I could sense unspoken terrors that surrounded our house, the ones that chased my mother until she hid in a secret corner of her mind. As the story continues we her more about Lena, and that her father is English / Irish and her mother is Chinese. Her mother cannot speak much English and her father always puts words in her mouth. So my father would put words in her mouth. (Pg. 309) Lena is a curious child who likes to ask questions. Her mother, thinking she was protecting her, avoided telling her the truth. I knew my mother made up anything to warm me, to help me avoid some unknown danger. (Pg. 309) One day Mr. St. Clair the father comes home and announces to the family that they are moving to San Francisco because he got a promotion. The family moves into a three-story house. This was an Italian neighborhood and one day when Mrs. St. Clair and Lena were going shopping a man called Mrs. St. Clair Lena s maid. Lena resembled her father and this comment made Mrs. St. Clair very upset. Because she did not speak of her problem this shows that the mother is introverted and she withheld her feelings and emotions. The father also avoided the situation by always saying that everything was okay when it really was not. One day Lena came home and found a crib in her room and found out that her mother was pregnant. One night Lena kept hearing voices and noises coming from the wall. Th e noises were as if someone was getting physically abused. Lena thought that it was the next door neighbor s. Lena s mother loses the baby and tells disgusting stories about how he died and mentions something about killing her other son. This suggests that the mother might have had another baby and kept it a secret. After losing the baby Mrs. St. Clair is even worse. She is always in deep thought or staring into outer space, or perhaps even a deep sleep. The father does not worry about it and suggests that she is just resting. Near the end of the story Lena is seeing things in her mind. She sees a girl in pain and her sick mother. The girl takes a sword and cuts up her mother. The mother does not bleed and says that she has experienced the worst thing ever. The daughter takes the worse thing ever. The daughter, takes her hand, says to come on the other side of the wall and she will be proven wrong.
The words of the story come from a first person narrator perspective of a ten year old, but they are very powerful. There is much violence in the story with the killing of the beggar at the beginning, the beating of the girl next door in Lena s mind, to the killing of the mother by the girl by the end. Words like, unspoken terrors, the dark side, which was worse our side or theirs tells about Lena s imagining and questioning the after life and the mysteries of life. The story uses such images, which make us picture the death scenes and sympathize with Lena on her perplexing and sorrowful life experiences as a child.
The story deals with real issues of life such as moving, abuse, losing a child, depression, and everyday life situations. The genre of the story is idealism, but with a bit of realism in there. The idealism shown in the emotions and actions of the family when the father avoids the mother s health situation, he right there is avoiding realism. He too falls apart but in a different way, when the father changes the mother s name and birth date he is being idealical. The father wants the family to keep an ideal family situation but that is impossible for the St. Clair family. The realism is shown in Lena s imagination. She can accept the harsh events and actions of life and is not afraid to think about such things.