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Tongue Tied by Maxine Hong Kingston

Kingston mother cut her tongue frenum when the girl was an infant. Her mother claims to have cut her daughter’s tongue so that she keeps the girl from being “tongue-tied.” She also wanted to help her gain the ability to speak two languages. However, Kingston finds her mother’s action more disturbing and ineffectual.

She designates a hurting childhood learning English at apathetic school system in which both the difficulties in her cultural conflicts and language learning difficulties are treated with scorn. She recalls an event of a totally dumb girl whom met one day in the girl’s bathrooms and tortured her in attempt of making her talk. It is after this event when Kingston got a mysterious illness that sends her to bed for 18 months.

Maxine Hong Kingston "Tongue Tied" Analysis 

Kingston keeps a list of confessions (more than two hundred) and complaint for telling her mother. Kingston tells her mother that she fears she might be sold into slavery according to her mother’s stories of china. Kingston refuses being treated like a second-class citizen and to her she claims to be smart in accordance to American teachers and leaves home. The lady final dessert home in order to escape cultural heritage but she later returns home after years of exile.

This story is about a Chinese child and her mother who act unique to making her daughter different from the rest of the community members. The mother cuts the tongue of the child arguing that this is a move that is essential in enhancing the child’s interpersonal and communication skills.

The child is very inquisitive to know why her mother had to do this. Her mother responds by saying that this would enable her to be an eloquent speaker with the ability to speak multi-languages other than the Chinese language alone. The girl compares her tongue with the rest of the Chinese children and realizes that it is only her tongue that has been cut. When she asked other children, they were very surprised and responded by saying “what?” To her surprise, even her siblings’ tongues were not cut by her mother.

The mother on her part is very adamant to explain to the child her reason for doing this. Initially, the girl thought that this was in accordance with the Chinese culture and tradition only to realize that it was not part of any culture of tradition in the Chinese culture. Although the mother asserts that her main reason for doing this was to make the girl multi-language speaker that would place her above the rest of the children in the entire community, things turn out to be totally different from the expectation of the mother.

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The first challenge comes when the girl goes to school for his kindergarten studies. She discovers that her mother had interfered with her power of speech. When girl was expected to speak English for her first time while in school, the she is instead tongue-tied and she goes dumb.

The girl gets frozen at the check-counter as she is not even able to express herself neither is her able to say ‘hello’. What a shame? The girl goes ahead to even remind the mother of a Chinese say that reads “But isn’t ‘a ready tongue an evil’?” the mother on her defense says that her move was to make her daughter a better and composed speaker of all languages.

When asked whether the girl bled when her tongue was cut, her mother gets sarcastic and instead she says that she is now sure of what happened. During her first day in school, the girl is dumb and fails to communicate without grammatical errors, neither is she able to speak up. This is evidence evidenced when the driver reminds her to speak up and elaborate her sentiments because they do not make up a communication.

The mothers’ plan turned to be a disaster when her daughter’s power of speech and communication skills was more ineffective that she thought.

The girl becomes speechless with little ability to communicate even over the telephone. The voice gets broken and very course making the girl to feel inferior while interacting with her colleagues, who end up mocking her by alluding that her voice is too wince to hear. This makes the girl feel disguised and frustrated by the action of her innocent mother who thought that she meant well for her.

The girl opts for alternatives of making her voice a little bit better by asking for special-issue stamp from the postman, which she admits waiting since her childhood with no positive response from the man she entrusted as her last hope. This shows the level of desperation of the little innocent girl who feels being the odd one out among her peers and thus lowering her self-esteem and personal ability to express herself in a conversation.

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However, the girl admits making positive progress as the day opens. This shows she is very optimistic of recovering from this crippling communication condition to advance to the level where her verbal sentiment and communication can be more audible and sensible.

Having realized her inability to communicate verbally with perfection, the girl opted for pictorial form of communication. She used black painting and cracking on curtains as a perfect alternative to expressing herself. Her class teachers for the three year period were quick to help the girl in developing this new form of art that also served as mode of communication. The teacher then took a further step to invite her parents to school in order to share the unique talent in the child together. The communication barrier as also observed between the parents and the teacher, because her parents could not express themselves in English.

The child is positive of her new encounter in the United States. She says that she was not alone as other Chinese students were also victims of the same. While at school, the girl made kept silent and enjoyed being silent because this gave her the much needed peace of the mind. Not even in the playing ground or during the lunch breaks did she sound a word.

Instead, she was the laughing stock when she drunk from saucers not knowing that in American, people does not drink from saucers. When back in the house, the girl paid up for the school silence by noisy to the top of her voice. She suffered molest in the hands of Japanese kids who hit her and mocked her.

However, she fell in deep love with Negro kids who kept her company and protected her for being molested by the noisy rowdy Japanese. The two Negros always ensured that the girl reached home safe and picked her the following morning to the kindergarten. Even after learning some verbal communication, she finds it hard to effectively communicate and interact with his classmates. She realized that American English is easy to read than to speak.

"Tongue Tied" by Kingston Summary

While reading during the normal lesson, the girl with a Chinese origin found it hard to pronounce some words owing to the differences in communication and pronunciation between her native land and the foreign residential place. In summary, this article is a description of language dialect between the Americans and non-natives who often find it challenging to match their communication skills with that of the Americans.

This is what befell the little Chinese girl who was unable to communicate effectively in class, hence opting for self-incrimination.

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