IB English A2 SL Year 2 September 21, 11 Tomohiro Urakami Comparative Commentary In the poem, “How a Girl Got Her Chinese Name” by Nellie Wong and vignettecalled “My Name” from a novel, The House of Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, theyillustrate similar setting that both main characters, Nellie and Esperanza are biculturalwho live in America, experiencing the cultural difference. However, the themesportrayed are different that Nellie Wong indicates the significance of the meaning of thename and having one more than one could cause confusion in identity and Cisnerosillustrates that having strong connection between person and name brings identity andconfidence. “How a Girl Got Her Chinese Name” is an autobiographical poem about a girl,Nellie who is ethnically Chinese and bicultural of American and Chinese. It seems thather parents migrated from China into America and Nellie is raised there for whole life.Nellie chronologically talks about her original name, Nellie and two names that shereceived during her childhood and how she received them, Nah Lei and Lay Oi. “Nellie” (l.3) is the American name that was given by her parents because shewas born in America. Her parents also make Nellie to go to Chinese school everySaturday in order to give her opportunity to learn Chinese culture and find her Chineseidentity. At her Chinese school, Nellie receives Chinese name, “Nah Lei” (l.7), whichmeans “Where or Which Place” (l.8) from her teacher because there is “No such namein Chinese for a name like Nellie” (l.6). She excitedly “ran home” (l.14) to tell her
IB English A2 SL Year 2 September 21, 11 Tomohiro Urakamiparents that she got a new name. However, her parents disapprove of this name due toits negative meaning, so they give Nellie a new Chinese name, “Lai Oy” (l.20), meaningbeautiful love. Since Nellie is still young and naive, she simply expresses happiness for havingnew names. When Nellie went back to her school, she “announ[ced] to [her] teacher andfriends that [her] name was no longer Nah Lei […] but Lai Oy,” (l.22-25), which showsher excitement and happiness to have new name that has positive meaning. However, asshe grows, she faces conflict that she finds it difficult to establish her identity betweendifference cultural identities: American and Chinese. At home and her American school,she is Nellie who lives in American culture. However, at her Chinese school, she is LayOi, who lives in Chinese culture. The constant change in the culture and her nameunable her to establish her identity and in this situation, she loses herself although she“never knew [she] would ever get lost,” (l.37). The theme depicted in the poem is that in Asian culture, people emphasize thesignificance of the meaning of the name and having positive meaning makes a personbetter. This is illustrated by Nellie’s parents’ attitude toward the negative connotation ofNah Lei, which was given by her Chinese teacher. Nellie “did not look [her] parents inthe eye,” (l.16) because her parents were upset with the meaning of Nah Lei, where orwhich place. Therefore, they immediately gave Nellie Chinese name with positivemeaning, Lay Oi, beautiful love, so that their daughter would not be fooled in the futurebecause of her name. Furthermore, the last two lines of the poem indicate another theme
IB English A2 SL Year 2 September 21, 11 Tomohiro Urakamithat having more than one name could cause in the confusion in identity. Being Nellie ather school and home, and Being Lai Oy at her Chinese school, the sustained change inher name and culture brought her confusion as she grew up and at the end it results indifficulty in establishing identity. Similar to Nellie, a female narrator of vignette, “My Name”, Esperanza isethnically Mexican who is also bicultural of American and Mexican. She seems to be amigrant from Mexico into America. However, unlike Nellie, Esperanza has only onename, which came from her great grandmother and thus, she is “always Esperanza”.Esperanza mainly starts this vignette by talking about the meaning of her name inEnglish and Spanish then talks about the connection between her great grandmotherwho was born in the Chinese year of the horse and had the same name as Esperanza. As Nellie, Esperanza expresses meaning of her name. In English, Esperanzameans, “hope”, but in Spanish it means too many letters, sadness and waiting. Her namecomes from her great grandmother who was an independent woman and “so wild” untilgreat grandmother’s husband married her. Esperanza illustrates how her greatgrandmother spent sad life after marrying, “[looking] out the window her whole life, theway so many women sit their sadness on an elbow.” In contrast to Nellie, after talkingabout her name, Esperanza declares that she wants to have a new name that representsherself and gives an example of the name she would like to have, “Zeze the X”.
IB English A2 SL Year 2 September 21, 11 Tomohiro Urakami In contrast to Nellie, Esperanza mostly portrays negative sentiment about hername throughout the vignette. Esperanza thinks her name is a “muddy color” because ithas many negative connotations in Spanish and it sounds “funny as if the syllables weremade out of tin and hurt the roof of your mouth” when pronounced in English althoughit sounds “softer something, like silver” in Spanish. Furthermore, Esperanza’s greatgrandmother’s life during her marriage is another reason Esperanza does not like hername that although she is proud to have her great grandmother’s name, she does notwant to follow the same path as her great grandmother did, the life without freedom orindependence. Thus, her confusion is brought by her failure to define herself in hername, which only expresses her family heritage, so she tries to solve this by findingherself a new name such as “Zeze the X”. This is different from the conflict that isintroduced by Nellie because the source of conflict is different that Nellie’s comes fromher two names and Esperanza’s comes from her only name, Esperanza. Unlike Nellie Wong’s poem, Cisneros expresses the theme that strongconnection between name and the person establishes identity and confidence. The desireof Esperanza to have a name she likes such as, “Zeze the X” shows that Esperanzathinks the name can authorize and fascinate people. This is shown in inconsistency ofher tone. She sounds matured most of the time during this vignette, but she soundsimmature when she talks about her desire to have “name more like [her]”, such as“Something like, Zeze the X will do”. Esperanza tells readers that having positivesentiment toward name leads to strong identity with confidence. If people dislike their
IB English A2 SL Year 2 September 21, 11 Tomohiro Urakaminame or feels that the name does not represent them, they feel confusion and thusbecome unable to find identity and confidence. In both pieces, “How a Girl Got Her Chinese Name” by Nellie Wong and in avignette, “My Name” in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, mainbicultural characters, Nellie and Esperanza both struggle with establishing their ownidentity because of two different cultures and mention the significance of the name.However, the themes illustrated as a result of the conflicts are different. Nellie expressesthat the meaning of name has significance in person in Asian culture and more than twonames could cause confusion. On the other hand, Esperanza explores the theme thatstrong connection between person and name and positive sentiment toward their namebrings identity and confidence.