Comparing Tough Times Authors have done many essays on learning and teaching. In two particular essays, the authors focus more on reading and learning to speak good, which is also associated with reading. The narrators in Frederick Douglas's essay "Learning to Read and Write" and Maxine Hong Kingston's "Learning to Speak Like and American Girl" not only tell the reader about their conflict of relationship between society's dominant culture and their own sense of identity, but educate the reader and explain the choices the characters make which determine the direction of their lives. In "Learning to Read and Write" the speaker tells about his life as a young slave boy.
He is .".. twelve years old, and [is thought of by others as] being a slave for life... ." (1003) His desire and yearning to read and write is not allowed as a slave. He meets a few young white boys who are willing to teach him how to read and write if he will bring them bread.
"As many of these I could, I converted into teachers." (1003) Kingston's essay "Learning to Speak Like and American Girl" is similar to "Learning to Read and Write" because of the time period and the controversy. During this time, which is set during World War II, Chinese girls were just begining to be sent to American schools and taught how to speak and read English. The students in the class and the teacher would give these students a hard time because they were not loud or fluent enough. "When I went to kindergarten and had to speak English for the first time, I became silent." (1007) these two stories are similar in society because they are both challenged with the dominant culture. The authors express their own sense of identity by telling the readers their ethnic background and their significance in the story. The speaker in the "Learning to Read and Write" shows his identity as a young slave wanting to read and write.
The speaker in "Learning to Speak Like and American Girl" is a young Chinese girl learning to speak and read English fluently. Both authors have similar conflicts yet they represent a different era in history. In these essays, the authors are telling a story about the characters life. The stories are directed towards the audience to express the kind of pain and suffering the characters went through to learn and apply what they had been yearning for. The authors are trying to educate the audience about the time period and what the people at this time in history went through to become part of society. "Every little while, I could hear something about the abolitionists.
It was some time before I had found what the word meant." (1004) in this excerpt from "Learning to Read and Write" we understand that this time period was during the Civil War which was mainly over slavery. In "Learning to Read and Write" slaves were not allowed to know how to read and write. As stated above the young slave bargained with the young white boys and was taught secretively what he has wanted to know. During World War II, many immigrants in the United States were looked as terrorists even though most were here to learn a new and better way of life. In "Learning to Speak Like and American Girl" the young Chinese girl was not very clear and loud with her English.
She would have to speak in front of the class but the teacher would make her talk louder and repeat what she had read until she got it right. Most of the students would laugh at her and call her names but she continued to try and learn English the way everyone spoke it. These essays educate readers not only in time period, but in experience with what they went through. In each of these essays, the characters personal choices greatly determine the direction of their lives. In the beginning of "Learning to Read and Write" the setting takes place in the elder part of the young slave's life. The elderly man, who is also the young slave in the story, is reading a newspaper in front of his wife who can not read.
Through out the essay he tells the readers how he learned to read and write and how he became who he is today. He also states that he wishes that he could thank the boys who helped him by naming in this essay, but that would get them in trouble because in this time period when essay was written blacks and whites still were not treated equally. In " Learning to Speak Like and American Girl" the author tells the story of a young who does not speak English clearly. The character goes through the turmoil but the story does not go on to tell the reader if she developed the fluency. Readers are not quite sure if not learning to speak clearly affected her choices in life, but if the reader was to continue the story it could end in many ways. Many ethnic groups come in and out of this country every day and it is a constant struggle for them to learn the English language and speak as fluently as most Americans.
In conclusion both "Learning to Read and Write" by Frederick Douglas and "Learning to Speak Like and American Girl" by Maxine Hong Kingston show struggles in society and life and how it effected them. Each author showed the different struggles that students and children at their age in these times had to go through. They are both similar because they show time period and controversy that each character went through. Another way the essays are similar is that the characters are faced with the dominant cultures in society and how tough life is in that time. They are different because of the time period and the different issues they are facing. Each author is trying to educate the reader on how tough life is in these times and that each character makes important decisions and takes many risks which ultimately lead to what their life is becoming..