Stefanie Fernandez, Long Paper Outline

Thesis: In Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife and Julia Alvarez’s How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, language and male/female communication regarding sexuality plays a crucial role in the evolution of self-perception for Winnie and Yolanda regarding their own femininity, relationships, and role as other in the United States. As the men in their lives serve as arbiters of a certain “otherness”–by class and gender in China & the Dominican Republic, and race in the US–Winnie and Yolanda are characterized in retrospect by the isolation they feel in the present.

1. Language & communication

  • Moments of sexuality
    • Yolanda à John
    • “What language did she love in” / John’s names for her
    • Winnie’s loss of virginity and Wen Fu’s desire that she say dirty words in the bedroom at the air base
  • Yolanda’s hospitalization as an adult
    • Euphoric yet traumatic response to language: “so many words about the world”

2. Presentation of the male as agent of othering

  • Wen Fu –> the root of Winnie’s curse / bad luck
    • In contrast with the elegant, independent image of her mother; the mother’s absence is a deeper root of that curse
  • Men in the guava groves that Yolanda fears will assault her
    • Language is absent as she pretends to not speak Spanish

3. Isolation in the present

  • Winnie’s anticipatory rhetorical questions to Pearl
    • “Now do you see why your mother is this way?”
    • “Don’t think your mother is so stupid.”
  • Yolanda’s visit to the guava groves
    • Simultaneously a citizen and a foreigner

This outline currently contains a couple big ideas–I’d love your thoughts on how to pare it down around these central themes of language, sexuality, and isolation. Thank you!



Stefanie —

An excellent topic.  These different threads can all be brought together under the title: “Divided by Language.”  The barriers between English and Spanish, and English and Chinese come into play right away, accounting for the frustrating exchanges between Yolanda and John, and Carla and the police.  But even characters who speak the same language can be divided by more complex variations within that language — Pearl and Winnie come to mind: the former’s non-native relation to Chinese and the latter’s non-native relation to English serve as a shorthand for the imperfect communication between the two.  I look forward to a rich, spirited exploration of this fascinating subject.


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