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Analysis of Literary Devices in "Fish Cheeks" by Amy Tan

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Everyone should have pride in their origins and should not be embarrassed of their nationality. Many people today do not embrace their background because they believe they do not fit in. These people must realize that self-confidence is only present after you understand your own identity. Amy Tan’s essay ‘Fish Cheeks’ explains the difficulty of deciphering where the determinant lies between fitting in and forgetting who we are by using literary elements like diction, imagery, and simile. Amy Tan’s word choice, or diction exposes the discomfort she has during the night of the dinner.

Tan writes, “A slimy rock cod with bulging fish eyes that pleaded not to be thrown into a pan of hot oil” (Tan P3). Her use of the word ‘bulging’ gives us a visual of the eyes of the fish. Instead of giving a detailed description of the eyes, she uses a singular word that allows us to visualize that the fish’s eyes were poking out. Tan also writes, “What would he think of our noisy Chinese relatives who lacked proper American manners” (Tan P2). Tan labels American manners as “proper” but describes her relatives and their Chinese customs as “noisy”. Her use of diction allows the readers to understand what she was feeling during this dinner. Sachwani 2 Tan also uses the aid of imagery to provide the reader with a more accurate depiction of the scenery of that night. But, Tan was not describing how she saw the food, but how she feared Robert would. “A plate of squid, their backs crisscrossed with knife markings so they resembled bicycle tires” (Tan P3). The use of imagery that describes ‘bicycle tires’ marked into the squids back allows the reader to visualize what the squid looked like on the dinner table. Tan’s use of imagery exemplifies her transmission of anxiety, then relief and acceptance to her audience throughout the text. Lastly, Tan uses simile to compare two unlike things using the words “like”, or “as”. When she was first describing the minister’s son, she lets us know that they are not of the same background. Tan writes, “He was not Chinese, but as white as Mary in the manger” (Tan P1). Tan’s description of Robert compares him to Virgin Mary.

She also makes the connection between to how pure Mary is to the boy. Tan uses this rhetoric strategy to persuade her audience by drawing them in and having them make connections they can easily relate to. Amy draws her readers in by reminding them of their crushes and how they would view them at the time. Most people tend to view their crushes to be perfect with no flaws, which in this case, to be pure. Amy Tan’s use of simile allows her to compare two completely different things very closely. Despite all of the hardships people go through, we must all understand that you cannot forget your origin and where you come from. At first, Amy feels shame over the differences between her family and Robert’s family. However, after her mother’s lesson, she discovered that rather than allowing others’ responses to lead her to shame, she should be proud of her different heritage and culture.

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Analysis of Literary Devices in “Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan. (2022, February 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
“Analysis of Literary Devices in “Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan.” GradesFixer, 03 Feb. 2022,
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