Mora and Lim’s Success And Failures In Defining American Identity
People from different, cultures, countries, and ethnicities have long viewed America as the land of opportunity. Pat Mora and Shirley Geok-Lin Lim offer differing views of what it means to be an American and how they define being an American. Because of their differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds, Mora and Lim conflict in their definitions of American identity. In “Immigrants,” Mora explores American stereotypes of identity while simultaneously examining immigrant fears of assimilation and acceptance. In “Learning to Love America,” Lim analyzes what America represents and how she views herself within American culture and society. Through a comparison of tone, theme, and definition of identity, Lim’s poem and how she views herself is much more successful than Mora’s poem and formation of identity.
Tone plays a major role in establishing Mora and Lim’s perspective of America. Mora’s “Immigrants” is reflective of her cultural and ethnic background, and reflects many of the fears associated with becoming an American. In the poem, fear is the prominent tone and helps the reader to understand the author’s cultural background. In “Immigrants,” Mora’s fears are rooted in rejection and a failure to assimilate to a narrow definition of American, which includes extreme patriotism, hot dogs and apple pie, football, and speaking English in a “thick” accent (Mora ln 1-2, 4, 7). Mora emphasizes that parents’ fears extend beyond the physical well-being of their children and often lead them to wonder, “Will they like/our boy, our girl, our fine american/boy, our fine american girl?” (ln 13-15). These ominous tones of fear makes it appear as though the immigrants in the poem are not secure in their own identities and are trying too hard to fit in and be accepted by American society. On the contrary, Lim’s poem has a more hesitant tone that emphasizes her reluctance to embrace America as her country. Lim’s hesitance can be seen through her repetitive use of the word because, which makes it appear as though she is trying to convince herself that embracing America is the right thing to do. Lim concludes her poem by stating, “because it is late and too late to change my mind/because it is time,” which indicates that despite her inhibitions, she has come to accept her identity as an American (Lim ln 20-21).
Theme influences how identity is formed by Mora and Lim. Mora’s poem asserts that the acceptance of “America” means that an individual must sacrifice their personal cultural background. Mora insinuates that to be American is to named “Bill and Daisy/buy them blonde dolls that blink blue/eyes or a football and tiny cleats/before the baby can even walk” (Mora ln 3-6). Mora suggests that people have to assimilate to stereotypical American culture and social expectations in order be considered an American. On the other hand, Lim appears to be secure in her personal identity, Lim writes, “because to have a son is to have a country/because my son will bury me here/because countries are in our blood and we bleed them” (Lim ln 17-19). Lim contends that her son’s identity influences and establishes her identity because his home is her home. Unlike Mora, Lim asserts that one does not need to sacrifice their identity and assimilate to American culture to be considered an American, but that this determination of identity depends on a person’s experiences, ambitions, and where they set family roots.
Based on Mora and Lim’s use of tone, theme, and how they define American identities, Lim’s poem is most successful because she does not fear rejection by America, but rather struggles to accept it. Furthermore, Lim does not compromise her background nor does she contend that one must completely give up who they are and where they come from in order to become American. Lim understands that America is much more than conforming to the expectations of others and that the country is a melting pot of different cultures, beliefs, and aspirations.
Lim, Shirley Goek-Lin. “Learning to Love America.” from Exploring Literature. Ed. Frank
Madden. 5th Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: AB Longman, 2012. pp 958.
Mora, Pat. “Immigrants.” from Exploring Literature. Ed. Frank Madden. 5th Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: AB Longman, 2012. pp 959.