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1. The Voice from the Wall By: Amy Tan Presented by: Sheena Brown & Kamyla Franklin
2. Amy Tan’s “The Voice from the Wall” is the story of a young girl and her family. Lena St. Clair, who is half Chinese, half American, lives with her parents in Oakland. Her father eventually gets a promotion to sales supervisor of a clothing manufacturer. After her father’s promotion, Lena and her family move to and Italian neighborhood in North Beach, San Francisco. Lena soon learns that her “mother was not happy with the apartment” (Tan 311). One day when her and her mother are out grocery shopping, a Chinese man scares her mother and that is kind of like the turning point in the story. Her mother immediately begins rearranging things in the house when they return home because she feels that they are imbalanced. Lena soon learns that her mother feels like that because she is expecting a new baby. Her mother had to change around in Lena’s room because she had to put the crib in there. This was when Lena had her bed moved up against the wall and this was the start of her hearing the voices coming from the apartment next door. She imagined that it was a mother killing her child when they were actually just arguing every night. Lena soon meets Teresa, her next door neighbor, when she comes to their door after her mother has kicked her out. When the girl left and went back home, Lena wondered how she could go back being that her life was so terrible. In the end, Lena finally changed her way of viewing things. She had a new insight on things in life. Summary
3. Major Characters Lena St. Clair: The daughter and narrator of the story; half Chinese, half American; very curious and claims that she saw things that other kids didn’t; heard voices from the wall and imagined terrible things but found out the truth later on; very fearful of things
Betty St. Clair: Lena’s mother; declared a displaced person when released from the Angel Island Immigration Station; her name was changed by her husband in her immigration papers; very mysterious; “saw danger in everything” ( Tan 309); spoke Mandarin and very little English; eventually went crazy after the death of her child
The father: Lena’s dad; English/Irish man who is married to Betty St. Clair; sometimes puts words into his wife’s mouth because he doesn’t understand what she is saying; never worries about things; naďve to certain truths in his life
Teresa: Lena’s next door neighbor; very rebellious against her mother; loud; friendly towards Lena in the end
4. Critical Questions What is the significance of the title?
The title represents what happens in the story. Lena hears voices from the wall. The voices that she hears are coming from her next door neighbor’s apartment. She hears them arguing all the time and imagines that the mother is killing her daughter when in reality, they are only having a confrontation.
How is the story told? Who is the narrator? What perspective is used? What is the tone of the language? Is the narrator reliable?
The story is told from Lena’s perspective in first person point of view. Lena is the narrator of this story and her tone of language varies as the story goes on. In the beginning, her tone of language is mysterious and creepy. Eventually, that tone changes to her being worried and in the end, her tone is happy. In our opinion, we do think that the narrator is reliable because she tells the story from her point of view and how she sees everything.
5. Questions Continued… Look closely at the opening and ending. On what does the author and narrator focus?
In both the beginning and end of this story, the author and narrator focus on the deaths of people around them. In the beginning, it was the death of the beggar. In the end, it was the death of the baby and Lena imagining her next door neighbors killing each other.
How does the character transform in the story?
Lena goes from being this scary girl to someone who realizes the bigger things in life. She looks at the world from a different perspective after she goes through certain things.
What is the major theme of the story? Explicate. Are there any minor themes?
The major theme of this story opening your eyes to see the truth of reality. We did not find any minor themes in this story.
6. Questions Continued… Are there any allusions in the story that could add meaning to your interpretation?
One allusion that we found in the story was how her mother kept making references to her meeting a bad man and having a baby that she didn’t want. I think that this was a representation of her warning her daughter to be careful of the people she meets and hangs around because there are so many evil people in the world. Another allusion in this story was when Lena said that her father did not see the things she saw when her mother became pregnant. Her mother “began to bump into things, into table edges as if she forgot her stomach contained a baby, as if she were headed for trouble instead. She did not speak of the joys of having a new baby; she talked about a heaviness around her, about things being out of balance” (Tan 313). We interpreted this as a way of Lena’s mother showing that she had a baby that she didn’t want because she was doing things to endanger the health of the baby. Once the baby was born, it did not live because it had no brain. I guess that this meant that her mother had caused this by bumping into these table edges.
7. Questions Continued… What are the symbols or other figurative elements in the story?
The old woman on the street was a symbol of what would happen to Lena if she ever met a bad man and had a baby that she didn’t want. Her father’s promotion could be thought of as a symbol of them being able to begin a new life from the one they had in Oakland.
What seems to be the author's primary goal/purpose in writing this short story?
The primary goal/purpose in writing this story is to show how some people let the imaginations run wild. They allow themselves to believe things that are only figments of their imagination although they know that it is more than likely not even true.
What is your reaction to this story? How does your reaction influence your reading?
Our reaction to the story was that both of us were left feeling kind of confused in the end. We had a sense of what had happened in the story but we were left wondering why the author and narrator consistently seemed to want to focus on letting her imagination run wild. Certain points in the story made it hard to comprehend and overall, it was sort of confusing.