Themes

Mother-daughter relationships

One of the main themes of the short story “Who’s Irish?” by Gish Jen is the theme of mother-daughter relationships. The theme is illustrated by the relationship between the narrator and Natalie, as well as by the relationship between Natalie and Sophie. 

When it comes to Natalie and the narrator, their relationship is tense. Natalie does not believe that physical discipline is the solution to educate Sophie, while the narrator thinks children need to be spanked. When she talks to her mother about the effects of physical discipline, it is hinted that Natalie resents the narrator: “In America, parents not supposed to spank the child. It gives them low self-esteem, my daughter say. And that leads to problems later, as I happen to know” (p. 9, ll. 9-11).

The narrator dismisses Natalie’s words and does not seem to understand that her traditional behavior has hurt her daughter. Natalie tries to bre...

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