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When I Was Growing Up Poem Analysis

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In the poem, "When I Was Growing Up”, Nellie Wong relates the struggles of a Chinese girl growing up, searching to find her voice in a predominantly white cultural majority. The speaker begins the poem with, “I know now that once I longed to be white,” (1). This speaker longs for the privileges she attributes to being a member of the cultural majority. Ashamed of her darker Asian skin and Chinese culture, the speaker laments, “…I could not change, I could not shed / my skin…” (49, 50). The poem details the feelings of the speaker as she was growing up in America, while simultaneously being immersed in Chinese culture. She wanted to be part of the American white culture as it was depicted and glamorized by the media and movies. "When I Was Growing Up", utilizes literary devices such as diction, imagery, and symbolism to create friction and express the theme of shame and regret that the speaker feels about her longings to be white. Diction plays a primary role in the poem and helps the author to set a dark tone, which conveys the message of regret and shame. Words such as “dark”, “frail” and “ghetto” have negative connotations (5, 39, 59). These word choices provide emotional insight into how the speaker felt growing up Chinese in white American culture. When the poem speaks of Chinese people…show more content…
However, she changes the second line to, “How many more ways? You ask,” (60) and ends the poem with “Haven’t I told you enough?” (61). The speaker longs for the privileges carried with being a member of the cultural majority of her time. The theme of shame and regret that the speaker feels about her longings to be white is given strength by employing the literary devices such as diction, imagery, and symbolism. As the poem develops, she explores her feelings and expresses her shame of longing to be white, yet still, she cannot shed her “yellow” skin (38). She is and always will be Asian by
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