Final Assesment Essay!
*Note: I blocked most of my quotes on this essay on Microsoft Word, but when I transfered it onto my blog, the quotes were no longer blocked. I then tried to tab them, but it won't allow me to. If you would like a copy with my quotes formated correctly, please comment on my blog. Just in case, I will just bring a copy of my essay on Monday.
Happy Birthday or Whatever by Annie Choi
Although families get on each other’s nerves, they are also the people who love each other the most. Sometimes an individual is audibly arguing with their parents over a bad test score. At other times that same person can be hugging their parents tightly for a good ten minutes. In Annie Choi’s memoir, Happy Birthday or Whatever, she describes her family and tells stories of their love/hate relationship. No matter how many times Annie’s mother yells at her, Annie continually loves her to the moon and back. Accordingly, through the usage of tone, word choice, and personification, Annie Choi passes on her message to continue loving our families even though they many drive us crazy.
To begin, Annie’s tone not only shows how irritated she can get by her family, but also how she still loves them anyway. A good example of where Annie gets irritated with her mother occurs when her mother forgets Annie’s birthday, so Annie plays up the guilt factor while conversing with her mother on the phone. Unfortunately, the guilt bounces back on Annie, and she apologizes for making her mother feel terrible. After the phone call, Annie realizes this is part of her mother’s plan. Here’s her reaction about her unnecessary apology:
How the hell did she do it? She wronged me, yet I was the one who’d apologized. She sensed my weakness and moved in for the kill. She is a crafty one, my mother. I simmered. I fumed. I mashed the buttons on my phone and dialed my father’s office. Someone should apologize to me, damnit. (6)
Annie is obviously infuriated with her mother’s “evil” tactic to put the guilt on Annie. A second incidence where Annie’s tone reflected her annoyance with her family occurs after her mother rudely wakes her up at four in the morning for a day trip about which Annie was oblivious.
“I tell you we go.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes I do. Remember yesterday I say, ‘Anne, tomorrow we wake up early go Soraksan.’”
I thought about it for a second. No, she most definitely didn’t tell me. I think she has a lot of conversations with me in her head, in a fantasy world where she talks and I listen and nod my head silently. I would never agree to wake up early to do anything except for sleep. (164)
There is a bitter quality to Annie’s thoughts, which show the reader that she is annoyed that her mother made plans without her consent, or knowledge for that matter. Despite these irritating moments, Annie continues to love her parents. A good example of this love is exhibited in Annie’s tone as she describes her perfect holiday.
I had wanted my family to be together for the holidays, even though they make me grind my teeth into little nubs. In the end, however, we are family and we should spend time together, even if it kills us. (213)
Anne’s desire for a cooperative family shows that she truly does want to be part of a loving family. Also, it acknowledges that even the most imperfect of families come together and make peace for a few special days. In brief, through her descriptive tone, Annie shows the reader that even she, with her flooding of irritated emotions, can bring out the emotion of love for her family.
Moreover, Annie Choi’s use of words accurately describes her emotions towards her family. In her younger years, Annie’s mother always had a great fashion sense. Unfortunately, when she started playing golf more frequently, she developed a country club, plaid style. Much to Annie’s dismay, she has to go out in public with her mother, who is wearing a matching, plaid visor-polo-bermuda short ensemble. Annie couldn’t be more embarrassed.
We ate at California Pizza Kitchen and my mother babbled loudly about golf- she had just volunteered to organize the next church tournament. I hunkered in the corner of our booth, hoping the power would go out. (61)
In choosing the word “hunker”, Annie allows the reader to effortlessly picture the situation. It is easy to see a girl slinking down in her seat, her eyes ashamed of what is in front of her. Another instance in the memoir where an excellent choice of words concerning Annie’s irritation with her family occurs when her Christian mother hangs up an immensely large photograph of the pope John Paul II right by the front door.
We stood in front of the photograph, dumbfounded and oddly absorbed. The picture had a peculiar magnetism to it, like a piece of eye-torturing art or pornography. (97)
Words such as “dumbfounded”, “peculiar”, and “eye-torturing” reflect the emotions of Annie conception of the photograph at that specific moment: fascinating, yet repulsive. From then on, she questioned whether or not to even invite her friends over because she was so embarrassed of the shiny, white robe and face of John Paul II. This aggravated her because she wanted to see her friends outside of school. Throughout that whole chapter, Annie uses such words as in the quote above to illustrate her displeasure towards her mother’s obsessive collection of Christian “collector’s items” - of which Pope John Paul II was first. Not only does Annie Choi use words to show her frustration towards her family, but also she uses it to show her adoration of them. At the New Year’s party one year, Annie’s family was on a team against other relatives in a game called yut, which resembles the American game, Sorry! After a few tosses, Annie’s team was is last place. Miraculously, Annie tosses the sticks, which land all three of their remaining markers on a special place that leads them to victory. They celebrate.
“Anne, you know song-‘We are champion!’-you know? We have to sing song.”
I laughed, imagining my mother rocking out with Freddie Mercury. (237)
The phrase “rocking out” puts a fun-loving nature into Annie’s thoughts. It shows she cares enough for her mother that she can playfully tease and laugh at her, even if it’s only in her head. Also, “rocking out” gives the reader a hilarious image of a sixty-year old Korean woman dancing and singing as if she has just won the jackpot of a huge lottery. To sum up, Annie’s word choice helps her in her quest to prove one can enjoy spending time with a family that drives them insane.
Likewise, the personification Annie used in her memoir aids her in the image, and therefore the message, she is trying to portray. Once upon a third grade mishap, Annie got a B+ on her spelling test; this is simply unacceptable to her mother. So, Annie fears the thought of having to face her mother. To make matters worse, her mother clearly does not help the situation.
“Ayoo, Anne, what I tell you over and over?”
I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to answer. I looked at her ruefully and sank down into my seat, hoping that the vinyl cushion on my kitchen chair would swallow me whole. Then I could live the rest of my days lounging in the soft cotton stuffing. (29)
By declaring she wishes to be swallowed by a cushion, something if possible not yet invented, the reader can tell how she becomes ashamed and discouraged by her mother’s words. She fears her mother’s anger so much that she would degrade herself by living inside something that many sit their bottoms on everyday. Clearly, she is full of emotions towards her mother and soon may develop some anger. Another instance where Annie’s hostility towards her family is expressed in personification occurred in the aforementioned situation regarding the photograph of John Paul II; although this happened right as Annie helped her mother open the package when it first came in.
Finally I just ripped the bandages off. I gasped. I stared. And the face of Pope John Paul II stared back at me.
“OH. MY. GOD.” (93)
Imagine opening a package expecting it to be a piece of Monet artwork, and then having to be confronted by an oversized, white-robed pope. The image of the pope staring back at her is a bit frightening. With the use of prior knowledge, it is assumed that Annie is annoyed as she becomes irritated with things that frighten her such as the B+. While personification helps illustrate her angered emotions, it also, as with tone and word choice, helps illustrate happy moments with family. For instance, as a freshman in college, Annie discovered that her mother had breast cancer. Though her mother succeeded in beating it, to this day, every time Annie thinks of it, her body reacts in horror. “My stomach tightens and my fists clench and my brain struggles to shut off” (127). Human brains do not actually have the capability to shut on and off, but during rough times in life it can feel that way. Annie’s reaction is perfectly normal for any daughter of a breast cancer survivor and thus proves her love and concern for her mother’s well being. In other words, Annie’s use of personification displays her emotion in a new figurative language that relates to her emotions of both love and aggravation.
On the whole, Annie Choi passes on her message to continue loving our families however much they may annoy us through the usage of tone, word choice, and personification. While all three literary techniques reflect upon her emotions, each one focuses on a specific goal. Her tone expresses her emotions through her emotive thoughts, while her word choice gives descriptive images of her showing her emotions, and her personification shows her feelings through fictionist actions. Along with her important message, Annie teaches us to express our emotions- and shows us countless ways to do so. So, always show love for family, no matter what because one day, you will no longer have the chance.