The American Society in Short Stories

The American Society in Short Stories

Different short stories create the American society in different perspectives to allow the readers to connect to the customs and the American lifestyle as depicted in the short stories. Examples of authors who have a significant contribution to an understanding of  American Society include Jamaica Kincaid, the author of Girl, Gish Jen who wrote In the American Society and Edwidge Danticat, the author of New Yorker Day Women. All these short stories create an understanding of American society as unique and somehow have similar characteristics as well as generating a central social and cultural idea about America.

The society of America has been developing from traditional to nontraditional society and readers can understand the kind of American society through the characters in the short stories, the conversations taking place, the overall plot, the setting as well as the themes presented in the short stories (Kirszner & Mandell, 2017). Through these short stories, the readers can also determine whether American society is a nation of the individual countries or if it is a nation of the nation. The readers have the opportunity to connect their life experiences with the information they get from the short stories thus determine if they are an accurate representation of the American society.

The short story Girl, by Jamaica Kincaid, highlights the relationship between a mother and a daughter and the mother advised her daughter in youth on how to behave as a woman (Kincaid, 1978). The mother tries to impose the behavior she considers to be appropriate in her daughter’s life as she expects to shape her behavior. However, the advice restricts the daughter’s freedom, and she does not have the opportunity to express her feelings and emotion on what she considers to be valuable in her life (Kincaid, 1978). In traditional American society, it was essential for mothers to bond and form good relationships with their daughters. They acted as their guardians in life since they had more experience than the daughter; thus their advice was considered valuable. They prepared the c daughters to accept their future role as women and mothers to their children thus avoid repeating the same mistakes made by their parents. The mother gives positive and negative advice to her daughter; thus an indication that children need to understand both benefits and consequences of living a particular lifestyle.

The mother advised her daughter on what she should do while in the house like cooking and other household chores (Kincaid, 1978). She also expects her to have specific behavior when outside the home thus indicating that children should not only maintain good morals when they are with their parents but also when interacting with other people. She also gives her advice on the need to soak fish in salt to reduce the food’s salt content. She also expects her to walk like a lady and not to eat any fruit while on the streets. This advice seems to be challenging to follow since they are out of the daughter’s control.

The mother also gives destructive advice to her daughter by teaching her how to prepare medicine for abortion in case she gets pregnant (Kincaid, 1978). In American society, this advice is dangerous to the health of the daughter especially and also shows how some parents would maintain their reputation at the expense of the life of their children. Kincaid thus uses the theme of female sexuality and its dangers to highlight how the parents in American society value their family reputation. Through the character of the mother, readers can, therefore, depict a culture of lack of consciousness and concern for individual gains.

The short story New Yorker Day Women Edwidge Danticat highlights the life experience of Danticat while living in Brooklyn New York. She joined her parents in America when she turned twelve years thus find it challenging to live in her new home (Danticat, 2004). She had experienced cultural conflict with herself being that her family is from Haiti and she had a different upbringing from that of her parents. Through her character, one can understand how culture plays a significant role in the social development of children in American society. In as much as her mother lives in America, she still holds on to the culture of Haiti and would want to pass it down to her daughter. For instance when they were crossing the road, and her mother mentions that if the owner of the car hit a person, they have to compensate the injured person thus goes ahead to cross the road anyhow (Danticat, 2004). Danticat believes that everyone must respect the law and try to live in harmony with everyone.

The cultural difference between the daughter and her mother presents the challenges that the American society experience today. With the rise of interracial marriages, each parent may want to raise their children according to their cultural norms thus conflicting interests within family members. However, parents try as much as possible to bring up their children with a uniform approach of allowing them to become aware of the existing cultures and appreciate them thus embracing the diversity of not only their parents but also the people they interact with either in school or other social settings (Danticat, 2004). Danticat also feels ashamed of her mother buying the clothes from the street vendors she prefers to buy branded clothes. She is a successful businesswoman living in New York while her mother still believes that it is necessary to save clothes for the needy in Haiti (Danticat, 2004). She educates her on the need to share the resource with the less fortunate in the society; thus the representation of the families that would not want their children to adapt to the American culture of individualistic.

The short story In the American Society Gish Jen focuses on how individuals try to become successful in the society that is full of challenges of social issues such as racism (Jen, 1986). The immigrant family of Ralph and his wife strive to live in American society and believe that once they are successful, the community will learn to accept them. They think they are successful and the society should take them since it is somehow the culture of the American society to accept people depending on their success and contribution to the society as opposed to accepting them for their unique characters. This short story takes place in a restaurant setting where Ralph has to work with his employees from different cultural backgrounds for the success of his business (Jen, 1986). In American society, immigrants might face challenges before they interact with the community and adapt to their ways of life. However, they learn to appreciate. The society seems not to accept Changs fully because of their skin color thus have limited access to specific clubs despite living in America (Jen, 1986). Incidences of racism from historical moments have characterized American society.

The immigrants have to endure the challenges of having access to limited resource despite having the capability to be part of society. American society does not only segregate individuals based on their success level but also their race (Kirszner & Mandell, 2017). Some consider other races to be superior to others thus leading to increased inequality. However, the American society has begun to appreciate the diversity of individuals, therefore, are aware of the existing cultural differences, and they have to learn to acknowledge and accept the individuals from other culture since they all contribute to the success of the nation in general.



Danticat, E. (2004). Krik? Krak!. Soho Press.

Jen, G. (1986). In the American Society. The Southern Review22(3), 606.

Kincaid, J. (1978). Girl. The New Yorker.

Kirszner, L. G., & Mandell, S. R. (2017). Compact Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing, 2016 MLA Update. Nelson Education.