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When a family relocates to the United States of America, their hope is to live a happier life and more potential. However, one issue that is often ignored is the effect that their relocation will have on second generation immigrants' traditional ways of life, as well as how new generations will assimilate into American values and mannerism.
There is still the challenge for second generation immigrants to preserve the ethnic legacy that their parents were born into. Since the majority of them were born in America, they are more likely to be influenced by American ways and they are surrounded by Americans. The only place these second generation immigrants can gain more of their cultural heritage is in their homes and amongst those who do practice them. From Jhumpa Lahiri’s story, the narrator’s liking of Deborah makes her mother forbid her from Friday night school dances. The mother is afraid that the narrator may meet someone she likes who is American and one thing may lead to another like in Pranab Kaku’s case. “Don’t think you’ll get away with marrying an American, the way Pranab Kaku did,” she would say from time to time. (p. 75).The conflict in these children only increases because they are unable to find their identity with the two forces of culture pulling them to both ends.
Accordingly, the second generation immigrants have more difficulty in assimilating to the country of their birth or to where their parents are born. When they leave the comfort of their homes, they are expected to act and behave ‘American’ by those around them, yet their parents expect them to conform to their cultures. In this context, these children are damned if they do and damned if they do not remain in their cultural cocoons. They grow up conflicted within themselves because there are things they may like in both cultures yet integrating both American and their native culture brings shame to their families. “…her straight hair that she let me manipulate into all sorts of silly styles. I longed for her casual appearance; my mother insisted whenever there was a gathering that I wear one of my ankle” (p. 69). The second generation does not have the liberty to choose what they desire but to follow the cultural norms that were put in place ages before their parents migrated to America.
Ultimately, second generation immigrants are bound to learn more than one language to properly assimilate into America since they will have to speak English to communicate with others besides their family members. However, the language is considered a necessity since most have to speak in their native tongue while at home. This meant that anyone, including these children’s friends, were considered as enemies of the culture. “She was the enemy, he was her prey, and their example was invoked as a warning, and as vindication, those mixed marriages were a doomed enterprise. “(p. 75). This would limit their kind of friends they had since those of other culture were discouraged. “…their two identical little girls who barely looked Bengali and spoke only English and were being raised so differently from me and most of the other children. (p. 75). The second generation immigrants were looked upon differently if they tried to raise their children differently from the customs of their fathers.
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