The Opposite of Fate: a book of musings
The author reflects on her family's Chinese American legacy, her experiences as a writer, her survival of natural disasters, and her struggle to manage three family members afflicted with brain disease.
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A NOTE TO THE READER
This text is a non-fiction piece. The "characters" in the text are all real people in Tan's life. This text is a collection of various pieces that will all help to support a central claim.
The central claim of the text is focused around the ideas of fate, faith, and "the opposite of fate." What is a term that defines the "opposite of fate"?
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
Which term would you use to describe Tan's writing style?
Throughout the text, Tan contends that critics and other readers of her novels attribute more meaning to elements of her works than she intended. One of the primary purposes of this text is to give her readers a glimpse into the life inspired her texts.
When referring to the story of her parents' reunion in America, Tan refers to it as "family lore." What does the term imply?
As you evaluate the text and the claims Tan makes about fate, faith, and "the opposite of fate" (choice may be a good term), evaluate the argument Tan makes using the Toulmin Model of Argument. Click on the video below to review the elements of the Toulmin Model. (This annotation contains a video)
Tan relies on testimony to develop most of her argument. Testimony is a first hand account or recollection of information. Testimony can be very unreliable because it may be influenced by bias, poor memory, or other external influences.
Based on Tan's account of her childhood and her relationship with her mother, it can be inferred that an element that is influential in Tan's life is the
Tan argues that faith and fate are different ideas but they "have similar effects on the believer." She claims that both ideas influence the believer's choices. As you read, highlight or annotate the passages she includes to support this claim.
Read the highlighted excerpt. What does Tan imply about her memories?
After losing her brother and father, Tan's life becomes a mixture of fate and choice. Her mother's choices were determined by the faith in her supernatural guides and what she believed were messages that she received.
Tan believes that her childhood full of "melodrama" is "excellent fodder for fiction." Which claim can be made from this conclusion?
Though her mother is gone, her mother's spirit lives in on in Amy and her beliefs. This is evidenced by the statement, "I still know certain things. They are in my bones." Below Amy Tan reads a letter from Chinese relatives with her mother. (This annotation contains an image)
Though this story is short, which claim does it support?
This story is titled "A Question of Fate." Before reading the account, try to have a clear definition of what fate means to you. Does it mean that something was destined to happen? Some people believe that events are fated so that others may occur.
As a result of his accident, which term best describes how Pete feels about his wife's death?
What is your reaction to the highlighted passage? Do you think that Pete's dream was prophetic?
Tan claims that while in a drunken state, she "blurted out" the names of the men who killed her friend Pete. This serves as __________ for the claim that there is a force that exists beyond the physical plane.
Tan recollects about how Pete visited her in her dreams. Aside from supernatural forces at work, what may be another more logical explanation for Tan's dreams? Click on the link below to view a video about dreams and why we may dream. (This annotation contains a video)
If you wanted to argue with Tan, what may you classify her accident and the subsequent estimate for damages as?
According to the highlighted passage, Tan does not care if the dreams and other events were part of a greater design or were coincidences, they all shaped her life in some way. This is is an example of which element of argument?
Tan uses the duality of the word "Faith" to not only describe her beloved editor, but she also alludes to the idea of faith as in the belief in something you do not have empirical evidence of.
Tan explains that Faith was wrong about her as a writer because Faith "believed for some reason that writing came easily to me." Ironically, what does Faith demonstrate in Tan?
What is unusual about the highlighted description of Tan's mother?
Tan describes her mother's names as "vestiges of her many selves." Does your name have a significant meaning? Do you think your name reveals anything about your character, your heritage, or your journey?
This section of the text is titled "Changing the Past." Tan's first story deals with the signs of her mother's Alzheimer's disease. As she recollects moments of her mother's forgetfulness or grudges that she held, she is not sure if it was her mother's personality or if it was early signs of the illness. What is Tan trying to illustrate by explaining her doubt?
The text is a reflective piece about Tan's life. She reveals elements of her family dynamic and life that explain who she is and how her writing is influenced by her life. Tan states many times that her mother often threatened suicide and how Tan became immune to the threat. Had Tan known better she would have realized that threats of suicide is usually an indicator of depression or a desire to take one's life. These should not be ignored.
Which term best describes Tan's mother's memory?
Tan highlights the sadness and loss of her mother due to Alzheimer's by juxtaposing her once excellent memory to the imagined memories her mother experiences when she becomes ill. How does this contrast help to illustrate the idea of "changing the past"?
How does the past play a role in Tan's mother's illness? Why do you think she includes the account of her illness in the section titled "Changing the past"?
Though her mother's illness does not change the past, it does change the way she remembers the past. She is able to remember the happier times and not dwell on the somber and sad times. This illustrates the claim that the past can be changed by one's perspective.
Rather than argue with her mother, what tactic does Tan use in order to convince her mother of their current reality?
Tan's mother's visions in the week prior to her death may be interpreted as hallucinations or results of the disease or they may be interpreted as grounds for the claim that there is a supernatural element that exists beyond the physical world.
The women in the photo are described as suffering "terrible fates" despite their circumstances. The evidence that Tan presents supports which of the following claims?
According to Tan's mother, the past can be changed by making others aware of it. Which adage exemplifies this belief?
Tan explains how three of her childhood fantasies were fulfilled in her adult lifetime. Is this anecdote grounds to support the claim that the past can be changed? Use textual evidence to support your response.
When Tan explains about how she writes about an "emotional truth." In writing this is also known as an emotional appeal or pathos. Click on the link below to learn more about the three different appeals: ethos, pathos, and logos. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Tan imply about her style of writing when she states, "I use a child's memory" as opposed to "childhood memories"?
Tan uses the literal and figurative meanings behind the title "Changing the Past" in order to explore the errors that she often finds in her biographical information on the internet.
Which term best describes the tone in which Tan addresses the most common error she reads in her biographical information?
Scent is a very powerful sense and can trigger many memories. Tan uses the scent of gardenias to illustrate how the view of the past changes depending on your present circumstance.
Tan often writes about how she needed to reconcile her Chinese heritage and her American heritage. This section of the text explores Tan's perspective of her heritage and how others view or treat her dual heritage.
What does Tan imply when she reveals that the dinner her mother made for Christmas Eve that she was so ashamed and embarrassed by was actually chosen because it was all of her favorite foods?
Once Tan and her mother moved to chalet in Switzerland, her mother gave her and her brother a mandate: they must "take advantage of every opportunity presented" that included skiing. This is an example of which literary device?
As Tan reflects on her first skiing experience, she realizes that her mother's advice is more sound that she initially thought. Tan will contrast her mother's "Chinese ways" to Tan's own "American ways" throughout this section of the text. What do you think she is trying to illustrate about fate or choice through these anecdotes?
What does Tan imply about her childhood in her opening statement?
Tan joined a rock and roll group called the "Rock Bottom Remainders." Below is a video clip of Tan performing. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Tan illustrate by including her anecdote about running for class secretary when she was fourteen?
Tan's recollection of her childhood reveals that her parents were like many other parents of teenagers: they had rules and expected them to be followed. Tan's future endeavors as a lead singer in a band illustrate that Tan's lack of a social life was more about Tan's self-image than it was about how others perceived her.
What is ironic about Tan's treatment of a fan prior to her performance with the Rock Bottom Remainders?
Tan's last statement is the most telling: she finally learned how to have fun. She is implying that fun is something that cannot be restricted if you know how to have fun. Do you think this is grounds for the claim that choice and not fate determine one's destiny?
Why does Tan mention, "We have agreed ahead of time not to talk about politics"?
Tan's visit to China highlights the differences in culture between modern communist China and the modern democratic United States. Tan's visit also highlights the vast differences between Tan's mother's Chinese culture and the communist Chinese culture. It is important to note the differences. Click on the link below to read an article titled "Five Myths About the Chinese Communist Party." (This annotation contains a link)
When Tan states, "It's all Chinese or nothing," what is she implying?
There is a distinction between Chinese culture and American culture in many ways, but the relationships between mother and daughter transcend cultures.
Based on the highlighted passage, what warrant can you infer from the claim "Poor service, bad treatment, no respect - that's the penalty for not speaking English well in America"?
By including the anecdote about the free-market salesmen who will not bargain with Tan's group and that there are a "roomful of people staring at [Tan] from [her] red lipstick to [her] cowboy style boots," Tan illustrates that Chinese are as suspect, or not immediately trusting, of foreign people. Based on these grounds, you can infer a warrant that native Chinese and native Americans are similar in this way.
Compare and contrast Chinese and American cultures from Tan's account. How do you think this supports her overall claims about fate and choice? Use textual evidence to support your answer.
This scene between Tan, her sister, and her mother illustrate how anyone may seem naive about the standards and practices of a foreign culture.
According to Tan, the crab anecdote was a metaphor for
Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club was made into a popular movie released in 1993. (This annotation contains an image)
According to Tan, what was her most important concern about making The Joy Luck Club into a film?
In order to maintain creative control, Tan walked away from her first film deal. This demonstrates how important it was for Tan to be sure that the film depicted her characters accurately.
Based on Tan's account, she is aware of her strengths and weakness, and she does not have a problem with stepping back in order to learn. Some may interpret this has humble, while others may see this as extremely smart. She was learning before she jumped into screenwriting.
By including a section titled "The Asian Question," Tan addresses the issue that audiences may not be receptive to
Tan is concerned that her film will only be compared to other "Asian films" rather than films that deal with female relationships. Do you feel like this is a valid concern? Do you think sometimes people are categorized and have difficulty transcending the category?
The details the set designer includes illustrate
The villages in which the crew filmed are isolated and insular. This further develops the claim that there is a difference between Chinese people within the country.
Tan admits she loves her film, but she also notes that she has "a whole mess of Chinese lucky charms" with her so that audiences will like the film. What is luck? Does it relate to the idea of fate?
Tan's mother's statement that she was unaffected by the war is an example of
As you read, there is a central claim about the existence of fate versus the power of free will. However, both claims are secondary to the central claim about hope. As she writes, it is evident that Tan believes that hope is the foundation for life. Hope is what drives a person to persevere and survive. As you read, identify grounds that support this claim.
In a text about hope, why do you think Tan includes the anecdote about her mother attempting to kill her? Use textual evidence to support your answer.
Based on Tan's inclusion of her mother's belief that beauty was a measure of bad luck, do you think she believes in fate?
What does Tan illustrate by including anecdotes about the worst times with her mother?
Tan states that her fascination with the author Nabokov is the result of "luck or fate led by my mother." What does that statement imply?
Tan reveals more about herself through her explanations of why her favorite text is Lolita and her favorite author is Nabokov than the choices themselves.
This statement is a prime example of how you literally can change the past.
Tan admits she owns good luck charms. Which warrant can be derived from this evidence?
It is difficult to determine if Tan actually believes in a higher authority and the idea of fate because of her witty and sometime sarcastic tone.
Tan’s belief that her house is haunted is grounds for which claim?
The final questions Tan asks are rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are asked, but not meant to be answered. Instead, they serve to reinforce a claim made by the arguer.
Based on the highlighted passage, what is Tan implying about the men who rented the cabin?
Tan explains that squirrels who inhabited her cabin were the cause of "erroneous reports of poltergeist activity." This evidence may be used as grounds to disprove which claim?
The initial paragraph of this anecdote is from the present. The remainder of the anecdote is based on past events that Tan is reflecting upon.
If you were critical of the idea of fate and the supernatural, what would you conclude that Tan's story about the near-miss mudslide and her rescue over a rapid river illustrates?
Though Tan contends that she does not try to actively convince her readers to believe one way or the other in regards to fate or the supernatural, it is evident that she believes in forces beyond her control by her responses about who is her muse or inspiration for writing. Below is an image from the television show "Charmed" that depicts how muses interact and inspire people. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the highlighted passage, which is a term is an appropriate synonym for foreboding?
Tan has the ability to intertwine stories and details that do not seem to have any commonalities, but there is a common thread between these people in her life. This style of writing helps to illustrate the claim that fate exists.
Someone who may be critical of the claim that fate exists may deem the fact that Eric died on March 22 and Tan wrote her acknowledgements page on March 22 a(n)
The passage about Tan stumbling upon the rock structures on the beach exemplifies how fate exists. Although Tan wasn't looking, it was as if the universe drew her to the answer: "with everything there's a point of balance."
What does Tan imply when she states, "I thought about luck, fate, and destiny... I didn't know what to believe and thus I didn't know what to hope"?
Can you believe that this essay was written by an eight year old?
This section of text is titled "A Choice of Words." Prior to reading rest of the essays in the section, what may the dual meanings of the title may be?
Tan illustrates an important point about reconciling Chinese and American cultures, reconciling her view of her mother from a child's perspective versus an adult's perspective, and overall the differences between perception and reality.
According to Tan, she never did well on grammar tests because of the way the questions were worded and what she was taught because "according to [her] mother, there were very few limitations as to what Tom could have been and what Mary might have thought of him." How do Tan's views about standardized testing and questions about Asian-Americans support the claim that choice and not destiny determines your fate?
As you read, remember that Tan classifies this as "social contexts failing in translation." This means that there are misunderstandings that occur between people of different cultures because they do not understand the motivations behind actions or behaviors.
In order to answer the following question, you need to know how to summarize. Click on the link below for guidelines on how to properly summarize. (This annotation contains a link)
Read the highlighted passage. Summarize the passage in two or three sentences. How does this passage relate to the anecdote where Tan explains that her mother's pronunciation of "fate" sounded like "faith"? Do you think that something was lost in translation about the ideas? Use textual evidence to support your response.
Do you agree with Tan's assessment of Asian-American stereotypes? Do you believe that most people are limited by their perspective of Asian-Americans?
The "language of discretion" is Tan's term for how Chinese translates into English. It is not as if the Chinese are overly polite, but there is a clear translation barrier that prevents them from appropriately expresses themselves in English (and the converse is assumed to be true.) Imagine trying to tell someone your name, but you are unable to use the word for your name.
What is the tone of the piece "five writing tips"?
The highlighted excerpt is grounds for the claim that fate exists and that choice only plays a minor role in our lives.
Though the text offers many pieces of evidence as grounds to support the claim that fate plays a role in one's destiny, what does Tan's advice that "Your thoughts, your evolving answers to the important questions, are what will give you interesting lives, make you interesting people capable of changing the world" imply?
Tan claims that if she does include symbols in her work, "they are carefully nudged out of their hiding places by others." What does this reveal?
In this anecdote Tan deals with the interpretation of her texts. Where else in the text does she address the idea of interpretation?
Do you agree with Tan's argument that she is an American writer and should not be considered multicultural? Be sure to cite textual evidence to support your answer.
Tan compares the expectation that certain writers only write about certain topics, such as Asian-Americans only writing about successful modern versions of their ancestors, to the limitations placed on freedoms under communist regimes.
Tan's assertion that reviewers will compare texts by Asian writers in the same column even if the texts have nothing in common is similar which other concern she expressed?
Based on Tan's assertions, do you believe that she wants to convince you that fate exists? What else could be the purpose of presenting the grounds that support this claim?
According to Tan, what is the major issue with literature promoted and taught in the educational setting?
Though Tan admits she never introduced her personal intentions in her work before, she also realizes that she may not be helping the study of literature by remaining silent.
Why is reading an act of faith? Use textual evidence to support your response. Include one example from your life where reading was an act of faith.
How do you think Tan's anxiety about publishing her second book relates to the idea of "A Choice of Words"?
What does Tan imply is the success to writing her second text?
Tan explains through the connections between herself and the main character in her second text how arduous a journey writing her second book was and how much of herself is in the text. This is similar to when Tan stated that to write from a child's point of view, she needed to revert back to being a child.
As a child, what purpose did books serve for Tan?
It is evident from many of Tan's comments that she doesn't appreciate reviewers for various reasons. Here she is stating that it is challenging to relate to a reviewer when your knowledge about their preferences is so limited.
Tan asserts that "we all become different readers in how we respond to books." How does this statement relate to the title of this section of anecdotes?
In the original text Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dr. Frankenstein is the man referred to in the title, not the monster. In the text, Dr. Frankenstein mistakenly believes he can be like God and create life. As a result, he spends the remainder of the text trying to fix his mistake. When Tan compares herself to Frankenstein, she may also be alluding to his arrogance. (This annotation contains an image)
Similar to Tan's advice that she gave in the college commencement speech, Tan has discovered that in order to write well, you cannot conform to what your expectations of a writer or the writing process are. You have to simply write based on what inspires you. How does this support the idea that fate plays a role in determining one's destiny?
Tan reiterates her ideas in many ways: she began this piece by describing what drew her to books as a child, described the relationship between readers and texts, and now as an adult illustrates how reading inspired her writing and made her a better writer.
Read the highlighted passage. In order to convey how the short stories in the collection were chosen, Tan uses all of the following literary devices except
Why do you think that Tan chooses to end her story with the section titled "Hope"?
Tan presents evidence that suggests that fate, luck, faith, and choice all play a role in determining an individual's future. In this final section, she connects the ideas with the concept of hope. Before reading the remaining texts in this section, think about what hope means to you.
Though Tan's mother told her not to complain because it is useless, Tan believes that her mother "was the biggest complainer" she knew. Which term best describes Tan's mother's behavior?
Do you think the Chinese newspapers would have reported the story differently? Do you think the reporters put a spin on the story because it is American to complain?
After reading Tan's account of her attempts to help children in China, do you feel differently about your right to complain? Why or why not?
This last story is titled "The Opposite of Fate" and is about Tan's journey to understand the illness that was plaguing her body.
Tan's reaction to the doctor wanting to rule out a tumor in her pancreas or her brain is a result of all of the following except
On September 11, 2001, over three thousand American civilians were killed as a result of terrorist acts against the United States. The video below outlines the events of that day. (This annotation contains a video)
Which term best describes Tan as she went from doctor to doctor without any concrete diagnosis and no relief from her symptoms?
Tan's entire life is changed by her illness. How do you think you would react if you were in Tan's position?
Though all of Tan's friends could relate to her ailments because of their ages and the events in their lives, she still feels alienated. Why does Tan feel this way?
In order to get a proper diagnosis, Tan does not let fate take its course. She actively pursues and finds a doctor who will take her seriously and test her for any disease that could possibly be linked to her symptoms.
When Tan asks the question, "Why me?" she implies that she believes that her illness is the result of what?
Tan's actions illustrate her lack of belief in luck and fate, and her reliance on her choices in order to determine her fate.
Hope is the idea that bookends Tan's journey. Hope is what inspired her mother and father to come to America, it allowed her mother to persevere after the deaths of her son and husband, it inspired Tan to write her critically acclaimed novel and it will be the reason Tan continues to live and not succumb to her illness.