How I Got That Name by Marilyn Chin – Assignment Example

The paper "How I Got That Name by Marilyn Chin" is a great example of a literature assignment.
“How I Got That Name” is one of the early and famous poems of Marilyn Chin. The poem is autobiographical and recollects in a nostalgic how the poet got her present name. As an immigrant, Marilyn Chin is neither able to relate to China having lost the self-identity and name nor able to relate to the host culture with only the new name as an added tag. The difference and disagreement between the self and the new name are disconcerting. As the subtitle “an essay on assimilation” suggests, the poem depicts migrant experience and the problem of assimilation and self-identity as its theme. It also explores the cultural assimilation from a feminist perspective.
Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong, China as Mei Ling Chin. She had to migrate to America with her family when she was a child. Her poem, “How I Got That Name” depicts her conflict and struggle torn between the two identities- American and Chinese. She feels caught between the two worlds, haunted by the fear of losing self-identity. The opening lines of the poem stress the importance of self-identity and the pain behind losing it.
Oh, how I love the resoluteness
of that first person singular
followed by that stalwart indicative
of "be,"
The poet could no more relate to her new name. She calls herself a “wayward pink baby” having lost her cultural identity. She is forced to carry the identity of an American “tragic white woman / swollen with gin and Nembutal”. Here she depicts the forced cultural assimilation. Her father is a great admirer of the actress Marilyn and names his child after the “bombshell blonde”. The terms the poet uses clearly say how much she dislikes her new name and the cultural cringe.
The poem also explores the possibilities of reaching the roots again.
The further west we go, we'll hit east;
the deeper down we dig, we'll find China
The East-West divide is huge that the journey towards the roots to rediscover one’s identity is a continuous struggle.
She was neither black nor white,
neither cherished nor vanquished,
just another squatter in her own bamboo grove
minding her poetry—
Unable to find her roots, she looks at herself a stranger and a squatter in “her own bamboo grove”. Being a victim of patriarchy, she refers to “all that was taken away”.
Her present name connects her to the American Culture. She carries a bi-cultural identity. Cultural assimilation and patriarchy are two main themes in this poem. Marilyn Chin mourns the loss of cultural and self-identity uncertain about the ties. A troubled spirit is evident throughout the poem and it describes the pain of losing one’s identity, culture and language.