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Soto’s “Broken Chains” and “Fish Creeks” by Tan

Broken Chains is a story written by Gary Soto, the main character of which is the boy Alfonso, who did not have a sense of belonging to a group he is in. In turn, the short story Fish Creeks, written by Amy Tan, tells a young Chinese girl’s drama based on the hardships that many immigrants face. In these stories, both authors reveal the topic of belonging.

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The short story Broken Chains describes Alfonso’s inner conflict – the boy is extremely dissatisfied with his appearance. This is supported by many phrases in the text, including: “Alfonso sat on the porch, trying to push his crooked teeth to where he thought they belonged. He hated the way he looked” (Soto, 2000, p. 1). This hero is so shy that he cannot accept his physical appearance and makes many efforts to change it. Due to his external characteristics, the boy cannot identify himself with the rest of the adolescents, and has difficulties in building communication with them. He is all alone, exclusively accompanied only by his complexes.

As for the story Fish Creeks, the Chinese girl is in pain due to cultural differences with her beloved person who is an American. The girl tries to assimilate into American culture, but it is difficult for her to break her mental habits, typical for the Chinese. At a dinner with her lover and his family, the heroine is embarrassed at her family members’ mistake and experiences a real culture shock. The author, through the image of a girl belonging to a social group of immigrants, highlights challenges experienced by many representatives of this community.

Thus, both short stories are narrative essays that describe the inner conflicts of young people connected with belonging. Writers, using the example of their main characters, show the problems of representatives of different social groups. In Broken Chains, the conflict of belonging is associated with dissatisfaction with protagonist’s appearance, and in Fish Creeks, the heroine suffers from cultural differences with her beloved one. The characters endeavor to impress others, trying in every possible way to overcome their characteristics, which, in their opinion, are disadvantages and, in a way, obstacles to the balanced feeling of belonging. At the same time, both authors emphasize that appearance is not the central aspect; it is vital to preserve the individuality.


Soto, G. (2000). Baseball in April and other stories. HMH Books for Young Readers.

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