Analysis of “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”

Culture encompasses a broad definition for the peoples of the world. Factors such as language, ethnicity, music, and food are all key components in a person?s background, and in turn, their cultural identity. However, as cultures mix and people migrate, that identity gets twisted and more difficult to define. The new fusion cultures that have arisen, such as Chicano-American, have been met with disdain as the parent cultures see them as mutilations of their language. Gloria Anzaldua provides a voice for those unjustly antagonized in her iconic essay ?How to Tame a Wild Tongue.? In her explanation of the ?cultural terrorism? that we?ve come to classify as the norm, she brings to light the attempts made by those in power to erase a culture and eliminate a people.

Throughout the essay, Chicano-Americans are subjected to the title of ?cultural traitors?, primarily by those who speak ?formal? languages such as Castilian Spanish and English. Society defines the Chicanos as the aggressors, destroying a language with each wrong word uttered, but Anzaldua argues in favor of these young cultures, referring to them as the natural result of evolution, and proof that the language is alive and growing. She not only fights these acts of ?cultural terrorism? by rendering them illogical, but also by making the marginalized tangible. Her narrative style, consisting of personal anecdotes, brings a sense of humanity to the piece which she uses as her primary force of persuasion. She gives a face to the Chicano-Americans who those in charge attempt to erase, and commands empathy by ostracizing the readers through her blending of the two languages, letting them feel as confused and lost in a language as they once did.

Anzaldua best sums up her argument through her analogy of the border lands in which she illustrates the situation of the oppressed ? not belonging to one place or another ? and now being stripped of their newfound identity. Through her use of rhetorical questions, she logically explains the only choice left for these middlemen: ?For a people who cannot entirely identify with either?what recourse is left to them but to create their own language?? She uses this essay to acknowledge the existence and validity of these overlapping cultures, thereby giving power back to the people[jc1] .

In society, we have become so accustomed to abuse in the power structure that we almost don?t recognize when it happens right in front of us; Anzaldua shines a light on this subjugation to remind us it still exists. By focusing on the invisible, she shows the oppression in the social hierarchy in something as common as language. Instead of closing in on the bureaucratic abuses of power, she concentrates on social corruption to bring it close to home and make us see the victims as our neighbors. Though the powerful victimize themselves, making us believe the Chicanos are the aggressors, Anzaldua uses this piece to educate the populace. By bringing power back into the peoples? hands, she makes it their responsibility to stop the oppression. Anzaldua proves that though history is written by the victors, it is the citizens who start revolutions.

[jc1]Anzaldua ends this work not only by embracing her forked tongue, but by also accepting her voice as a woman, something that her language has worked to discredit. As a native speaker, Anzaldua notices the patriarchal structure of the Spanish language; examples of this include words such as chismosa, repelona, and hocicona, all of which are feminine and blatantly insulting when applied to females (she has yet to hear these words in reference to males). Anzaldua supports her reasoning through her experience with the word ?nosotoros? to display the patriarchal undertones which influence her society. Regardless if a group is full of men or women, nosotoros is automatically used, thereby erasing women of their gender and treating men as the default sex. Her astonishment at the word nosotras even existing shows how men trump the hierarchy of power. Though her language tries to erase her femininity, she unashamedly embraces her identity as a woman and encourages others to follow suit.


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