In the short story "Grandma's Tales" by Andrew Lam, the narrator says, "[Grandma has] seen Americans like John Wayne shooting her people in the movies before. She always thought of him as a bad guy, uglier than a water buffalo's ass" (21). Throughout his life in the movies, actor John Wayne is perceived as a great American hero. He empowers what it is to be a true and dedicated American, or is he? Grandma immigrates to this country in hopes to find a better life. America is known as a place for freedom, but is America accepting of her and her culture? I will examine through this paper the question, "How does John Wayne affect Grandma's experiences in America?" to gain a better understanding of what it was like to immigrate to America from another country.
It is important to learn about the backgrounds of Grandma and John Wayne to form a basis for this analysis. Throughout the short story we learn that Grandma is 94 years old and has lived a hard life. She experienced three wars, one of which is the Vietnam War, and came to America for a chance at a better life. The narrator describes Grandma's experience as, "America, besides, was not all that good for her" (20). One other limitation for Grandma is that she does not speak English. It is difficult for Grandma to participate in a New World where she is unable to communicate with the American lifestyle. Even though she has been brought up with Vietnamese culture and traditions, she is accepting to her grandchildren's American experiences. The narrator describes one example when, "Eric leaned over and kissed me on the lips and Grandma said, That's real nice, and I translated and we all laughed And she"d seen us more passionate than a kiss on the lips and didn't mind" (21). This shares with the reader Grandma's personality, as well as, her accepting openness towards new experiences in America. .
John Wayne has become, for Americans and those who watch his movies, "a symbolic male figure, a man of impregnable virility and the embodiment of simplistic, laconic virtues" (www.