Study Guide

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Language and Communication

By Jamie Ford

Language and Communication

It isn't always easy to say what's in your heart, but the characters in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet sure make a solid attempt at it. In the beginning when we meet young Henry's family, we discover there's not a lot of real communication happening in their household; they're impeded by the fact that Henry's parents only speak Chinese while they insist he only speak English. And on top of that, Henry doesn't understand his parents and their motivations—especially his dad's.

Later, when Henry finds himself falling into the same patterns of non-communication with his own son, Marty, he realizes has to try harder if he wants to have a good relationship with his son. Otherwise, he's building another disconnected generation.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Why won't Henry's parents let him speak Chinese, even when he's at home? Be specific and give evidence from the text.
  2. How does Keiko react when Henry speaks Japanese to her? Why?
  3. Are Henry and Keiko able to carry on their relationship through letters? Why or why not? How does it change?
  4. How does Henry repair his relationship with his son, Marty? What's wrong with it to begin with?

Chew on This

Although Henry's parents insist he only speak English so he won't be outcast at school, it just ends up alienating him from his family at home since they don't speak the same language anymore.

Henry tries hard to keep his connection with Keiko alive, but without that face-to-face interaction it becomes impossible for them to keep their relationship going.

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