Study Guide

How I Got That Name Speaker

By Marilyn Chin

Speaker

The speaker of this poem is called "Marilyn Mei Ling Chin." Now, you may have noticed that the author of the poem is called "Marilyn Chin." (If you did, way to be awake out there, Shmoopers.) It's not a coincidence, obviously. We can read this poem as an autobiographical poem, because the speaker and the author share the same name.

But hold on just a minute before you close the book on our speaker. Just because the author and the speaker share the same name doesn't mean we can assume that they are, in fact, the exact same person. Sure, Marilyn Chin (the author) is writing out of her own experience as a Chinese-American. But Marilyn Mei Ling Chin (the speaker) isn't necessarily the same person as the author.

In this way, the poem brings up some interesting questions about the relationship between authorial identity and poetic identity. On one level, this is a poem about a conflict between two identities: American ("Marilyn") and Chinese ("Mei Ling").

On another level, the fact that the author and the speaker share the same name also raises questions about the relationship between authorial identity and poetic identity. To what extent do these two identities overlap? To what extent do they differ? The poem doesn't give us a definitive answer, but it suggests that the relationship between authorial and poetic identity is complex—not unlike the complexities a person of dual culture might encounter.

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