How to Pronounce Knife

Denne study guide giver dig hjælp til at analysere novellen “How to Pronounce Knife” (2020) af Souvankham Thammavongsa. Novellen indgik i den skriftlige eksamen i Engelsk B på STX den 31. maj 2021. Ud over hjælp til analysen finder du også et summary af teksten og hjælp til fortolkningen. Endelig har vi også udarbejdet hints til den konkrete eksamensopgave.


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Social setting

The story’s social setting mainly deals with the immigrant experience in a new country. This is illustrated by Joy’s family, who tries to adapt to a foreign, Western culture. For Joy’s father, the process is particularly difficult, as he is reminded of life in Laos where he enjoyed a higher social status: 

She listened as her father worried about his pay and his friends and how they were all making their living here in this new country. He said his friends, who were educated and had great jobs in Laos, now found themselves picking worms or being managed by pimple-faced teenagers. They’d had to begin all over again, as if the life they led before didn’t count. (ll. 18-22)

This example shows that the Lao identity (and possibly his language skills) prevents Joy’s father from having a well-paid job, even though he is an educated man. Because he is frustrated by the injustice of having to work a menial job, he advises Joy not to reveal her Lao identity to anyone: “Don’t speak Lao and don’t tell anyone you are Lao. It’s no good to tell people where you’re from” (ll. 25-26). He is no role model an that account, though, as he wears a T-shirt with the word “LAOS” printed on it (ll. 26-27).

Joy’s mother also struggles with life in a new country. She is used to getting important news over the phone, so she ignores the school notes that Joy brings home (ll. 1-4). Overall, she is unaware that Joy has to follow the same rules as the rest of the children, even when it comes to the outfits she wears. 

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How to Pronounce Knife

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