Short Short Stories Universal, Reclam
Pages 106- 111
Sunita Jain was born in Punjab 1941 in India and grew up in Delhi. She studied at the State University of New York and at the University of Nebraska. She teaches English at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi. Her writings contain Hindi and English works. This works include the short stories "A Woman is dead", "Eunuch of Time" and "Fly the Friendly Skies". She has also written a novel called "A Girl of Her Age", a collection of poems and she did also a number of translations from Hindi to English.
The short story "Fly the friendly Skies" is about a young Indian man called Arjun. He has moved to New York to discover the big apple as his new world. Already in India, he always wanted to escape the small village where he was born, unlike his brother who prefers his life in safety with his family. Arjun had moved to bigger cities in India, to New Delhi and finally to "America, the beautiful" (p. 108, l. 10). In New York he wants to start a new life.
But this dream doesn't become true like Arjun had imagined it to. After three days in New York he realizes that the way of life there turns out to be not very dreamy. In fact, it's very boring when you have nobody to talk to. He is "extremely tired and alone" (p.106, l. 17). Arjun suddenly feels resigned about his decision to go into a foreign country (cf. p. 106, ll. 11-17).
In front of a carpet shop, where Indian carpets are shown, he meets an old lady who starts a conversation with him. She asks him, "Tell me, how long does it take to make one of those?" (p.109, ll. 12-13). They walk almost to her home while talking. The young man realizes "how little he knew about India" (p.109, ll. 17-18). Arjun is happy to have someone to speak to, but on the other side he remembers that a friend had once told him not to trust old people in America. They might want friendship and one remains hurting them with not giving back this friendly feeling (cf. p.110, ll. 6-8).
Suddenly Arjun sees another Indian. He gets excited about the possibility to have a word with a man from his country about his experiences and feelings in the foreign land. So he leaves the old lady and talks to this Indian.
But the conversation is not very successful, because the man tells Arjun that he had come to New York to meet new people and not to meet other people from India (cf. p.111, ll. 7-9).
Arjun is quite disappointed about this quotation and he realizes that his new life is not a candy mountain and that it's not easy to reach the friendly skies.
Stylistic Devices and Language:
The authoress uses a number of stylistic devices to make her text more effective.
For example, she emphasizes the meaning of America for the young inexperienced Arjun with the allusion "America, the beautiful" (p.108, l. 10). This quotation is from an old song which expresses a strong patriotic feeling in the United States. It shows what big, important and impressing effect this country has on Arjun. The allusion also tells that the young Indian sees America as his new home country, so Arjun is already familiar to one of the patriotic songs everybody knows there.
Another stylistic device is a personification. "The buildings belched out men and women" (p. 106, ll. 4-5) is a picture that shows how lively and moving New York enters the minds of its visitors. Especially Arjun experiences a great change from India to America. For him, the Big Apple seems to be even more impressive, because it's also a totally different culture he steps in. As a result this personification gives a good idea how the city looks for an "alien" (p. 106, l. 4), who comes to a new environment.
In general, Sunita Jain uses simple phrases, which are easy to understand. Furthermore, the reader is introduced to a few Indian terms to underline Arjuns' background. He longs for "the vague evenings near Regal or Janpath" (p.107, ll. 6-7) and for "the hypnotic scent of jasmine gajaras" (ll. 8). The usage of these words emphasizes Arjuns' homesickness in this moment, when he sees all the New Yorkers going home.
Narrator and Point of View:
"Fly the Friendly Skies" is told by a third-person narrator with a limited point of view. The narrator is not a character in the story, but looks at it from the outside. He sees everything what Arjun sees because he explains his point of view. He also knows Arjuns feelings e. g. when he gets homesick and remembers the "scent of jasmine gajaras" (p.107, l. 8). The narrator also knows what happened in the past when Arjun talked to his brother before he left India (p. 107, ll. 13-19). Because of the limited point of view of the narrator we don't know thoughts or feelings of the people Arjun is talking to (old woman, Indian man).
by Iris Lotter and Anna Reuschl
At first we want to give you some information about the author Donald Barthelme.
The author of the short story “The Baby”, Donald Barthelme, was born on April 7th 1931 in Philadelphia. Two years later his family went to Texas because his father got a job as an architect at the university of Houston. From 1951 onwards he wrote his first articles for the Houston Post. In 1953 Donald Barthelme was conscripted into military services and was drafted in the Korean War.
In 1961, Barthelme became director of the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston. He announced his first short story the same year. The author published his short stories at The New Yorker at first, but after a while a choice of them was released in books.
Together, the author wrote four novels and more than 100 short stories.
Moreover he is seen as a considerable exponent of the american post-modern literature.
Donald Barthelme died on July 23rd in Houston because of cancer.
The story is about a baby that tears out pages out of books continuously.
At the beginning the baby had started tearing out only one page. Later on the amount of pages rises day by day. As a punishment the parents locked her daughter in her own room and ignored the screaming and crying from behind the closed door. The more books the baby destroyed the longer Born Dancin’ had to stay in her room. She takes every chance to pull out some pages but she manages to concentrate only on the corners of the papers because she is scared of her parents’ cruel punishment. The parents still believe that their way of education is the best because later her child has to live in a world of laws and rules.
One day the situation escalates when the baby was locked for 88 hours and her mother takes the door off its hinges with a crowbar. This is the point in the story where the first doubts emerge. The child’s activity doesn’t diminish no matter what measures the parents take.
Consequently the couple accept their child with all of her behaviours.
The narrator in the short story is a First-person narrator with a limited point of view. He is a character in the story. Throughout the story he doesn’t remain neutral, but he is able to get the feelings and thoughts of the characters to the readers.
The author uses a number of stylistic devices to make his short story more effective.
To emphasize the strange behaviour of the baby, Donald Barthelme uses the simile “like a bat out of hell” (l.2). A simile is a comparison between two things with similar qualities. A bat is supposed to fly very quickly away, but the addition “out of hell” lends a supernaturally quality to the image, suggesting that some kind of evil magic could enhance that bat’s speed. The baby rushes very quickly out of her room as if she were persecuted by a devil. Born Dancin’ is really keen on tearing out some pages of every book she is close to. Her parents always lock her baby in her room that she isn’t able to catch some other books. But always the baby has the chance to get out of her room she rushes to the next book insanely.
The baby’s destiny is also linked to another stylistic device. A parallelism “It solved it by declaring that is was all right to tear pages out of books, and moreover , that is was all right to have torn pages out of books in the past. “ occurs in ll. 11-13 to embody the father’s doubt about of the way of education. The author wants the reader to pay attention to these lines through a string of phrases with more or less the same structure. This is the reversal point where the father accepts the behaviour of his little daughter. It seems that the father tries to make the best of the baby’s activity and stops punishing his daughter in future.
After reading the short story “The Baby” we were really horrified how the parents treat her own baby. We assume that a baby at the age of fourteen month hasn’t got a natural sense of justice and doesn’t know what’s right or wrong. It should be the parent’s job to explain their baby that it is not correct to tear out pages of books. Whereas it’s an irresponsible attitude to lock their child in her room for hour instead of taking care of Born Dancin’.
Especially in this time of growing up babys need love, affection and feelings of security. Nowadays many parents are overstrained in questions of education. Many children are neglected or even abused. We know that it is difficult to parent a child in these days but you have the option to get professional assistance in case of demands.
we proudly present our Short Story Presentation on "Holiday in Germany" (no, that's not showing off here, it's just that we're taken aback by that funny stanza by Iris :).
Please do enjoy :D
About the author:
Richard Gary Brautigan was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1935. Being raised by his mother and several stepfathers, he hardly had any contact with his biological father, who had abandoned him and his mother even before Brautigan was born. The experience of a shattered family and child abuse in his childhood had a big influence on his writing as he began writing poems at the age of 12. At the beginning of the 1950s he cut all ties with his family and settled down in San Francisco, California to establish his career as a writer. His novels were mostly read by college students thus his sudden fame through his society-criticizing novel Trout Fishing in America slowly decreased with the end of the student movement in the 70s. Although he kept on publishing various novels, short stories and poems with other theme subjects, he could never reach the fame he had with his first novel. Apparently that’s why he committed suicide in 1984. He leaves a series of poetry collections and various novels behind, often dealing with black humour, satire and parody which includes the short story “Holiday in Germany”.
“Holiday in Germany” is about two German boys on a bus who are on a trip through the US.
They are busy with chatting until they see a Volkswagen coming up next to the bus window they are seated at. The moment the two boys see the two girls in their VW, they boys can’t help but to stare at the girl on the passenger side all the time, which causes her to act in a nervous way like playing with her hair, although she doesn’t see the boys glaring. They lose sight of her twice because of traffic, but every time the Volkswagen and the girl reappear beside the bus they continue staring at her until she and her friend notice. The girls wave thus making the boys on the bus happy until the VW disappears taking an off ramp.
The short story “Holiday in Germany” is told by a first-person narrator with a limited point of view.
He begins the short story by introducing himself, his financial situation and goes on with explaining what happened the day before on the bus he was on. The narrator only describes what he can observe from his point of view. He never tells the reader what the people he observes are thinking or feeling. Only an omniscient narrator would be able to do that.
The only time the narrator is omniscient is at “They were in America for a three-week vacation. It was almost over [...]” (p. 55, ll. 21) because the narrator himself couldn’t know that the boys were on vacation or how long they were staying. The boys only speak in German and the narrator does not seem to understand what they are saying. So if they were talking about their vacation the narrator would not have been able to understand them.
Also, the narrator comments on the other protagonist’s behaviour. He appears to make omniscient comments but he only says the ideas he got from the actions of the people around him: “They were healthy, normal sex fiends. “ (p. 56, l.1), and” [...], participating in the age-old Candy-Store-Sex-Window Syndrome. “(p. 56 ll. 20) appear to be comments from an omniscient narrator, but it must be pointed out that the narrator here is commenting on outward acts of the people he observes.
To make the story more visual and to give readers a better idea of what is happening in the story many stylistic devices are used.
One of them is the imagery “The German boys really had their faces pressed against the window now.” (p. 56, ll. 4). It underlines that the two boys love to gaze at beautiful women. Furthermore a few lines after that situation Brautigan uses a metaphor for the young woman sitting in the car next to the bus. He calls her „a perfect freeway Mona Lisa“(p. 56, ll. 24). This symbolizes the ambiguity of the half-smiling young woman, because the painting “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci has got the same ambiguous smile and nobody knows what it actually means.
Also, the “Candy-Store-Sex-Window Syndrome. “ (p. 56 ll. 20) is used to lighten up the situation by putting a candy store window on the same level as sex (or flirting). This sentence also makes the latter less serious and more playful, which the author wanted to achieve in this short story.
But the stylistic device, which is used the most often, is irony: „Too bad, there was no way they could get out of that bus and into the Volkswagen to meet the girls, but things like that are impossible.“ (p. 57, ll. 16) This statement underlines the gloating of the narrator, who just wanted to have a nice ride to Monterey, but then he has to bear with the boys.
Brautigan uses a simple, familiar language in his short story. The narratopr doesn’t even mind making fun of himself: “Let’s put it up in front right now: I’m not an expert on holidays. I just don’t have that kind of money. You might even go so far as to say that I am poor. I don’t mind because it’s true.” (p. 55, ll. 1-5)
The use of irony (cf stylistic devices)and the familiar language makes the story seem more relaxed.
Interpretation and comment
Oddly enough, Brautigan named the short story “Holiday in Germany” whereas the story is about two boys from Germany going on holiday in America. We wondered why, but actually there are a few things that do make the holiday in America seem like a holiday in Germany: First, the two “American” girls in the VW – a German brand - are both blonde and at the first sight aloof. It takes time to “shatter[…] [their] cool.” (p. 57 l.8) although people say Americans are open minded to foreigners.
Asking somebody about the image crossing his mind when thinking of the adjective “German”, the respond will be: blonde. Germans are said to not be humorous nor open about their feelings. In contrast to that image, the two “German” boys are openly showing their interests towards the girls in the VW by having “their faces pressed against the window” (p. 56 ll. 4-5). To cut it short, Brautigan seems to have switched the typical character traits of Germans and Americans.
Considering that and the fact that he published his works after WWII, when Germans were prejudiced and even hated, Brautigan created a funny parody on Germans with his short story “Holiday in Germany”.
Barber, John F. "Richard Brautigan: Personal Background." Brautigan Bibliography and Archive. 17 Jan. 2009. 19 Jan. 2009 http://www.brautigan.net/biography.html. Web.
Brautigan, Richard. Holiday in Germany. Short Short Stories Universal. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2005. Print.
written by Lara and Sabi
Just in case you need an alternating programme from all the short stories:
I wrote a little section about St. George's horse.=)
But wait, listen it's me
who cannot be left out.
I'm sure, now that you've realized me
you don't understand how you
could forget ME.
Am I not majestic?
The curve of my neck,
the power of my hindquarters,
the swing of my tail,
my shimmering white
and my splendid armour...
my whole appearance is impressive, isn't it?
So, do you finally learn that
I AM THE TRUE HERO?
I've got the responsability
for this whole thing.
My power, my speed and my nature..
Isn't it ME who deserves your cheering?
Well, I think I am.
So, this is it and I hope you liked it a little bit.
And don't forget:
copyright by Iris*g*
Joyce Carol Oates was born in Lockpot, New York.
She grew up on a farm and enjoyed the natural environment. She displayed a precious interest in books and writing and at age 14 she began preparing herself, "writing novel after novel" throughout highschool and college. Later she had become one of the most respected and honored writers in the United States.
To date, she has published 37 novels and novellas, including a series of experimental suspense novels under the pseudonym Rosamund Smith.
She is Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University and continues to live in Princeton with her husband of over 35 years. In 1996, Joyce Carol Oates received the PEN/Malamad Award for "a lifetime of literary achievement"
The story "Happy" is about a girl who flys home at Christmas to visit her mother. At the airport she meets her mother and her mother´s new husband. Both of them payed compliments after they welcomed each other (p.46,l.1-10).
The girl feels the happiness of her mum, but also can see that she is an elderly lady now, with "veins in her arms" (p.46,l.11) and a "pancake makeup" (p.46,l.14) to hide her lined face.
They drive to Easy Sal´s and drink something which her mother calls "celebration drinks" (p.47,l.2). The woman tells about saling the old house and moving into a newer building.
After that she speaks about her great new feelings and that she is so happy with the new circumstances but the daughter reacts sceptical.
Because Easy Sal´s has entertainment a young landy, looking like a punk, appeares and sings about abortion, lesbians and other crazy things. The girl´s mother and her new husband are amused but the man sais that he doesn´t "approve of dirty language issuing form woman´s lips, whether they are dykes or not" (p.449,l.5/6).
After that they eat something in a Polynesian restaurant and the elderly woman and her husband behave like teens, hold hands and giggle together (p.49,l.12 ff.).
When the lady goes to the toilet the man wants the girl to know that her mother is the most wunderful woman to him and the girl sais that she knows it.
The mother´s new husband answeres in "a fierce vioce cose to tears: Damn right, sweetheart:
you know it" (p.49,.l 21 ff.)
The two similes (p. 47,l. 23 ff.) "He makes me feel like living again" and "(...) like a woman again" emphasise how happy and lucky the elderly woman is.
However she is at older age everybody can see that she doesn´t feel like that and that the situation is like starting a new life for her. She can´t stop smiling and talking about the new plans she has with her new husband and that shows that he, and his love, are the reason for her wonderful feelings
On page 49 (l.13 ff) you can find an enumeration: "(...) they were in high spirits again, laughing a good deal, holding hands between courses, sipping from each others tall frosted bright colored tropical drink".
This sentence makes clear for the reader that the girl´s mother and her new husband feel and behave like teens, however they are grown-up. For them everything in the world is wonderful and their love is the only thing that counts.
The author uses a large number of adjectives and adverbs to describe the situations, the emotions and the appearances of people and things. It makes the story more interesting and exciting for the reader and it´s more fun for him to read it.
The omnicent narrator describes in detail and so the reader has the possibility to get a lively and great story. He tells about feelings and reactions that everybody knows what´s happening inside the persons.
All in all, i can say you should read that story.
by Katharina Müller
our new topic is really inspiring...
Accidentally I found one webside by the BCC where you can learn welsh. So - who is interested in learning one or two more words or just want to have a short look on this (in my eyes) strange but fascinating language can click here.
(Tip: The litte game with Colin and Cumberland is really sweet =)).
So, thanks for reading
and Pob hwyl(=Alles Gute).
the (!) Mary
Chinua Achebe was born in 1930 in Ogidi, in Nigeria and belongs to black Africa’s most widely read novelists. He is a member of the Ibo people and was born into a Christian family. Nevertheless he always felt attracted to the customs of non-Christian Nigerians. As he personally made the experience of ethnic and religious discrimination in his country as well as of violence during the civil war in 1967, tolerance and the cultural problems and changes which were caused by the arrival of the Europeans in Africa belong to the most important topics of Achebe’s works. The conflict between the original African culture and the modern, western culture is also the main topic in his short story “Dead men’s path”.
"Dead men’s path” is about a young teacher, Michael Obi, who is promoted to headmaster of a school which is said to be very unprogressive. He and his wife are looking forward to this new challenge because they are given the chance to modernize the school and to realize their idea of the perfect school. His wife is even making plans about the sorts of flowers on the school grounds. But soon Obi observes that some of the people living in the village near the school use a small path across the school compound. As Obi fears the Government Education Officer could reject this use of the school compound, he decides to block the path by planting sticks at the end and the beginning of the path. After a while, the priest of the village comes to visit Obi and asks him to reopen it. The priest explains the villagers’ belief that it is used by dead peoples’ souls to leave the earth, and that it is the path for the newborns’ souls. However, Obi doesn’t make up his mind. When a woman dies giving birth to a child two days later, the villagers blame Obi for her death. Believing they have to reconcile their ancestors, they trample down the flowers of the school compound and even pull one of the school buildings down. To make things worse, the supervisor comes to inspect the school and writes a bad report about Obi’s unwise decisions as a headmaster because of the damages which were caused and the conflict Obi elicited.
"Dead men’s path" is told by an omniscient third-person narrator, because he switches forth in time twice in the story ("Three days later”, p.70, l. 4). The narrator isn’t part of the story and the most important character for him seems to be Obi, as it is him who appears in every scene of the story. Additionally, the narrator describes mainly Obi’s opinion, wishes and behaviour. Even so you could say that the narrator’s view is limited because he merely depicts the different places in which the protagonist’s are set as well as the characters’ emotions and thoughts. The narrator also comments very little on the different characters’ decisions and behaviour in the story.
Language and stylistic devices:
In general, the language that Achebe uses in “Dead men’s path” is easy to understand. Even so the numerous images in the text, above all the ones which seem to be taken out of a religious context, are striking, e.g. the phrase “let the hawk perch and let the eagle perch” (p.71, l.1), which is the golden rule of the Ibo religion (cf. http:// www.kwenu.com /odinani/ odinani.htm) and a demand for more tolerance and peaceful co-existence between different cultures or religions. There is also an allusion to the Bible, when “Obi was admiring his work” (p.69, l.6), which presents Obi as a kind of god in the world he created: the school.
Frequently used stylistic devices in the story are for example exaggerations and irony. Firstly, there is an exaggeration that underlines Obi’s position towards the path’s importance. It is obvious that he doesn’t respect the priest’s explanation of the path’s meaning for his religion. Obi considers it as nonsense and therefore he doesn’t want "people to make a highway of [his] school compound" (p.70, ll. 12 f.). This expression shows how important this perfect little world is for him and that he can’t allow anyone to destroy his work.
Moreover, Obi’s one-sided way of thinking is emphasized by a sarcastic phrase:" I don’t suppose the ancestors will find the little detour too burdensome" (p.71, ll. 7 f.). This example shows that Obi thinks of the priest’s religion in a ridiculous way and makes fun of it. He doesn’t count other opinions and considers his position as the one and only. Furthermore, Obi criticizes the priest’s old-fashioned way of thinking. His religion is very ancient and unfamiliar for him and therefore he thinks it is less important and less respectable, too.
"Dead men’s path" leads to two different intentions. Firstly, the author wants to stress that it is important to move on, to develop and to be modern, as the change the school undergoes is actually positive. But progress doesn’t automatically mean the devaluation of old and traditional things. In the story Obi is the character who represents the modern pole, whereas the priest holds on to his traditional religion. Obi, who considers himself to be in a higher position, has a very low opinion of unmodern things. This leads us to the second intention. The author wants to emphasize that the world is missing of tolerance. Above all, the various religions get into fights with each other. They want to prove which one is the right one without accepting other opinions or making compromises. This lack of tolerance sometimes even causes wars or the death of hundreds of people regarding the suicide attacks committed because of religious conviction. In "Dead men’s path" Obi doesn’t respect the priest’s religion and devalues it as superstition. He doesn’t even try to understand the unknown and just waits for the moment to jump in and show the priest how wrong his attitude is. In fact, these two different men could co-exist happily if they just made a compromise, which gets at any rate impossible by Obi's intolerance, and finally both parties lose.
Sources (2009-01-09) :
After talking about Wales in class and listening to an interview with pupils from a Welsh Medium School, maybe you're interested in what it sounds like if people actually speak Welsh coherently (as opposed to pronouncing single, isolated words like I demonstrated ...).
This little video (just under 3 minutes) is a party-political clip by Plaid Cymru, which is (if I got that correctly) a rather strongly nationalist Welsh party, with quite leftist political aims. But that shouldn't bother you - their Welsh is beautiful :-)
“Mother” by Grace Paley (p.50,51)
The Jewish Grace Paley was born in 1922 and grew up in the Bronx, New York.
Quite dedicated in the civil rights movement she started writing short stories in the fifties. Additionally, Paley was involved in the women’s- and the peace movement.
She wrote a number of short stories but got never done a whole book.
Her stories contain mostly daily people from different ethnic groups, especially of the Jewish population. Grace Paley often tells her stories in an ironical sound and perspective of a female narrator.
Summary and Interpretation:
The story “Mother” by Grace Paley is told by a daughter, we assume, who misses her dead mother. She mentions several times that she wishes she could see her mother in the doorway one more time, like she used to before her mom passed away (p.50, ll.6/7). Additionally, she has different flashbacks of certain moments she experienced with her mother. Always caring about what will happen to her daughter in the future is how she kept her mother in mind (p.50 ll.21/22). The sentence “Then she died”, which refers to the mother’s passing, occurs here for the first time (p.50, l.23). Regretting her mum had to die in a time where she still had to worry about her daughter so much, she wants her mom to see her now and notice what she’s done with her life and that she’s able to take care of herself.
Despite the fact that her mother isn’t alive anymore, she imagines her whole family being together in the living room (p.51, ll.4-10). The pictured scenery appears to her like it has just taken place. That’s the reason why she wants her mother back. The daughter has the opinion that she would have a happy, complete, perfect family again.
In the last two paragraphs she pictures a scene between her mom and her dad. They are sitting together, having lack of communication because her mum wants to talk to her husband but he would prefer just to get some rest after his workday (p.51, ll.16/17).
After all, the young woman realizes that her family has never been perfect even when her mother was still alive. Consequently, the phrase “Then she died” (p.51, l. 19) appears again probably for the reason that she finally accepts the fact that her mother is dead. She becomes aware that things didn’t just become bad because of her mum’s absence. They haven’t been the greatest before either.
The author uses different stylistic devices in order to make the story more effective. With the obvious rhetorical question “what will become of you?” (p.50, ll.21/22) the mother wants to express her concern about her daughter’s future. Being aware of the fact that she’s going to die, the mother points out with that question that she wants her daughter to get up and change herself. The reader gets the impression that the mother really cares about her daughter although she isn’t trying very hard to achieve the expectations of her mother (p.50, ll.9-11)
Another striking stylistic device amongst others is when the father complains about his work. He uses a repetition of the word “talk”. It occurs four times in the last paragraph (p.51, l.17). The father responds to his wife’s demand to talk with these words, but he actually does the contrary of the words’ meaning (p.51, ll.17/18). As a result, he says the words “talk talk talk talk” (p.51, l.17) back-to-back but, nevertheless, still doesn’t talk to her which is rather ironic.
The first thing which is very conspicuous for Grace Paley’s language is that she leaves all the quotation marks in her direct speeches out. She might do this to point out that the scenes are just the narrator’s flashbacks and don’t happen in the present. Secondly, the author expresses herself in quite simple words, and keeps her sentences relatively clear and brief.
The general message of the text is about a relationship between a mother and a daughter. It’s not rare that girls just start to appreciate their mothers once they’re on their own. Like it is in the story, most don’t take much of their mothers’ advice, but later they realize how their mom made the family complete and how much they needed her.
Paley, Grace. "Mother". Short Short Stories Universal. Ed. Reingard M. Nischik. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2005.
Source of picture:
The newsletter for the society for women in philosophy, Fall 2007. Accessed: 10 January 2009. www.uga.edu/iws/swipnews/archives/memorials_f07.html.
Jessica B. and Nina
“I used to live here once” by Jean Rhys
Short Short Stories Universal, p. 127-128
Jean Rhys (* 24. August 1890, † 14. Mai 1979) grew up in the Caribbean and moved to England at the age of 16. In 1923 she started to write and published her first stories. She became famous with her novel “Sargasso Sea”.
Now to the story:
Like all of you, we were spoilt for choice because of the enormous list of Short Storys we could work with. We have chosen Jean Rhys’s story because it is really well written, short and the punchline is not obvious at the first look (but when you have realized it you like the story even more than before – so: you could be curious ;)).
Summary and interpretation:
The story is told by a third person narrator, a woman, who is the main character in “I used to live here once”.
At the beginning of the story this woman is standing by a river, staring and remembering each stepping stone. After she has crossed the river she notices that the road is “much wider than it used to be”(p.127, l.10) because of the felled trees lying on the ground. The only thing she doesn’t remember while she is looking around is the sky with its glossy look (cf. ll.15-16).
In the next paragraph she comes to a house, the mock summer house, that is now painted white and she recognizes that the pine has disappeared, but that the clove is still there.
In front of the house two children are playing and the woman tries to start a conversation by saying “hello”(p.128, l.4), but the boy and the girl don’t react.
So the woman thinks that’s because of the fact that the Europeans who are born in the West Indies consider themselves as too good for communicating with her, a coloured woman. Then she tries it once more and adds: “I used to live here once”(l.10), but there isn’t any reaction again.
Finally she is quite near to them and wants to touch them. The boy turns around and looks straight into her eyes, but instead of recognizing the stranger he seems to look through her. He says to his sister that it has gone cold and the two run to the house(ll.12-17).
His behaviour is explained by the last sentence of the story: “That was the first time she knew” (l.19). So the happenings appear in a new light and context: The woman is dead, had been dead for some time without realizing her condition. That is the reason why nobody has paid attention to her and the reason why so many things have changed.
It’s obvious that this story deals most of the time with the memories of the woman. To make it clear the author uses the repetition of the words “remember” and “same”.
While the woman is looking at the landscape she is “remembering each one”(l.4) of the stepping stones in the river, the road that is now “much wider than it used to be”(l.10), the worn stone steps that lead up to the house and the house itself. Everything is “just as she remembered it”(l.25).
It also says that the woman is walking along the “same road”(p. 1217, l.13) with the “same unfinished look”(ll.19-20) like in earlier times.
But some things seem also strange to her, e.g. the sky with its “glassy look” (l.16) which she can’t “remember”(l.16) or the car that is standing in front of the house (cf p.128, l.2).
The repetition of the words “remember” and “same” shows the reader clearly that the woman must have lived in earlier times and is now recognizing the things that have changed and the things that are still the same. Espially the mention of the car underlines the fact that the woman died some time ago because for her it’s peculiar to see it.
By Maria Küffner and Katharina Siegert
Reclam: “Short Short Stories; Universal”(pp. 124-126)
"Girl" appeared as the opening story in Kincaid's collection of stories, At the Bottom of the River (1983), her first book. It is a lengthy catalogue of rules of behaviour for a young girl. The authoress comes from Barbuda and Antigua - a small island nation in the Caribbean. She herself experienced the pressures of poverty, colonialism and an ambivalent mother so that the cultural background of the story is not difficult to guess. Like all of Kincaid’s works, “Girl” is based on Kincaid’s own life. The relationship to a distant mother is a recurring theme in her texts.
Summary and elements of a short story:
“Girl" is a one-sentence dialogue between a limited number of characters: possibly a mother and her daughter. There is no introduction of the characters because the story begins abruptly with words spoken by an unidentified narrator. It is not immediately clear who is telling the story. There is no plot presented in a chronological order.
Despite the fact that there is no description of the setting we can assume from Kincaid’s autobiography that the daughter is a young West Indian girl learning from her mother how to be a proper woman. Only twice in the story she speaks against her mother’s warnings, prohibitions and accusations. The story is mainly a speech delivered by the mother who is talking most of the time; she gives a long series of instructions and warnings to the daughter. The mother understands a woman's "place” in Caribbean families. So the story contains much advice daughters are constantly hearing from their mothers to ensure that their daughters can survive as adults. Commands like “wash the clothes on Monday” (p. 124, l. 1) or “this is how you iron your father’s khaki pants” (p. 125, l. 2) are listed to show how a mother tries to prevent her daughter from turning into the slut that she is so bent on becoming (cf. p. 124, l. 21).
The mother’s advice leads to the final question "you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won't let near the bread?” The question-mark at the end of the story leaves the impression that there is an open ending. The reader is not convinced that the daughter will follow her mother's orders. Hopefully, she will not become a "slut," but she may become a modern woman striving for equality.
The words Jamaica Kincaid employs in her story are mostly taken from the word field “household”. Domestic terms like “cooking, sewing, planting, cleaning, setting the table” and so on, are the central theme in “Girl”. Those household chores and the harsh but familiar tone also lead to the assumption that the person speaking is possibly the girl’s mother or at least another female authority since they are talking about how to “bully a man” (p. 126, l. 4) and how to arrange an abortion, (compare p. 125, l. 24). The use of words like "slut" tells us what she will think of her daughter if her daughter doesn’t behave the way her mother thinks she should.
The female authority obviously is the leading figure in the text as you can see looking at the shares in speech. The girl dares to interrupt the monologue only twice (signalled by italics) when she says or at least thinks that she doesn’t sing the non-religious “benna” songs that she’s expected to sing in school on Sunday (p. 124, l. 10 ) and when she asks “but what is when the baker won’t let me near the bread?” (p. 126, ll. 9-10). It’s clear to the reader that the dominant person giving commands has heard the same words maybe from her mother and tries to pass on those traditional expectations of women.
The story can also be regarded as a monologue in the stream of consciousness style. The girl always thinks of her mother’s repressive demands and she only expresses doubt and resistance twice.
The authoress uses a couple of stylistic devices in order to make her text more effective. What makes the text very detailed are the frequently occurring repetitions like “wash the white clothes on Monday (…), coloured clothes on Tuesday” (cf. p. 124, ll. 1 - 2) and “this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set the table for dinner with an important guest” (cf. p. 125, ll. 11, 13). That shows the reader how limited the girl is in deciding independently how to fulfil her duties.
Jamaica Kincaid’s story is basically an enumeration of instructions, only interrupted by the three questions (p. 124, l. 11; p. 126, ll. 9-12 ). The authoress doesn’t use any full stops in her list of orders. Thus she emphasises how continually the speaker keeps telling the young girl what to do in a very detailed way. It also underlines that the girl is not expected to contribute to the monologue.
After having worked on this short story for quite a long time we draw the conclusion that its message is a very general one. Even in our society the generation-gap between mother and daughter leads to much advice that is thought to be good for the daughter’s future life.
- Invitation to Literature, Cornelsen Verlag
- 6th January, 2009:
Cornelia and Claudia
Annoying my English teacher by ignoring the crosswalk and doing so also being watched by my maths teacher(!).. I am so glad I stopped ;)
Have a good weekend!