Tag: cxc short story analysis

‘Blood Brothers’ by John Wickham Analysis

A Reading of the Short Story

Overview

This story is about two brothers Paul and Benjy. Both brothers can be considered to be ‘Blood Brothers’ because they are thirteen year old twins. Despite the fact that Paul and Benjy are twins; they both display different personality traits. Paul is an introvert who loves nature and he loves to contemplate about life. Whereas, Benjy is Paul’s polar opposite. This further reinforces that although both boys are genetically related that is where the commonality ends.  Benjy is an extrovert who is very carefree and fun loving. However, Paul thinks his brother believes he is superior and as a result he grows to hate him. Paul is conflicted about his feelings because deep down he wants Benjy to be his friend and confidant. The story ends with Paul attacking Benjy. Benjy is surprised and confused because he did not know or understand why Paul reacted in this way.

Characters

Paul:  

  • Paul is an introvert.
  • He is artistic and he paints pictures
  • He loves nature.
  • He is also very reflective. He contemplates nature as well as his feeling towards his brother.
  • He dislikes Benjy’s ability to accomplish simple tasks quickly.
  • He resents Benjy because he reminds him of his own short comings.
  • He envies Benjy and his envy turns to hate.
  • He thought Benjy feels he is superior to him.

Benjy:

  • He is an extrovert and carefree
  • He is confident.
  • He is a typical boy, very active, adventurous and always exploring.
  • He is ignorant to his brother’s disdain for him.
  • He felt he is superior to Paul.
  • He mocks Paul.

Mac:

  • He is an old shoe maker in the village. Both boys go to visit him.

Narrative Point of View:

  • Third Person Narrative

Setting: The story takes place in an unnamed village. 

Conflict:  Paul envies Benjy carefree personality as a result of this he grew to hate Benjy.  This hate resulted n him attacking his brother.

Themes:

  • Love and family relationships
  • Childhood Experiences
  • Appearance vs Reality

Mom Luby and the Social Worker by Kristin Hunter


CHARACTERS



Mom Luby

An elderly woman who is as strong as any young woman.
She has white hair and false teeth. 
She runs a speakeasy in the back room of her house.
She fosters two young children.
She is a midwife, herb doctor and ordained minister of the Gospel.
She’s a very productive woman who helps the people in her community.
She is very proud.

Miss Rushmore

She works at the Department of Child Welfare, Bureau of Family Assistance.
She is very thorough in her investigation of Mom Luby.
She is awed by Mom Luby’s productivity.

Elijah (narrator) & Puddin’ – The two young children that Mom Luby fosters. 

SETTING

The United States of America between 1920-1933, during the time of the Prohibition in the United States.

Prohibition in the United States was a national ban on the sale, production, and transportation of alcohol, in place from 1919 to 1933. The dry movement was led by rural Protestants in both political parties and was coordinated by the Anti-Saloon League. 

Narrative Point of View is the way events in the story are seen through the eyes of the person who narrates the story.

Themes

Love and Family Relationship

The love that Mom Luby has for her two young charges is apparent by her simple act of fostering them. She is a poor, older woman who runs a speakeasy to survive. This is not the profile of someone who should be willing to take care of two young children, as well as a whole community, yet she does. The act of visiting the Social Security Office is a testament to her commitment to taking care of the two children. The great irony in this short story is that a poor, older lady, is able to take better care of two little children than the State agency that is assigned to do so. This is because she can get more accomplished in two hours, to benefit them, than the agency can accomplish in two years with their most motivated agent.


Devices

Satire: sat•ire  

The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of…a play, novel, film, or other work that uses satire.

Satire is a literary device that uses wit or irony to expose and ridicule a human weakness. The inefficiency of bureaucratic procedures is satirized in this story.

Irony usually signals a difference between the appearance of things and reality. For instance, an “Ironic statements (verbal irony) often convey a meaning exactly opposite from their literal meaning. In ironic situations (situational irony), actions often have an effect exactly opposite from what is intended.”

          
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Emma by Carolyn Cole

SUMMARY

This short story is told from the first person perspective of a little girl called Dorian York. The focus of her thoughts is her mother; the games that they play together, and the games that she plays with her friend, that revolve around her mother.  The first person perspective of the narrative gives the reader an intimate view of how the little girl sees her mother, as well as how she feels about her. We are also able to garner information about the people around her from her innocent narrative, innocent because the little girl does not understand many of the things that she reports. The reader learns that Emma and Mr. York have a volatile relationship that is seemingly caused by his infidelity. This infidelity is initially implied by Emma’s constant watching of the clock and waiting for her husband to return home, as well as the fight that Dorian reported. Grandfather’s visit, however, brings a happy atmosphere to the family unit because daddy starts to do things with the family, hence they seem more like a conventional happy family. The audience is given the impression that things go back to normal after grandfather leaves, however, due to the spectral presence of the ‘lady at the train station’, as well as Mrs. Robinson’s pointed discussion about Mr. York’s status as a ‘player’. The narrative climaxes with the death of Emma at the train station. She saw her husband with the mysterious lady and runs away, followed closely by Dorian and Jack. Unfortunately, when Jack caught her by the arm, she ran into the path of an oncoming vehicle and was killed. Jack and Mrs. Robinson then get romantically involved, and they send both Maria and Dorian to St. Agnes, a boarding school, in the country.

SETTING

• The story occurs in three places; the York residence, an unnamed mall and the old train station.
• The mood of the story fluctuates from happiness to sadness.

CHARACTERS

Jack York (Daddy)

• He is Doran’s father and Emma’s husband.
• He is characterized as a ‘player’ by Mrs. Robinson.
• He is not faithful to his wife.
• He was not ready for the arrival of his daughter, Dorian, and does not seem to have a close relationship with her.

Emma York

• She is Dorian’s mother and Jack’s wife.
• She is a good mother who plays with her child and treats her well.
• She is a good wife who loves her husband (as seen in how she greets him when he gets home) and is considerate of his feelings; as seen in her reasons for not having another baby.
• She is a very smart and polished lady who can handle herself with people who are coy and critical of her; as seen in her argument with Mrs. Robinson in the mall.

Dorian York

• A very innocent little girl who is the first person narrator of the story.
• She is younger than her friend Maria, who is nine (9) years old.
• She adores her mother and her grandfather.
• She is often puzzled by the content of adult discussion.

Grandaddy

• Emma’s father.
• Brought joy into the family because daddy stayed home, came home early, and spent quality time with the family, due to grandaddy’s implied interference.
• Loved her grandfather because he seemed to do what her dad didn’t – spent time with her – and her first person perspective of him reflected her love.

Ruby Robinson

• She is Emma’s friend and Maria’s mother.
• She is not a good friend to Emma because she is both critical and jealous of her.
• She gets romantically involved with Jack after Emma dies.
• She’s very impatient with both girls.
• She sends Maria and Dorian to boarding school in order to enact her plan to keep the ‘player’.

Maria Robinson

• She is the nine (9) year old daughter of Ruby Robinson.
• She is Dorian’s playmate.
• She filters and explains a lot of the adult conversations that Dorian does not understand.

THEMES

Innocence

This theme is epitomized by Dorian York. The story is told from her perspective, therefore, the reader gets a firsthand view of the innocence behind her misunderstanding of adult conversation and situations. She senses emotions, but misses a lot of the innuendo, as is seen when she tells the audience about the fight that her parents had. Her innocence is also seen in her expectation that her mother would come home after the accident, but instead, she finds Mrs. Robinson in her mot her’s bed. Her growth, or advancement into maturity, is highlighted in the end of the short story when Dorian  reassures Maria that everything will be ok, they will play adult games better.

Love and family relationship 

There are two types of families in this short story, the nuclear family and the single family unit. Dorian’s family is the nuclear family, consisting of mother, father and child. This family is a troubled one because the father is seemingly more absent than present due to an implied ‘other woman’, who is later confirmed as very real. He also seems uncomfortable around his only child, as is confirmed by Emma, who decides to forgoe having another child because ‘Jack wasn’t ready for Dori’ (Cole, p.53). Emma, on the other hand, seems to live to please both her child and husband. She is very affectionate with Dorian, and this love is returned ten fold, as seen in the adoration that imbues the tone of the narrator. She is the same with her husband, but the reception is less enthusiastic. It would be unfair to say that the family is dysfunctional, because one parent is at least invested in the emotional happiness of the child, but the family has issues because the head of the household’s concentration lies elsewhere.

Mrs. Robinson is a single mother, parenting her only child; Maria. She does not appear to be particularly liked by both girls because no-one wants to ‘play’ at being her. She aggravates her child constantly and appears to be unhappy with her life. This family structure can be seen as dysfunctional because the parent does not seem to devote her energies toward making her child feel loved and comfortable, which is one of the primary aims of any family structure.

Friendship

There are two contrasting friendships in this short story. There is the friendship between Dorian and Maria, which is characterized by play, conversations and support of each other. Then there is the friendship between the adults, Emma and Mrs. Robinson, which is contrastingly characterized by cattiness and jealousy; mostly on Mrs. Robinson’s part.

MOTIF

Play

The motif of play appears to be a strong one in this short story, perhaps due to the fact that the narrator is a young child. The children ‘play’ at being adults, imitating – and fighting over – their favourite adult. They also literally see the life of adults as play. Dorian confirms this at the end of the story when she reassures Maria that ‘I learned a lot about this game. When it’s our turn to play, we’ll play smarter.’ (Cole, p.58). 

SYMBOL

Deck of cards

The deck of cards that Emma carries around in her purse is a powerful symbol for life. In any card game that is being played, every-one has a chance at success, or failure, depending on how they play the game. Mrs. Robinson gives Emma an alternate way to play the game of life, with success being the joy of keeping her ‘player’ husband. Emma, however, chooses to play the game in an another way, one in which she attempts to satisfy the needs of both Dorian and Jack. Emma is the loser in the game, however, because she dies with the joker in her hand. This signifies that her future could have gone in any direction because the joker introduces the element of chance to the game; it can be a bonus, a penalty, or both, depending on how it is used in the game. In the game of life, Emma lost because she chose to take a chance with pleasing both members of her family, instead of concentrating solely on her husband, as Mrs. Robinson suggested. The game of life gives every-one chances however, just like a card game, and Mrs. Robinson was given a chance to bag her rich man with Emma’s exit from the game.

Analysis of Berry by Langston Hughes

Summary

Berry is about a young black man called Millberry Jones who is employed at Dr. Renfield’s Home for Crippled Children. He was reluctantly employed by Mrs. Osborn, the housekeeper, because the Scandinavian kitchen boy had left without notice, leaving her no choice in hiring Berry. Her reluctance to hire Berry stemmed from his race, which initiated questions such as where he would sleep, as well as how the other employees would react to the presence of a Negro. She had a meeting with Dr. Renfield and they decided to hire Millberry on a reduced salary. He was overworked and underpaid, but took solace in the children whom he loved. An unfortunate incident occurred, however, where a child fell from his wheelchair while in the care of Berry. The result was that Berry was fired and given no salary for the week that he had worked.

CHARACTERS
Millbury Jones (Berry)

A Black male, approximately 20 years old.
Described as good natured and strong.
Poor and uneducated.
Very observant and intuitive about people and places.
Very good with children due to his gentleness.

Mrs. Osborn

The housekeeper at the children’s home.
Rumoured to be in love with Dr. Renfield.
Very high handed with her staff, but docile with Dr. Renfield.
Displays racist characteristics in subtle forms.

Dr. Renfield

Rumoured to have romantic affairs with his female staff.

Berry observes that the Home is ‘Doc Renfield’s own private gyp game’ (Hughes, p. 162), meaning that he runs his establishment for his own profit, instead of a desire to take genuine care of the children. He is blatantly racist. 

 

THEMES
Racism

This theme is apparent when Berry was being considered for employment at the Home. Mrs. Osborn was concerned about where Berry would sleep, implying that he could not sleep with the white servants because he was considered to be beneath them. His salary was also cut due to his race, and he was overworked, with no discussions of days off, ‘everybody was imposing on him in that taken-for-granted way white folks do with Negro help.’ (Hughes, 162). Even more importantly, when the unfortunate accident occurred with the child, there was no attempt at discerning what led to the incident, but blame was laid on the obvious person – Berry. As a result, he was relieved of his job in a hail of racist slurs. The students will be placed in their peer groups to analyze various aspects of the story.

Oppression

 The theme of oppression is expressed repetitively throughout this story. White workers and superiors kept expecting Milberry to do more and more. Milberry’s response to these requests was a quiet acceptance without bitterness because he was happy and thankful enough to have this job and food. In the story Milberry found happiness in helping the crippled children at play during his brief rest period. At first the nurses were hesitant whether they should allow it or not. At the end of the story the nurses had changed their mind frame about Berry and would come looking for and demanding his immediate help.

In his typical nature in responding to and accepting their demand he unknowingly caused his own demise. While Berry was helping a boy in a wheelchair down the stairs, due to know fault of Berry’s own doing, the boy fell out of the chair onto the grass and the wheelchair onto the walk. In the fall the boy was not hurt but the wheelchairs back was snapped off. In this scene Langston Hughes uses the wheelchair as a symbol of Milberry’s undoing. The wheelchair’s falling represents Berry’s falling from the grace of the white people’s acceptance. The snapped back of the wheelchair foreshadows Berry’s immediate termination of employment. Even though it was the white nurses responsibility and job they quickly and gladly placed all the blame for the accident upon Berry. This truly exemplifies the use of oppression of white people over blacks.

To Da-duh, in Memoriam by Paule Marshall

‘‘To Da-duh, in Memoriam’’ is an autobiographical story told from the point of view of an adult looking back on a childhood memory. The story opens as the nine-year-old narrator, along with her mother and sister, disembarks from a boat that has brought them to Bridgetown, Barbados. It is 1937, and the family has come to visit from their home in Brooklyn, leaving behind the father, who believed it was a waste of money to take the trip. The narrator’s mother first left Barbados fifteen years ago, and the narrator has never met her grandmother, Da-duh.

Although an old woman, the narrator’s grandmother is lively and sharp. When she meets her grandchildren, Da-duh examines them. She calls the narrator’s older sister ‘‘lucky,’’ but she silently looks at the narrator, calling the child ‘‘fierce.’’ She takes the narrator by the hand and leads the family outside where the rest of the relatives are waiting. The family gets in the truck that takes them through Bridgetown and back to Da-duh’s home in St. Thomas.

The next day, Da-duh takes the narrator out to show her the land covered with fruit orchards and sugar cane. Da-duh asks the narrator if there is anything as nice in Brooklyn, and the narrator says no. Da-duh says that she has heard that there are no trees in New York, but then asks the narrator to describe snow

To Da-duh in Memoriam | Author Biography Marshall was born on April 9, 1929, in Brooklyn, New York, the child of Barbadian immigrants who were among the first wave of Caribbean islanders to relocate to the United States. Her early life was suffused with Caribbean culture; she spoke its language and followed many of its traditions. Marshall made her first visit to the Caribbean when she was nine years old, which inspired her to write poetry.

After graduating from high school in 1949, she attended Brooklyn College (now part of the City University of New York). She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English…

To Da-duh in Memoriam | Characters

Da-duh
Da-duh is the narrator’s eighty-year-old grandmother. She has lived her whole life on Barbados and is confident and proud of her lifestyle, surroundings, and ways of looking at the world. She dislikes the trappings of the modern world, such as any form of machinery, and is uncomfortable in the city of Bridgetown. When Da-duh first meets the narrator, the narrator imagines that she saw ‘‘something in me which for some reason she found disturbing.’’ However, Da-duh also feels connected to her granddaughter, as evidenced when she clasps her hand

“Nothing endures but change” (Heraclitus 540-480 BC). People are born, only to die again. In a never-ending cycle of life and death, new ideas replace older ones and an evolution of perspectives takes place. Paule Marshall aptly portrays this cyclical nature through her last line “she died and I lived” referring to her grandmother. The death is not physical alone. It is the death of old ideologies, dated traditions and disparate acceptance of modernization. In a vivid recollection of her grandmother Da-Duh’s reluctance to accept change during Paule’s childhood visit, she narrates how the old lady loathes urbanity and finds delectation in her little island of natural beauty. The interactions that the narrator has with her grandmother remind us of the passage of time between generations. The demise of Da-Duh signifies the change that is inevitable, the transition from the old to the new.

Symbolism

Paule Marshall’s work is replete with a richness of literary devices like symbolism, imagery and metaphors. Describing the foreboding character of death, the narrator feels that the planes that bring death to the little village are “swooping and screaming…monstrous birds”. The sugarcanes that grow in the village are Da-Duh’s delight and also the reason for the exploitation in the village. The pride of Da-Duh, the sugarcanes appear threatening to the narrator she feels that the canes are “clashing like swords above my cowering head”. This is a description of the duality of life. Where there is joy, there is pain and when there is life, death is bound to follow.

Imagery

The life-death antithesis is depicted in the closing lines of the book where the narrator paints “seas of sugar-cane and huge swirling Van Gogh suns and palm trees [in] a tropical landscape . . .while the thunderous tread of the machines downstairs jarred the floor beneath my easel.’’ Light is identified by the surrounding darkness and life, by death that eventually follows. The transient nature of life is evidenced by the changes that happen over a period of time.

Death’s morbidity invades the colorful mind. The narrator imbues the reader’s mind with images that allude to this dark reality. “All these trees….Well, they’d be bare. No leaves, no fruit, nothing. They’d be covered in snow. You see your canes. They’d be buried under tons of snow.”

Metaphor

With a judicious use of metaphors, the narrator has drawn us to the reality of inevitable changes that our lives are subject to. Again, the sugarcanes are metaphorically perceived as the ominous danger that “…would close in on us and run us through with their stiletto blades.” Later, the planes that cause the death of her grandmother are visualized by the narrator as “the hardback beetles which hurled themselves with suicidal force against the walls of the house at night.” She points at our dogmatism in accepting the fact that the world is constantly changing. Those who fail to see this at first, experience it the hard way later.

Conclusion

However prejudiced we might be, towards change, the hard-hitting reality of a life-death cycle is inevitable. Time stands testimony to this fact. Paule Marshall has illustrated this through the depiction of conflicting ideas between her and Da-Duh and she conveys this message at the start when she writes, “both knew, at a level beyond words, that I had come into the world not only to love her and to continue her line but to take her very life in order that I might live.”

To Dah-Duh in Memoriam – Literature Notes

SUMMARY
This short story is about a young girl’s visit, from New York, to the island of Barbados. The protagonist, along with her sister and mother, visit Dah-Duh. The visit is an interesting one in which Dah-Duh and the protagonist develop a caring, yet competitive, relationship. Dah-Duh introduces her to the riches of Barbados (nature), while the protagonist introduces her grandmother to the steel and concrete world of New York (industrialism). There is a competitive edge to their conversations because they each try to outdo each other on the merits of their separate homes. Dah-Duh, however, is dealt a blow when she learns of the existence of the Empire State building, which was many stories taller than the highest thing she had ever laid her eyes on – Bissex Hill. She lost a little bit of her spark that day and was not given a chance to rebound because the protagonist left for New York shortly after. The story progresses with the death of Dah-Duh during the famous ’37 strike. She had refused to leave her home and was later found dead, on a Berbice chair, by her window. The protagonist spent a brief period in penance, living as an artist and painting landscapes that were reminiscent of Barbados.

SETTING

The story is set in Barbados, in the 1930’s.

CHARACTERS
Dah-Duh:

A small and purposeful old woman.
Had a painfully erect figure.
Over eighty (80) years old.
She moved quickly at all times.
She had a very unattractive face, which was ‘stark and fleshless as a death mask’ (Marshall, p.178).
Her eyes were alive with life.
Competitive spirit.
Had a special relationship with the protagonist.

Protagonist:                                                     

A thin little girl.
Nine (9) years old.
A strong personality.
Competitive in nature.
Had a special relationship with Dah-Duh.

THEMES

Race:

This theme is apparent when Dah-Duh and the protagonist discuss the fact that she ‘beat up a white girl’ in her class. Dah-Duh is quiet shocked at this and exclaims that the world has changed so much that she cannot recognize it. This highlights their contrasting experiences of race. Dah-Duh’s experience of race relations is viewing the white ‘massa’ as superior, as well as viewing all things white as best. This is corroborated at the beginning of the story when it was revealed that Dah-Duh liked her grandchildren to be white, and in fact had grandchildren from the illegitimate children of white estate managers. Therefore, a white person was some-one to be respected, while for the protagonist, white people were an integral part of her world, and she viewed herself as their equal.

Love and family relationship:

This story highlights the strong familial ties that exists among people of the Caribbean, both in the islands and abroad (diaspora). The fact that the persona and her family left New York to visit the matriarch of the family, in Barbados, highlights this tie. The respect accorded to Dah-Duh by the mother also shows her place, or status, in the family. The protagonist states that in the presence of Dah-Duh, her formidable mother became a child again. 

Gender Issues:

This is a minor theme in this short story. It is highlighted when it is mentioned that Dah-Duh liked her grandchildren to be boys. This is ironic because the qualities that are stereotypically found in boys – assertive, strong willed, competitive – are found in her grand daughter. An example of this is the manner in which the protagonist / narrator was able to win the staring match when she first met Dah-Duh, this proved her dominance and strength.

SYMBOL

Empire State Building

This building represents power and progress. It is in the midst of the cold glass and steel of New York city and, therefore, deforms Dah-Duh’s symbol of power; Bissex Hill. It is not by accident that the knowledge of this building shakes Dah-Duh’s confidence. Steel and iron, the symbol of progress, is what shakes the nature loving Dah-Duh. It can, therefore, be said that her response to the knowledge of the existence of the Empire State Building – defeat – is a foreshadowing of her death. This is the case because it is metal, in the form of the planes, that ‘rattled her trees and flatten[ed] the young canes in her field.’ (Marshall. p.186). This is a physical echo of her emotional response to the knowledge of the existence of the Empire State building. The fact that she is found dead after this incident is not a surprise to the reader.

The Day the World Almost Came to An End- notes

SUMMARY

This short story was told from the perspective of an adult and chronicles the events behind a child’s (the adult narrator) belief that the world was about to end. The story is set on a plantation in Louisiana in 1936, where the church was the axis around which plantation life revolved. Despite this fact, the narrator was holding on to being a sinner because she believed that she could not ‘live upright’. One day, while she was playing, her cousin Rena informed her that the world was coming to an end. This was based on a conversation that Rena overheard, and misunderstood, about the eclipse. The hellfire sermons in church did not help to stem the narrator’s mounting panic and she worried herself into a frazzle as a result. She had a conversation with her father about this issue and he tried to quell her fears, but unfortunately, he only managed to increase it with his statement that the world could come to an end at any time. The narrator spent the night conjuring images of dooms day, which led to her overreaction to hearing the rumblings of an old airplane. She ran out of her house screaming that the world was coming to an end. Her father caught her on the road and calmed her down. She appreciated life a lot more after that incident and lived her life to the fullest.

SETTING

The story occurs on a plantation in Louisiana in 1936.

CHARACTERS

Daddy:

• Understanding
• Has a good relationship with his daughter

1st person narrator:

• Imaginative
• Bold
• Naive 

Rena:

• Naive

THEMES

Religion:

This is the central theme in this short story. Plantation life was centered on religion to the extent that even the narrator’s father was a deacon in the church. Religious fervor, in the form of hellfire preaching, is also the fuel for the panic that overtakes the narrator/protagonist in this short story.

Love & Family Relationship:

The love and trust between father and daughter is glaring. When the narrator/protagonist was worried about the world coming to an end, the first person that she thought to consult on this issue was her father. His response to her childish fears, in turn, highlights the easy relationship between the two. Daddy’s care in covering his daughter after her mad dash through the turnrow is also an indication of the love that he has for his child.

Innocence