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ENC Discussion

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1. “Marriage Is a Private Affair”
“Marriage Is a Private Affair” narrates the story of a father and son relationship fall-out due to their conflicting values. Even though this short story focuses on issues between a father and son, it says something specific about a father-son relationship. Through the story, we understand the underlying idea that a father-son relationship is stronger than traditions, beliefs, and rules. The son, Nnaemeka had married who he wanted to marry and broken a tradition of the tribe. The father upholds traditions and his beliefs make up who he is, as he has not been exposed to anything else his whole life. Because his son broke tradition, the father felt disrespected and dishonored and rejected him. In trying to “push his son to the back of his mind”, he “nearly killed” himself but was able to do it. I noticed here that instead of saying ‘forgetting’, the author says the father ‘pushed him in the back of his mind’, meaning the son will always be in his mind. The relationship perseveres against the traditions and rules. At the end, when the father received a letter from the son’s wife, he “felt the solution he had built up over so many years falling in.”. The author also uses setting to represent the turmoil inside the father by bringing up thunderstorm and lighting. Throughout the story, emotions such as pain are described to make it a point of telling us that a father-son relationship is not an easy thing to eliminate.

2. Everyday Use:

The short story, “Everyday Use” explores themes of mother and daughter relationships. The author, through the story, is saying that each mother-daughter relationship is unique. The story tells of a mother narrating the anticipation of her daughter, Dee, visiting home and the events that happen when she does. She narrates and reflects on the differences of her two daughters and tries to make sense of their behaviors and personalities. The mother’s choice of words and tone show that she views Dee to be superior. She makes comments of praise such as, “Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and fuller figure”, and “Her feet were always neat-looking, as ff God himself has shaped them with a certain style.” Yet, Dee’s visit reveals something concerning about her character. The mother narrates Dee wanting family-made artifacts to display at her home as decoration instead of using it for what they were made for. This behavior of Dee dissociating herself from her heritage and using items as museum pieces instead of something passed down to her with love is pointed out in the quilt scene. Dee wanted the family quilt to display in her home, and then shames Maggie because she would use them as everyday quilts instead of preserving them. Maggie lets Dee have them, because she “can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts.” It is then her mother realizes something and narrates having such happiness and says, “I did something I never had done before: hugged Maggie to me”

This joy of the mother indicates that her values have been transmitted and connected to her daughter, Maggie. A family quilt is something passed down with love to use, not a superficial material to look at. Even though she describes her other daughter Dee as almost perfect, she doesn’t seem to have the same relationship to her as Maggie has. The values passed down to the daughters are different, even though the same mother raised them. The author shows these differences with this quilt scene and stresses how mother-daughter relationships are each unique and are never perfect.

3. “A Jury of Her Peers”:
This short story explores the theme of gender differences by saying that men and women cannot understand each other due to the nature of a patriarchal society. “A Jury of Her Peers” argues that women are better at seeing things than men because men have become ignorant and insensitive to a women’s struggles. This conflict of views has been caused by different set of experiences due to an imbalanced way of treating each sex in society. A society that oppresses women is seen through male comments such as “women are used to worrying over trifles” and “but would the women know a clue if they did come upon it?”, which degrade women and their importance to the lives of men. At the end of the story, the two women do find the crucial clue needed to put Mrs. Wright to jail. They find this through analyzing the domestic environment of the kitchen, where men had overlooked and said, “Nothing here but kitchen things” with a laugh for the “insignificance of kitchen things”. It is through these quotes that we understand the attitude of the author, and how an “insignificant” kitchen thing is just what the men needed but could have never found by themselves. 

4. “Lamb to the Slaughter”
The domestic setting in “Lamb to the Slaughter” contributes the feeling of loneliness and imbalance between men and women. Most of the story takes place in a home, which is kept up by a woman that stays there the whole day and waits patiently for her husband to arrive. The setting is described as, “clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight – hers and the one by the empty chair opposite.” demonstrating the wife’s role as the keeper of the home and representing her life without the husband as “empty”. The story then proceeds as the husband comes home and she becomes “content” and feels as a “sunbather feels the sun” in his presence. Once the husband sits on the chair, she started “enjoying his company after the long hours alone in the house.”

The domestic setting of the home she stays in all day and takes care of for him shows the dependency of women on men for their happiness. And with this comes loneliness when the man is not in this home. This imbalance of the roles of men and women in the home contribute to the reasoning behind the climax of the story, when she murders him with a meat she was going to prepare for him.

5. “The Necklace” 
The Necklace is a story that tells how greed can grant short-term happiness but ultimately destroy life. The story begins with the counting of a lady’s desires and envy of the rich and wealthy lives of others. She is described to have “no handsome gowns, no jewels – nothing, though these were her whole life; it was these that meant existence to her.” By the author describing material belongings as the lady’s “existence to her” says that she is full of greed of wanting things she cannot have. This is further stressed when her husband comes and gives her an invitation to go to the ball, and she is not happy with that. She requests money to buy a dress that she will wear once, and then finds herself wanting more. She then wants a jewel, gets it and then looses it. In desperation, she and her husband end up in a lot of debt to purchase a new necklace. Alas, ten years pass overworking and not enjoying life, due to greed of wanting more. Yet, the lady is happy when thinks of “the gay evening long ago, of the ball where she had been so beautiful, so much admire.” To her, this short-term lived happiness justifies her miserable 10 years of life, which happened because of her selfish desire for wealth and material belongings. 

6. A Good Man is Hard to Find:
In the story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” I would characterize the grandmother as selfish and close-minded which has made her ignorant to the world around her. The story’s setting seems to be the South which has the history of slavery. To the grandmother, this is an important detail because it gives context to her comments such as recalling a boy as “nigger” and “little niggers in the country don’t have things like we do.” She also keeps comparing the present with the time period she is from. She states, “In my time, children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else.”, which show her off as a closed-minded person, not wanting to recognize the reality of the horrors of the past. She comes from a time period and setting that made her feel entitled and important for her skin color and status.

She seems to regard appearance and people that agree with her views as important, and shows her entitlement in comments throughout the story. Her mind stays naive as she recounts the past and shames those that don’t have the same opinions as she does. Her comments such as “people are certainly not nice like they used to be” and her regard to Red Sam as a “good man” simply because his opinions matched hers show this. The grandma also wore an unconventional outfit for a road trip because “in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once she was a lady.” With the help of setting and time period, we are better able to understand the character of Grandma and how she sees the world around her.

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