Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rules of the Game by Amy Tan - Analysis

The author of the story Rules of the Game, Amy Tan, is the daughter of Chinese immigrants, who grew up in California. The main character is a girl named Meimei, who absorbed knowledge about the rules for living in a society which she learned from her mother and people around her.

The author wrote in the first line, "I was six when my mother taught me the art of invisible strength. It was a strategy for winning arguments, respect from others". The title of the story is connected with the idea of following rules for individuals living in society. Because of that, the story seems contain autobiographical memories told from the point of view of a Chinese girl who lived with her family in San Francisco's Chinatown.

The mother of the girl demanded that she, “bite back her tongue" when the girl begged for candies in the shop. Next time, only after the girl accepted this advice, did her mother buy the candies without her asking. Her mother "quietly plucked a small bag of plums from the rack and put it on the counter with the rest of the items.".

The Chinese community kept it’s identity, it was represented in the story by a few episodes. The first one was about a restaurant where the menu was only in Chinese. When one foreigner asked Meimei what they served there, she shouted, “Guts and duck's feet and octopus gizzards!” and ran off. The second episode was about the statement which one boy said in the class that Chinese people do Chinese torture. When Meimei asked her mother about it, she replied “Chinese people do many things ... Chinese people do business, do medicine, do painting. Not lazy like American people. We do torture. Best torture.

The core part of the story is dedicated to chess. Once the children received a chess set as a Christmas gift. Two of Meimei's older brothers started playing the game and Meimei begged them to allow her to play too. After, her brother briefly explained her the basic rules, she asked why the pawn could move only to the one direction. The answer was about chess but it could be referred to the general knowledge which every child faced:

Why can't they move more steps?” “Because they're pawns,” he said. “But why do they go crossways to take other men? Why aren't there any women and children?” “Why is the sky blue? Why must you always ask stupid questions?” asked Vincent. “This is a game. These are the rules. I didn't make them up. See. Here. In the book.

Eventually, Meimei studied the rules of the game, she became a regional chess champion. The success came when she understood the rules of this game. The idea of accepting rules for definite achievements was presented by the author as a crucial thing. Success will come for those people who know the rules.

Here is the link to the story:

Matthew Henson at the Top of the World Biography by Jim Haskins Review

'Matthew Henson at the Top of the World' by American author Jim Haskins is a short biography. The story is about a black American who was among the first people who successfully reached the North Pole and whose deed was undeservedly forgotten.

The author told about the difficult childhood of Matthew Henson. He grew up without his parents, he needed to work hard to survive. Since a young age, he served on the small ships, he sailed to different parts of the world. After years of traveling, he got a job as a clerk in a clothing store. During that time he met with Robert E. Peary - at that time a young navy officer of the USA - the future pioneer of the way to the North Pole. Pearly offered Matthew a job. Since that time they had several geographical expeditions together.

After their first trip to Greenland, Pearly wrote “Henson, my faithful colored boy, a hard worker and apt at anything, . . . showed himself . . . the equal of others in the party.”

The walking part of their journey started the 1st of March, 1909. As the expedition went on, Pearly had to send back several men due to their exhaustion and frostbite. Despite the temperature was sub-zero, the expedition encountered troubles with open water. One traveler went ahead and didn't come back. Only his coat was found floating in a hole in the ice.

Finally, they reached the North Pole. This was not only their success, it was is a great achievement of all humans. But his deed wasn’t rewarded. The National Geographic Society gave the gold medal only Peary, Matthew’s contributions to the expedition were not recognized for many years.

The short biography 'Matthew Henson at the Top of the World' written by Jim Haskins filled this gap in the history of research of Arctika

This is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Lady, or the Tiger? by Frank R. Stockton Analysis

'The Lady, or the Tiger?' is a philosophical tale written by the American author Frank R. Stockton. The question in the title may be familiar to many Americans. It is used in various situations when a difficult choice needs to be made.

The plot is about a semi-barbaric king, who found pleasure in organizing trials in a big arena in front of a large audience. In the arena, there were two doors leading to separate rooms. Behind one was a lady, behind another - a tiger. The accused criminal was placed in the arena and faced a difficult choice. If the accused chose the room with a lady, he was proven innocent, and a great wedding was celebrated. If he chose the room with the tiger, he was considered proven guilty and met a sad end as the tiger tore him to pieces.

There was a young man from an ordinary family who was in love with the King's daughter. The princess loved him too: he had a generous character, he was handsome and he loved her very much.

When the king found out about their relationship, he became furious. The young man was captured and thrown in jail. Shortly thereafter, it was his turn to be on trial in the arena. The princess having influence in the court knew which room the lady was in and which the tiger was in. The lady, who would be the potential bride of the Princess’ lover, was a beautiful girl. She was also in love with this young man.

The young man went out into the arena, he immediately looked at the princess, and she gave him a sign with her right hand. He went to the right door without a moment's hesitation….

According to my observations and discussions with others about this story, it is my opinion the princess pointed her lover to the room with the lady because she loved him. However, according to the interpretations of others, the princess inherited semi-barbaric characteristics from her father and pointed to the door with the tiger. The logic of her possible intention is opposite of the previous assumption.

Frank R. Stockton didn't disclose what happened after that. He left this choice to his readers.

Here a link to the text of the story:

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Daughter of Invention by Julia Alvarez Analysis

Daughter of Invention is a short story written by Hispanic American writer Julia Alvarez. Her family moved from the Dominican Republic to the USA. The story wasn't considered by the author as her biography but we can notice lots of similarities with the real life of Julia Alvarez.

The story was being told by a 10-year-old girl who came with her family from the Dominican Republic to New York City. Her life in the USA was not easy. Her classmates teased her because of her bad English. Once she came back home and said to her mother that children threw stones at her. “Sticks and stones don't break bones ...” she replied. It was noticeable, however, that "it was as if one of those stones the kids had aimed at us had hit her." Her mother didn’t accept these complaints, she wanted her daughter to be more tolerant of the new society. She desired for daughter her to accept the new way of life in America - that is what mother wanted to say.

The story began with these lines:
"She wanted to invent something, my mother. There was a period after we arrived in this country, until five or so years later, when my mother was inventing." The hobby to make inventions was mentioned in the title of the story, so it is an important detail.

Living in an unfriendly social environment, the narrator found herself in writing. She had little time of her own. When mother rushed into her daughter's room with a new invention, she reacted to the interruption: “Oh Mami!” I'd cry out, my eyes blinking up at her. “I'm writing.

Children often made fun of mom's hobby:
"... we'd humor her. “What every household needs: a shower like a car wash, keys ticking like a bomb, luggage on a leash!” By now, as you can see, it'd become something of a family joke, our Thomas Edison Mami, our Benjamin Franklin Mom."

The narrator was chosen to deliver a speech at a school assembly on Teacher's Day. It was a difficult task for the girl, she didn't feel comfortable with her English, she felt embarrassed speaking in public. The thoughts about this future event made her life for long weeks unbearable.

A weekend before the Monday morning assembly she went into a panic. The mother tried to calm her down. She persuaded her daughter saying: “Just remember how Mister Lincoln couldn't think of anything to say at the Gettysburg, but then, Bang!". Everything would be ok if you relaxed. "Necessity is the daughter of invention.",- she said.

Just before the deadline, the inspiration came:
"That night, at last, I started to write, recklessly, three, five pages ... When I was done, I read over my words, and my eyes filled. I finally sounded like myself in English!"

The narrator read her speech aloud to her mother. She was delighted by the text. They went to the father's room to present him this work. But the reaction of the father was completely opposite to which they expected:

"His toothless mouth had collapsed into a dark zero. His eyes glared at me, then shifted to my mother, accusingly..., he whispered, “You will permit her to read that? ... It shows no gratitude. It is boastful. ‘I celebrate myself'? ‘The best student learns to destroy the teacher'?

He snatched out of his daughter's hands the paper and tore it to small pieces. Daughter cried in indignation: "You're just another Chapita!" It took my father only a moment to register the hated nickname of our dictator, and he was after me. Down the halls, we raced, but I was quicker than he and made it to my room just in time to lock the door as my father threw his weight against it."

The narrator already started to feel sorry for her behavior in that day. When mother stood behind the door, the author wrote:

Go away,” I wailed, but we both knew I was glad she was there, and I needed only a moment's protest to save face before opening that door."

That night mother wrote a new speech for her daughter "two brief pages of stale compliments and the polite commonplaces on teachers". This speech had a great success: "The nuns had been flattered, the audience had stood up and given “our devoted teachers a standing ovation,” what my mother had suggested they do at the end of my speech."

As it became clear later, the last line was borrowed from her father’s old speech. Next day he bought a brand new electric typewriter - his daughter's dream. And for mother, as the author wrote: "her inventing days were over just as mine were starting up with my schoolwide success."

The conflict in the story would be interpreted as a conflict between cultures of different countries or between generations. A possible interpretation of the moral could be explained as the attitude of each person towards other people, readiness to accept the traditions of a new country.

The events described in the story changed a lot for the main characters:
- mother passed her ability to create new ideas for her daughter;
- father helped his daughter to correct her attitude towards society;
- daughter started her long way as a writer.

The picture below illustrated the complexity of plot-lines of this story. Let's see ...

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Marriage Proposal by Anton Chekhov Analysis

A Marriage Proposal is a play written by a great Russian writer Anton Chekhov. It could be classified as a humorous story where the author mocked the habits of landowners.

The play features three characters. A country farmer Tschubukov and his daughter Natalia and Lomov - their neighbor, who came to Tschubukov to ask for the hand of his daughter.

Tschubukov welcomed Lomov ceremonially: "Who is this I see? My dear fellow! ... Please sit down. It isn't right to forget one's neighbor.". When the purpose of the visit was disclosed, Tschubukov embraced and kissed Lomov, he called his daughter and left Lomov and Natalia one on one.

They started a small talk about the weather, about the chores on the farm. When Natalia asked Lomov why he was dressed up so gorgeously, he started answering. Probably, there are many ways to start a speech with a marriage proposal. Some would start talking about their feelings, about their intentions. Lomov, however, started with a precise description of his property:

"My poor aunt and her husband, from whom, as you know, I inherited the estate, always had the greatest respect for your father and your poor mother ... my property, as you know, adjoins your own. If you will be so good as to remember, my meadows touch your birch woods."

Natalia interrupted his speech on this statement "You said “my meadows”—but are they yours?" Their dispute was in a polite tone firstly but soon it became furious. When Tschubukov joined the arguing, the speakers started insulting each other. He cried that "whole Lomov family were insane!". Lomov replied "And your mother limped ... And you are an intriguer."

That debate was so violent that Lomov even had a black-out. Here is what happened next:
"Lomov. Sparks! Mists! Where am I?
Tschubukov. Get married! Quick, and then go to the devil! She's willing! (He joins the hands of Lomov and Natalia.) She's agreed! Only leave me in peace!
Lomov. Wh—what? (getting up) Whom?
Tschubukov. She's willing! Well? Kiss each other and—the devil take you both!
Natalia (groans). He lives! Yes, yes, I'm willing!
Tschubukov. Kiss each other!
Lomov. Eh? Whom? (Natalia and Lomov kiss.) Very nice! Pardon me, but what is this for? Oh, yes, I understand! My heart—sparks—I am happy.

And ... they continued arguing.

Anton Chekhov poked the fun at the habits of the landowners to marry for economic reasons rather than love. He wrote in his story a typical situation: when stubborn people started arguing about something unimportant it leads to a silly dispute. Chekhov was a recognized Master who was able to describe human nature in a manner which made the features of character familiar and funny.

Here is the link to the story:

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Travel Narrative by Bill Bryson (from A Walk in the Woods) Review

A Walk in the Woods is a travel narrative written by American author Bill Bryson. He described in the story his experiment of walking through the Appalachian Mountains. Hiking as a sports activity and as a sort of adventures becomes nowadays very popular. What motivates people to go through the woods, mountains, long distances, overcoming sometimes the great difficulties and dangers? Interesting question. Let's see what the author wrote:

"Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.

At times, you become almost certain that you slabbed this hillside three days ago, crossed this stream yesterday, clambered over this fallen tree at least twice today already. But most of the time you don't think.

Interaction with nature is the main plotline of the story. The author with his friend went through the forest. When they reached the Appalachian Mountains the strong snowy storm begun. The map, which they had, showed the area very approximately, it was possible to say that they didn't have a map. They were lost at the peak of the mountain, during heavy snowfall, as the author wrote: "people have died in less trying circumstances".

Fortunately for travelers, they found the shelter- a small cabin for hikers, where another two people were: a father and a son. After a little rest, they continued their journey. The story has a happy ending. They had some difficulties, even troubles during this journey, but they survived, they overcame difficulties, they achieved the aim- and that's the most important thing. It probably was not the last walking trip for them.

Here is a text of the story:

Saturday, April 14, 2018

When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine by Jhumpa Lahiri Analysis

The short story When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine by Jhumpa Lahiri represents a recollection of Lilia, for that time - a ten-year-old girl, about the relationships in a small community of Indian immigrants who lived in a small university town in the USA. The story took place in the year of 1971 when Bangladesh became independent.

In search of compatriots, Lilia's father observed the columns of the university press, seeking surnames familiar to their part of the world. Eventually, he discovered Mr. Pirzada, and phoned him, and invited him for dinner.

Lilia remembered Mr. Pirzada as a man "bearing confections in his pocket and hopes of ascertaining the life or death of his family." Every week Mr. Pirzada came to Lilia's family and they had dinner together. As a botanic, he was granted by the Pakistani government for one year studying in the university in the USA. We lived in Dacca, which at that time was part of Pakistan. In Dacca he left his wife and seven daughters.

Lilia remembered an episode when she wanted to bring the Indian man a glass of water, and her father said that "Mr. Pirzada is no longer considered Indian ... Not since Partition. Our country was divided. 1947.” It wasn't clear to Lilia. She wrote:

"It made no sense to me. Mr. Pirzada and my parents spoke the same language, laughed at the same jokes, looked more or less the same. ... Nevertheless my father insisted that I understand the difference, and he led me to a map of the world taped to the wall over his desk. He seemed concerned that Mr. Pirzada might take offense if I accidentally referred to him as an Indian".

One day when the family had dinner with Mr. Pirzada, the father turned up the volume on TV and they "saw tanks rolling through dusty streets, and fallen buildings, and forests of unfamiliar trees into which East Pakistani refugees had fled, seeking safety over the Indian border,... a barricaded university, newspaper offices burnt to the ground" Lilia sympathized with Mr. Pirzada, she imagined his family in blazing Dacca. She prayed for the safety of his family. What else could the child do? She ate a piece of candy, wishing all the best to his family.

In contrast to events in Dacca, Lilia described some current events which took place in the university town where she lived. Nobody in the school knew about the war in Southeast Asia. They studied American Revolution, Declaration of Independence, and so on.

Before the Halloween, the children prepared pumpkins to make a Jack-o'-Lantern. Mr. Pirzada participated in that. He began carving when the national news began. It was reported that India had to make war on Pakistan. What Lilia remembered was "the knife slipped from Mr. Pirzada's hand and made a gash dipping toward the base of the pumpkin. “Please forgive me.” He raised a hand to one side of his face, as if someone had slapped him there. “I am—it is terrible. I will buy another. We will try again.” Everyone said that it was ok, they asked Mr. Pirzada don't worry. Lilia took to heart all troubles which family of Mr. Pirzada had.

The author wrote:
"I remember some nights helping my mother spread a sheet and blankets on the couch so that Mr. Pirzada could sleep there, and high-pitched voices hollering in the middle of the night when my parents called our relatives in Calcutta to learn more details about the situation."

After a while, Mr. Pirzada flew back to Dacca. He sent a letter from Dacca. He wrote that his wife and seven daughters survived, they were in an estate belonging to his wife's grandparents in the mountains. The author finished the story by this line:

"Since January, each night before bed, I had continued to eat, for the sake of Mr. Pirzada's family, a piece of candy I had saved from Halloween. That night there was no need to. Eventually, I threw them away."

The moral of the story wasn’t expressed directly. The events which happened many years ago in a remote country, shown in the News, were described by a young girl. The essential part of the story was dedicated to the description of a daily routine in a small American town. Jhumpa Lahiri communicated the idea of friendship between people, respect to the culture and traditions of other nationalities.

Here is a link to the text of the story: