Miserable Life Suffering, Powerful Heart Proping | On Storytelling By Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko is a Native American writer raised in the tribe of Laguna Pueblo. During her childhood, she learnt Laguna legends and traditions from her family members and also got educated in the University of New Mexico before becoming a literature writer. She is a descent of both Anglo American and Mexican American, because of which she grew up on the edge of pueblo society and her family was not allowed to participate in ritual activities. As a result of being a short story writer, one of her most important works is called Storytelling that is composed of various legends and stories related to the traditional Indian culture. In this book, Silko intends to clarify the interrelationship between the stories she had heard and her sense of storytelling and language that had been given to her by the old folks, the people back home. (Barnes 1579) The audience in the author’s view is those who are fond of clarifying the relationship between the spoken and the written. The author also stresses “the key to understanding storytellers and storytelling at Laguna Pueblo is to realize that you grow up not just being aware of narrative and making a story or seeing a story in what happens to you and what goes on around you all the time, but just being appreciative and delighted in narrative exchanges”, so “it isn’t like there’s only one storyteller designated”. The reason why Silko writes these stories is to satisfy herself by translating the feeling, flavor or sense of a story into a literature version. However, during this process, she does not change the spirit, the mood or the tone of the story because she regards stories as living things with their own vitality. (Barnes 1581)

Against a backdrop of describing racism and revenge in Storytelling, Lullaby is one of its most famous story told from the perspective an old woman who recalling the tragic memories in her life. Arranged through the way of flashback, the story is elicited by a blanket of Ayah’s son, Jimmie who has died in the battlefield, then the occasion of weaving with Ayah’s mother and grandma and finally Ayah’s husband named Chato. Except for Jimmie, Ayah has another two children named Danny and Ella who are taken away from her by the whites. What is an added disaster to these poor couple is that Chato is chased from the work for his physical defect. Apart from a bit of payment and a blanket, they have nothing at all.

The story is named as Lullaby, but is not about the innocence of children. “On the contrary, this is a story about the horrors of adulthood, but it also reflects the ability to weave all of the events of one’s life into a story”. “Memory, too, serves as a blanket that warms Ayah and allows her to continue living despite the horrible conditions she faces”. (Salyer 16) In the view of Edith Blicksilver, “Lullaby describes the Anglo’s exploitation of the Indian and tragic consequences of forcing young children to choose between the old tribal reservation traditions and a materialistic, urban, sterile society so alien to their close-knit extended family culture.” “Silko is able to extricate her powerful feeling s for this individual from her sympathetic involvement with her as a victim of racial oppression”. This old Navaho woman witnesses the transitional period between old and new. In her natural traditional life, she may not have been liberated as an Indian woman based on the modern definitions, but she knew her worth. While faced with the totally fresh world, she shows her heroic fortitude.

Indian was once a matriarchal clan society. It is hard to describe Indian as a society formed with a certain civilization since the European colonists landed here, so it provides a good opportunity for those colonists to control the aborigines on their minds. The whites forbid the Indians to give birth. Children are hauled away from their parents to a special naturalized school where kids are not allowed to speak their mother tough but only English. They are trained there to be the slaves of the white in terms of changing their names, studying the Bible and western culture. It is impossible for them to meet their biological parents again. In the story Lullaby, to some extend, it is lucky for Ayah to have chances to meet her children for twice. However, it is just a self comfort or self deception that are forced to be formed in the Indian’s personality. They have no right to choose but adapt to what these new immigrants brings to them, like culture, wealth, development and also disease which causes a great reduction of Indian population. Seen from the above condition, we can say with certainty that Indian people should be feared. They have no power at all in all respect to fight against these invaders. However, I find a kind of fearlessness and powerful inner forces from this woman named Ayah. Her strength is not a superficial one, liking killing some whites or starting some activities for defiance, but her braveness and persistence in dealing with all the events happened in her life. She has done what she can do and also has a strong heart to accept the result.

Her fortitude will be illustrated from her responses to facing with a broken family and the death of her child and husband.

Ayah’s family was broken by the whites who force to bring her children away. The white doctors ask her to sign her name on the paper. She does it as what her husband tells her because only he understands what the whites are talking about. However, she cannot believe that it is a contract to send her children away to a place called Colorado where there are many sick and dying strangers. Without knowing the fact, she just wants them to go and sign the name. ”She took the pen from the man without looking at his face”. “She stared at the ground by their feet and waited for them to leave”. From her actions, we can tell she is really nervous and afraid to contact with white strangers because she dares not to face up to them. However, she feels something is wrong later when they stand still and point at her kids. Out of maternity, she ran with her two children up to the hills avoiding them being taken away. This action is a comparative one to those before. They stay there for a quite long time to wait for her husband to pick them up. She just tries to ensure that those white doctors have left so that her children can still be with her. Living with her own children for the rest of her life has already become a fantasy, but at least she fights for it for one time which leaves her one more afternoon to share the beautiful view of warm sun, blue sky and light cloud with kids. The kids are gone finally. She hates her husband Chato who tells her to sign the name. As the revenge, she does not lie down besides him for many years later. We can personally feel the pain when we are away from home for a long time. Actually parents’ is far more than what we have burdened, so it is easy for us to understand Ayah’s sadness and anger. Nevertheless, when her husband is ill and chased away from the farmland, she comes back to him. She feels that “for forty years she had smiled at him and cooked his food, but he remained a stranger”, but she still “walked back to find Chato” because they are a couple and they have nothing left but each other. It can’t be easy for her to keep living with this man who makes her lose kids, but she still chooses to accompany him. The reason why she can handle this is because she has a strong heart.
The second aspect is her reaction to the death of her first child, Jimmie, and her husband. The blanket belonged to Jimmie when he is alive is the clue of the whole story. Ayah seems to take it to anywhere she goes. When Chato tells her “Jimmie isn’t coming home anymore”, “she didn’t cry then, but she hurt inside with anger”. The pain that cannot be relieved is the most excruciating. Ayah mourns Jimmie for twice in the story. The first one happens when Chato breaks his leg and can’t get payment until he can work again. She thinks if Jimmie is here, he can do that for his father. The second time happens when the white doctors bring Danny and Ella away. She thinks if Jimmie is here, he can read the contract for her and kids will not be taken away. Since the children left her, she moves to the hill where they spend the last time together with the blanket Jimmie has sent her. She takes the blanket with her all the time from which we can tell that she actually mourns Jimmie in every minute. Her strong appearance makes us feel more of the pain she suffers.

Chato is so old that the rancher finds a new labor to replace him. They have to move out of the gray boxcar shack. She is old too. With the white hair and wrinkled face, she is not stopped by the owner of the bar when she enters for looking for Chato. Men in there are afraid of her which makes her satisfied. She finds him when they are walking along the pavement. Chato talks with her that the ranch cannot be managed well without him. He also called her wife with the name of his sister. He wears the old boots, shirts and clothes, which makes him covered in rags. She laughed at him. He stops his step to look at her. He is really old now. Ayah asks for a rest. They sit down with their backs against the rock. “She offered half of the blanket to him and they sat wrapped together”. “His eyes were closed now, and in the light from the stars and the moon, he looked young again”. She begins to sing lullaby for him, making everything turn to the original and the nature. At this time, I think Ayah may not think of other things. She has a man who has accompanied her during her span time, the blanket that strongly suffused with the love of his son and the beauty of nature she used to shared with Danny and Ella. She feels satisfied and happy for what she has had. That is what the worth of life, which cannot be taken away by anyone.

The external environment sometimes may bring us various pressure, fearness or intranquility, which is out of our control. However, we can improve ourselves and try to face the difficulties with a strong inner power. Frustration, to some extend, is the fortune of life for it making us realize more of the value of what we have had.

Works Cited

Evans, Charlene Taylor. Women of Color: Mother-Daughter Relationships in  

     20th-Century Literature (1996): 172-87.

Blicksilver, Edith. Southwest Review (1979): 149-60

Salyer, Gregory. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997

Google Play app revenue up, but still a distant second to Apple App Store

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A new report from  Distimo , a company that provides mobile app store analytics for developers, shows that revenue for the  Android  based Google Play store is up. In November of 2012, revenue from Google Play made up only 19 percent of combined total revenue between the  Apple App Store  and Google Play. However by this past April 2013 Google Play’s share had increased by eight percentage points, now making up 27 percent of the combined total revenue of the two stores.  Apple  is still leading the market with 73 percent of the combined total revenue.

The report also delved into whether there is any truth to the conventional wisdom that app developers were finding it hard to monetize apps in the Google Play store. Google Play features a large number of successful free apps, but trails behind Apple in the number of successful paid apps. However, the growth of “freemium” gaming, where a free game is augmented with in-game purchases, combined with strong overseas sales for titles like  Final Fantasy  III is helping the store catch up.

There are a number of contributing factors to the increased growth of Google Play’s store, but the largest are the growing European, Japanese, and South Korean markets. According to Distimo these markets in have been vital to Google Play’s recent growth. While not mentioned in the Distimo analysis, this could be due to the lower cost of some Android hardware, making smartphones more affordable in countries with large populations of differing economic status.

While Google Play is starting to slowly catch up, the Apple App Store is still leading the market by a wide margin. As of April 2013 the  United States  was still the largest market when considering the total combined revenue of both stores. The daily revenue for the top 200 grossing apps in Google Play was $1.1 million, while the top 200 apps in the  Apple Store  were bringing in $5.1 million a day. The Apple App Store revenues include both  iPhone  and  iPad  apps, which given the market share enjoyed by the iPadmight explain some of Apple’s lead over Google Play.

You can find Distimo’s full analysis here.

Google Play app revenue up, but still a distant second to Apple App Store originally appeared on TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Wed, 29 May 2013 16:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowing Evening | Robert Frost

Stopping by Woods on a Snowing Evening (1923)

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

 

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer,
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bell a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Everyday Use | Alice Walker

I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon. A yard like this is more comfortable than most people know. It is not just a yard. It is like an extended living room. When the hard clay is swept clean as a floor and the fine sand around the edges lined with tiny, irregular grooves, anyone can come and sit and look up into the elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside the house.

Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe. She thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that “no” is a word the world never learned to say to her.

You’ve no doubt seen those TV shows where the child who has “made it” is confronted, as a surprise, by her own mother and father, tottering in weakly from backstage. (A pleasant surprise, of course: What would they do if parent and child came on the show only to curse out and insult each other?) On TV mother and child embrace and smile into each other’s faces. Sometimes the mother and father weep, the child wraps them in her arms and leans across the table to tell how she would not have made it without their help. I have seen these programs.

Sometimes I dream a dream in which Dee and I are suddenly brought together on a TV program of this sort. Out of a dark and soft.seated limousine I am ushered into a bright room filled with many people. There I meet a smiling, gray, sporty man like Johnny Carson who shakes my hand and tells me what a fine girl I have. Then we are on the stage and Dee is embracing me with tears in her eyes. She pins on my dress a large orchid, even though she has told me once that she thinks orchids are tacky flowers.

In real life I am a large, big.boned woman with rough, man.working hands. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls dur.ing the day. I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man. My fat keeps me hot in zero weather. I can work outside all day, breaking ice to get water for washing; I can eat pork liver cooked over the open fire minutes after it comes steaming from the hog. One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain between the eyes with a sledge hammer and had the meat hung up to chill before nightfall. But of course all this does not show on television. I am the way my daughter would want me to be: a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley pancake. My hair glistens in the hot bright lights. Johnny Carson has much to do to keep up with my quick and witty tongue.

But that is a mistake. I know even before I wake up. Who ever knew a Johnson with a quick tongue? Who can even imagine me looking a strange white man in the eye? It seems to me I have talked to them always with one foot raised in flight, with my head fumed in whichever way is farthest from them. Dee, though. She would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was no part of her nature.

“How do I look, Mama?” Maggie says, showing just enough of her thin body enveloped in pink skirt and red blouse for me to know she’s there, almost hidden by the door.

“Come out into the yard,” I say.

Have you ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car, sidle up to someone who is ignorant enough to be kind to him? That is the way my Maggie walks. She has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ever since the fire that burned the other house to the ground.

Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure. She’s a woman now, though sometimes I forget. How long ago was it that the other house burned? Ten, twelve years? Sometimes I can still hear the flames and feel Maggie’s arms sticking to me, her hair smoking and her dress falling off her in little black papery flakes. Her eyes seemed stretched open, blazed open by the flames reflected in them. And Dee. I see her standing off under the sweet gum tree she used to dig gum out of; a look of concentration on her face as she watched the last dingy gray board of the house fall in toward the red.hot brick chimney. Why don’t you do a dance around the ashes? I’d wanted to ask her. She had hated the house that much.

I used to think she hated Maggie, too. But that was before we raised money, the church and me, to send her to Augusta to school. She used to read to us without pity; forcing words, lies, other folks’ habits, whole lives upon us two, sitting trapped and ignorant underneath her voice. She washed us in a river of make.believe, burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn’t necessarily need to know. Pressed us to her with the serf’ ous way she read, to shove us away at just the moment, like dimwits, we seemed about to understand.

Dee wanted nice things. A yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation from high school; black pumps to match a green suit she’d made from an old suit somebody gave me. She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. Her eyelids would not flicker for minutes at a time. Often I fought off the temptation to shake her. At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was.

I never had an education myself. After second grade the school was closed down. Don’t ask my why: in 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now. Sometimes Maggie reads to me. She stumbles along good.naturedly but can’t see well. She knows she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passes her by. She will marry John Thomas (who has mossy teeth in an earnest face) and then I’ll be free to sit here and I guess just sing church songs to myself. Although I never was a good singer. Never could carry a tune. I was always better at a man’s job. I used to love to milk till I was hooked in the side in ’49. Cows are soothing and slow and don’t bother you, unless you try to milk them the wrong way.
I have deliberately turned my back on the house. It is three rooms, just like the one that burned, except the roof is tin; they don’t make shingle roofs any more. There are no real windows, just some holes cut in the sides, like the portholes in a ship, but not round and not square, with rawhide holding the shutters up on the outside. This house is in a pasture, too, like the other one. No doubt when Dee sees it she will want to tear it down. She wrote me once that no matter where we “choose” to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends. Maggie and I thought about this and Maggie asked me, “Mama, when did Dee ever have any friends?”

She had a few. Furtive boys in pink shirts hanging about on washday after school. Nervous girls who never laughed. Impressed with her they worshiped the well.turned phrase, the cute shape, the scalding humor that erupted like bubbles in Iye. She read to them.

When she was courting Jimmy T she didn’t have much time to pay to us, but turned all her faultfinding power on him. He flew to marry a cheap city girl from a family of ignorant flashy people. She hardly had time to recompose herself.

When she comes I will meet there they are!

Maggie attempts to make a dash for the house, in her shuffling way, but I stay her with my hand. “Come back here, ” I say. And she stops and tries to dig a well in the sand with her toe.

It is hard to see them clearly through the strong sun. But even the first glimpse of leg out of the car tells me it is Dee. Her feet were always neat.looking, as if God himself had shaped them with a certain style. From the other side of the car comes a short, stocky man. Hair is all over his head a foot long and hanging from his chin like a kinky mule tail. I hear Maggie suck in her breath. “Uhnnnh, ” is what it sounds like. Like when you see the wriggling end of a snake just in front of your foot on the road. “Uhnnnh.”

Dee next. A dress down to the ground, in this hot weather. A dress so loud it hurts my eyes. There are yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun. I feel my whole face warming from the heat waves it throws out. Earrings gold, too, and hanging down to her shoul.ders. Bracelets dangling and making noises when she moves her arm up to shake the folds of the dress out of her armpits. The dress is loose and flows, and as she walks closer, I like it. I hear Maggie go “Uhnnnh” again. It is her sister’s hair. It stands straight up like the wool on a sheep. It is black as night and around the edges are two long pigtails that rope about like small lizards disappearing behind her ears.

“Wa.su.zo.Tean.o!” she says, coming on in that gliding way the dress makes her move. The short stocky fellow with the hair to his navel is all grinning and he follows up with “Asalamalakim, my mother and sister!” He moves to hug Maggie but she falls back, right up against the back of my chair. I feel her trembling there and when I look up I see the perspiration falling off her chin.

“Don’t get up,” says Dee. Since I am stout it takes something of a push. You can see me trying to move a second or two before I make it. She turns, showing white heels through her sandals, and goes back to the car. Out she peeks next with a Polaroid. She stoops down quickly and lines up picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with Maggie cowering behind me. She never takes a shot without mak’ ing sure the house is included. When a cow comes nibbling around the edge of the yard she snaps it and me and Maggie and the house. Then she puts the Polaroid in the back seat of the car, and comes up and kisses me on the forehead.

Meanwhile Asalamalakim is going through motions with Maggie’s hand. Maggie’s hand is as limp as a fish, and probably as cold, despite the sweat, and she keeps trying to pull it back. It looks like Asalamalakim wants to shake hands but wants to do it fancy. Or maybe he don’t know how people shake hands. Anyhow, he soon gives up on Maggie.

“Well,” I say. “Dee.”

“No, Mama,” she says. “Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!”

“What happened to ‘Dee’?” I wanted to know.

“She’s dead,” Wangero said. “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.”

“You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie,” I said. Dicie is my sister. She named Dee. We called her “Big Dee” after Dee was born.

“But who was she named after?” asked Wangero.

“I guess after Grandma Dee,” I said.

“And who was she named after?” asked Wangero.

“Her mother,” I said, and saw Wangero was getting tired. “That’s about as far back as I can trace it,” I said. Though, in fact, I probably could have carried it back beyond the Civil War through the branches.

“Well,” said Asalamalakim, “there you are.”

“Uhnnnh,” I heard Maggie say.

“There I was not,” I said, “before ‘Dicie’ cropped up in our family, so why should I try to trace it that far back?”

He just stood there grinning, looking down on me like somebody inspecting a Model A car. Every once in a while he and Wangero sent eye signals over my head.

“How do you pronounce this name?” I asked.

“You don’t have to call me by it if you don’t want to,” said Wangero.

“Why shouldn’t 1?” I asked. “If that’s what you want us to call you, we’ll call you.”

“I know it might sound awkward at first,” said Wangero.

“I’ll get used to it,” I said. “Ream it out again.”

Well, soon we got the name out of the way. Asalamalakim had a name twice as long and three times as hard. After I tripped over it two or three times he told me to just call him Hakim.a.barber. I wanted to ask him was he a barber, but I didn’t really think he was, so I didn’t ask.

“You must belong to those beef.cattle peoples down the road,” I said. They said “Asalamalakim” when they met you, too, but they didn’t shake hands. Always too busy: feeding the cattle, fixing the fences, putting up salt.lick shelters, throwing down hay. When the white folks poisoned some of the herd the men stayed up all night with rifles in their hands. I walked a mile and a half just to see the sight.

Hakim.a.barber said, “I accept some of their doctrines, but farming and raising cattle is not my style.” (They didn’t tell me, and I didn’t ask, whether Wangero (Dee) had really gone and married him.)
We sat down to eat and right away he said he didn’t eat collards and pork was unclean. Wangero, though, went on through the chitlins and com bread, the greens and everything else. She talked a blue streak over the sweet potatoes. Everything delighted her. Even the fact that we still used the benches her daddy made for the table when we couldn’t effort to buy chairs.

“Oh, Mama!” she cried. Then turned to Hakim.a.barber. “I never knew how lovely these benches are. You can feel the rump prints,” she said, running her hands underneath her and along the bench. Then she gave a sigh and her hand closed over Grandma Dee’s butter dish. “That’s it!” she said. “I knew there was something I wanted to ask you if I could have.” She jumped up from the table and went over in the corner where the churn stood, the milk in it crabber by now. She looked at the churn and looked at it.

“This churn top is what I need,” she said. “Didn’t Uncle Buddy whittle it out of a tree you all used to have?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Un huh,” she said happily. “And I want the dasher, too.”

“Uncle Buddy whittle that, too?” asked the barber.

Dee (Wangero) looked up at me.

“Aunt Dee’s first husband whittled the dash,” said Maggie so low you almost couldn’t hear her. “His name was Henry, but they called him Stash.”

“Maggie’s brain is like an elephant’s,” Wangero said, laughing. “I can use the chute top as a centerpiece for the alcove table,” she said, sliding a plate over the chute, “and I’ll think of something artistic to do with the dasher.”

When she finished wrapping the dasher the handle stuck out. I took it for a moment in my hands. You didn’t even have to look close to see where hands pushing the dasher up and down to make butter had left a kind of sink in the wood. In fact, there were a lot of small sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood. It was beautiful light yellow wood, from a tree that grew in the yard where Big Dee and Stash had lived.

After dinner Dee (Wangero) went to the trunk at the foot of my bed and started rifling through it. Maggie hung back in the kitchen over the dishpan. Out came Wangero with two quilts. They had been pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me had hung them on the quilt ftames on the ftont porch and quilted them. One was in the Lone Stat pattetn. The other was Walk Around the Mountain. In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had wotn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jattell’s Paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece, about the size of a penny matchbox, that was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s unifotm that he wore in the Civil War.

“Mama,” Wangro said sweet as a bird. “Can I have these old quilts?”

I heard something fall in the kitchen, and a minute later the kitchen door slammed.

“Why don’t you take one or two of the others?” I asked. “These old things was just done by me and Big Dee from some tops your grandma pieced before she died.”

“No,” said Wangero. “I don’t want those. They are stitched around the borders by machine.”
“That’ll make them last better,” I said.

“That’s not the point,” said Wangero. “These are all pieces of dresses Grandma used to wear. She did all this stitching by hand. Imagine!” She held the quilts securely in her atms, stroking them.

“Some of the pieces, like those lavender ones, come from old clothes her mother handed down to her,” I said, moving up to touch the quilts. Dee (Wangero) moved back just enough so that I couldn’t reach the quilts. They already belonged to her.

“Imagine!” she breathed again, clutching them closely to her bosom.

“The truth is,” I said, “I promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she matties John Thomas.”

She gasped like a bee had stung her.

“Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!” she said. “She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.”

“I reckon she would,” I said. “God knows I been saving ’em for long enough with nobody using ’em. I hope she will!” I didn’t want to bring up how I had offered Dee (Wangero) a quilt when she went away to college. Then she had told they were old~fashioned, out of style.

“But they’re priceless!” she was saying now, furiously; for she has a temper. “Maggie would put them on the bed and in five years they’d be in rags. Less than that!”

“She can always make some more,” I said. “Maggie knows how to quilt.”

Dee (Wangero) looked at me with hatred. “You just will not under.stand. The point is these quilts, these quilts!”

“Well,” I said, stumped. “What would you do with them?”

“Hang them,” she said. As if that was the only thing you could do with quilts.

Maggie by now was standing in the door. I could almost hear the sound her feet made as they scraped over each other.

“She can have them, Mama,” she said, like somebody used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her. “I can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts.”

I looked at her hard. She had filled her bottom lip with checkerberry snuff and gave her face a kind of dopey, hangdog look. It was Grandma Dee and Big Dee who taught her how to quilt herself. She stood there with her scarred hands hidden in the folds of her skirt. She looked at her sister with something like fear but she wasn’t mad at her. This was Maggie’s portion. This was the way she knew God to work.

When I looked at her like that something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet. Just like when I’m in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout. I did some.thing I never done before: hugged Maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero’s hands and dumped them into Maggie’s lap. Maggie just sat there on my bed with her mouth open.

“Take one or two of the others,” I said to Dee.

But she turned without a word and went out to Hakim~a~barber.

“You just don’t understand,” she said, as Maggie and I came out to the car.

“What don’t I understand?” I wanted to know.

“Your heritage,” she said, And then she turned to Maggie, kissed her, and said, “You ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you’d never know it.”

She put on some sunglasses that hid everything above the tip of her nose and chin.

Maggie smiled; maybe at the sunglasses. But a real smile, not scared. After we watched the car dust settle I asked Maggie to bring me a dip of snuff. And then the two of us sat there just enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed.

The Yellow Wallpaper | Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 1860-1935.
Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

________________________________________

The Yellow Wallpaper
By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.
A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity but that would be asking too much of fate!
Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it.
Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted?
John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.
John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.
John is a physician, and — perhaps (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind) perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.
You see he does not believe I am sick!
And what can one do?
If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression — a slight hysterical tendency — what is one to do?
My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.
So I take phosphates or phospites — whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again.
Personally, I disagree with their ideas.
Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.
But what is one to do?
I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal — having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.
I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus — but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.
So I will let it alone and talk about the house.
The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.
There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them.
There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now.
There was some legal trouble, I believe, something about the heirs and coheirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years.
That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid, but I don’t care — there is something strange about the house — I can feel it.
I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window.
I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.
But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself — before him, at least, and that makes me very tired.
I don’t like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings! but John would not hear of it.
He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near room for him if he took another.
He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.
I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.
He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. “Your exercise depends on your strength, my dear,” said he, “and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time.” So we took the nursery at the top of the house.
It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.
The paint and paper look as if a boys’ school had used it. It is stripped off — the paper — in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.
One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.
It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide — plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.
The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.
It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.
No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long.
There comes John, and I must put this away, — he hates to have me write a word.
________________________________________

We have been here two weeks, and I haven’t felt like writing before, since that first day.
I am sitting by the window now, up in this atrocious nursery, and there is nothing to hinder my writing as much as I please, save lack of strength.
John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious.
I am glad my case is not serious!
But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing.
John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.
Of course it is only nervousness. It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way!
I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!
Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able, — to dress and entertain, and order things.
It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby!
And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous.
I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wall-paper!
At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies.
He said that after the wall-paper was changed it would be the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then that gate at the head of the stairs, and so on.
“You know the place is doing you good,” he said, “and really, dear, I don’t care to renovate the house just for a three months’ rental.”
“Then do let us go downstairs,” I said, “there are such pretty rooms there.”
Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose, and said he would go down to the cellar, if I wished, and have it whitewashed into the bargain.
But he is right enough about the beds and windows and things.
It is an airy and comfortable room as any one need wish, and, of course, I would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim.
I’m really getting quite fond of the big room, all but that horrid paper.
Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious deepshaded arbors, the riotous old fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees.
Out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little private wharf belonging to the estate. There is a beautiful shaded lane that runs down there from the house. I always fancy I see people walking in these numerous paths and arbors, but John has cautioned me not to g ve way to fancy in the least. He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try.
I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.
But I find I get pretty tired when I try.
It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work. When I get really well, John says we will ask Cousin Henry and Julia down for a long visit; but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow case as to let me have those stimulating people about now.
I wish I could get well faster.
But I must not think about that. This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had!
There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.
I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere. There is one place where two breaths didn’t match, and the eyes go all up and down the line, one a little higher than the other.
I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy-store.
I remember what a kindly wink the knobs of our big, old bureau used to have, and there was one chair that always seemed like a strong friend
I used to feel that if any of the other thing’ looked too fierce I could always hop into that chair and be safe.
The furniture in this room is no worse than inharmonious, however, for we had to bring it all from downstairs. I suppose when this was used as a playroom they had to take the nursery things out, and no wonder! I never saw such ravages as the children have made here.
The wall-paper, as I said before, is torn off in spots, and it sticketh closer than a brother — they must have had perseverance as well as hatred.
Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars.
But I don’t mind it a bit — only the paper.
There comes John’s sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing.
She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me sick!
But I can write when she is out, and see her a long way off from these windows.
There is one that commands the road, a lovely shaded winding road, and one that just looks off over the country. A lovely country, too, full of great elms and velvet meadows.
This wall-paper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then.
But in the places where it isn’t faded and where the sun is just so I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.
There’s sister on the stairs!
________________________________________

Well, the Fourth of July is over! The people are all gone and I am tired out. John thought it might do me good to see a little company, so we just had mother and Nellie and the children down for a week.
Of course I didn’t do a thing. Jennie sees to everything now.
But it tired me all the same.
John says if I don’t pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall.
But I don’t want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his hands once, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only more so!
Besides, it is such an undertaking to go so far.
I don’t feel as if it was worth while to turn my hand over for anything, and I’m getting dreadfully fretful and querulous.
I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.
Of course I don’t when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone.
And I am alone a good deal just now. John is kept in town very often by serious cases, and Jennie is good and lets me alone when I want her to.
So I walk a little in the garden or down that lovely lane, sit on the porch under the roses, and lie down up here a good deal.
I’m getting really fond of the room in spite of the wall-paper. Perhaps because of the wall-paper.
It dwells in my mind so!
I lie here on this great immovable bed — it is nailed down, I believe — and follow that pattern about by the hour. It is as good as gymnastics, I assure you. I start, we’ll say, at the bottom, down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion.
I know a little of the principle of design, and I know this thing was not arranged on any laws of I radiation, or alternation, or repetition, or symmetry, or anything else that I ever heard of.
It is repeated, of course, by the breadths, but not otherwise.
Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and flourishes — a kind of “debased Romanesque” with delirium tremens — go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity.
But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase.
The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems so, and I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of its going in that direction.
They have used a horizontal breadth for a frieze, and that adds wonderfully to the confusion.
There is one end of the room where it is almost intact, and there, when the crosslights fade and the low sun shines directly upon it, I can almost fancy radiation after all, — the interminable grotesques seem to form around a common centre and rush off in headlong plunges of equal distraction.
It makes me tired to follow it. I will take a nap I guess.
I don’t know why I should write this.
I don’t want to.
I don’t feel able.
And I know John would think it absurd. But must say what I feel and think in some way — it is such a relief!
But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.
Half the time now I am awfully lazy, and lie down ever so much.
John says I mustn’t lose my strength, and has me take cod liver oil and lots of tonics and things, to say nothing of ale and wine and rare meat.
Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick. I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day, and tell him how I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia.
But he said I wasn’t able to go, nor able to stand it after I got there; and I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying before I had finished.
It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight. Just this nervous weakness I suppose.
And dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me till it tired my head.
He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had, and that I must take care of myself for his sake, and keep well.
He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me.
There’s one comfort, the baby is well and happy, and does not have to occupy this nursery with the horrid wall-paper.
If we had not used it, that blessed child would have! What a fortunate escape! Why, I wouldn’t have a child of mine, an impressionable little thing, live in such a room for worlds.
I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept me here after all, I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see.
Of course I never mention it to them any more — I am too wise, — but I keep watch of it all the same.
There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.
Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day.
It is always the same shape, only very numerous.
And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don’t like it a bit. I wonder — I begin to think — I wish John would take me away from here!
It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so.
But I tried it last night.
It was moonlight. The moon shines in all around just as the sun does.
I hate to see it sometimes, it creeps so slowly, and always comes in by one window or another.
John was asleep and I hated to waken him, so I kept still and watched the moonlight on that undulating wall-paper till I felt creepy.
The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out.
I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper did move, and when I came back John was awake.
“What is it, little girl?” he said. “Don’t go walking about like that — you’ll get cold.”
I thought it was a good time to talk, so I told him that I really was not gaining here, and that I wished he would take me away.
“Why darling!” said he, “our lease will be up in three weeks, and I can’t see how to leave before.
“The repairs are not done at home, and I cannot possibly leave town just now. Of course if you were in any danger, I could and would, but you really are better, dear, whether you can see it or not. I am a doctor, dear, and I know. You are gaining flesh and color, your appetite is better, I feel really much easier about you.”
“I don’t weigh a bit more,” said I, “nor as much; and my appetite may be better in the evening when you are here, but it is worse in the morning when you are away!”
“Bless her little heart!” said he with a big hug, “she shall be as sick as she pleases! But now let’s improve the shining hours by going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning!”
“And you won’t go away?” I asked gloomily.
“Why, how can I, dear? It is only three weeks more and then we will take a nice little trip of a few days while Jennie is getting the house ready. Really dear you are better! ”
“Better in body perhaps — ” I began, and stopped short, for he sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word.
“My darling,” said he, “I beg of you, for my sake and for our child’s sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?”
So of course I said no more on that score, and we went to sleep before long. He thought I was asleep first, but I wasn’t, and lay there for hours trying to decide whether that front pattern and the back pattern really did move together or separately.
________________________________________

On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind.
The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.
You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.
The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions — why, that is something like it.
That is, sometimes!
There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself and that is that it changes as the light changes.
When the sun shoots in through the east window — I always watch for that first long, straight ray — it changes so quickly that I never can quite believe it.
That is why I watch it always.
By moonlight — the moon shines in all night when there is a moon — I wouldn’t know it was the same paper.
At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.
I didn’t realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but l now I am quite sure it is a woman.
By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour.
I lie down ever so much now. John says it is good for me, and to sleep all I can.
Indeed he started the habit by making me lie down for an hour after each meal.
It is a very bad habit I am convinced, for you see I don’t sleep.
And that cultivates deceit, for I don’t tell them I’m awake — O no!
The fact is I am getting a little afraid of John.
He seems very queer sometimes, and even Jennie has an inexplicable look.
It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific hypothesis, — that perhaps it is the paper!
I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I’ve caught him several times looking at the paper! And Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once.

She didn’t know I was in the room, and when I asked her in a quiet, a very quiet voice, with the most restrained manner possible, what she was doing with the paper — she turned around as if she had been caught stealing, and looked quite angry — asked me why I should frighten her so!
Then she said that the paper stained everything it touched, that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John’s, and she wished we would be more careful!
Did not that sound innocent? But I know she was studying that pattern, and I am determined that nobody shall find it out but myself!
________________________________________

Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was.
John is so pleased to see me improve! He laughed a little the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wall-paper.
I turned it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling him it was because of the wall-paper — he would make fun of me. He might even want to take me away.
I don’t want to leave now until I have found it out. There is a week more, and I think that will be enough.
________________________________________

I’m feeling ever so much better! I don’t sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime.
In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing.
There are always new shoots on the fungus, and new shades of yellow all over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have tried conscientiously.
It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw — not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things.
But there is something else about that paper — the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the room, but with so much air and sun it was not bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here.
It creeps all over the house.
I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs.
It gets into my hair.
Even when I go to ride, if I turn my head suddenly and surprise it — there is that smell!
Such a peculiar odor, too! I have spent hours in trying to analyze it, to find what it smelled like.
It is not bad — at first, and very gentle, but quite the subtlest, most enduring odor I ever met.
In this damp weather it is awful, I wake up in the night and find it hanging over me.
It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house — to reach the smell.
But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell.
There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the mopboard. A streak that runs round the room. It goes behind every piece of furniture, except the bed, a long, straight, even smooch, as if it had been rubbed over and over.
I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did it for. Round and round and round — round and round and round — it makes me dizzy!
________________________________________

I really have discovered something at last.
Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out.
The front pattern does move — and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!
Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.
Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.
And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern — it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.
They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white!
If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad.
________________________________________

I think that woman gets out in the daytime!
And I’ll tell you why — privately — I’ve seen her!
I can see her out of every one of my windows!
It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.
I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.
I don’t blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight!
I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can’t do it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once.
And John is so queer now, that I don’t want to irritate him. I wish he would take another room! Besides, I don’t want anybody to get that woman out at night but myself.
I often wonder if I could see her out of all the windows at once.
But, turn as fast as I can, I can only see out of one at one time.
And though I always see her, she may be able to creep faster than I can turn!
I have watched her sometimes away off in the open country, creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind.
________________________________________

If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under one! I mean to try it, little by little.
I have found out another funny thing, but I shan’t tell it this time! It does not do to trust people too much.
There are only two more days to get this paper off, and I believe John is beginning to notice. I don’t like the look in his eyes.
And I heard him ask Jennie a lot of professional questions about me. She had a very good report to give.
She said I slept a good deal in the daytime.
John knows I don’t sleep very well at night, for all I’m so quiet!
He asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretended to be very loving and kind.
As if I couldn’t see through him!
Still, I don’t wonder he acts so, sleeping under this paper for three months.
It only interests me, but I feel sure John and Jennie are secretly affected by it.
________________________________________

Hurrah! This is the last day, but it is enough. John to stay in town over night, and won’t be out until this evening.
Jennie wanted to sleep with me — the sly thing! but I told her I should undoubtedly rest better for a night all alone.
That was clever, for really I wasn’t alone a bit! As soon as it was moonlight and that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern, I got up and ran to help her.
I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper.
A strip about as high as my head and half around the room.
And then when the sun came and that awful pattern began to laugh at me, I declared I would finish it to-day!
We go away to-morrow, and they are moving all my furniture down again to leave things as they were before.
Jennie looked at the wall in amazement, but I told her merrily that I did it out of pure spite at the vicious thing.
She laughed and said she wouldn’t mind doing it herself, but I must not get tired.
How she betrayed herself that time!
But I am here, and no person touches this but me, — not alive !
She tried to get me out of the room — it was too patent! But I said it was so quiet and empty and clean now that I believed I would lie down again and sleep all I could; and not to wake me even for dinner — I would call when I woke.
So now she is gone, and the servants are gone, and the things are gone, and there is nothing left but that great bedstead nailed down, with the canvas mattress we found on it.
We shall sleep downstairs to-night, and take the boat home to-morrow.
I quite enjoy the room, now it is bare again.
How those children did tear about here!
This bedstead is fairly gnawed!
But I must get to work.
I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path.
I don’t want to go out, and I don’t want to have anybody come in, till John comes.
I want to astonish him.
I’ve got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find. If that woman does get out, and tries to get away, I can tie her!
But I forgot I could not reach far without anything to stand on!
This bed will not move!
I tried to lift and push it until I was lame, and then I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner — but it hurt my teeth.
Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!
I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try.
Besides I wouldn’t do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued.
I don’t like to look out of the windows even — there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.
I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?
But I am securely fastened now by my well hidden rope — you don’t get me out in the road there!
I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!
It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please!
I don’t want to go outside. I won’t, even if Jennie asks me to.
For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow.
But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way.
Why there’s John at the door!
It is no use, young man, you can’t open it!
How he does call and pound!
Now he’s crying for an axe.
It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door!
“John dear!” said I in the gentlest voice, “the key is down by the front steps, under a plantain leaf! ”
That silenced him for a few moments.
Then he said very quietly indeed, “Open the door, my darling!”
“I can’t,” said I. “The key is down by the front door under a plantain leaf!”
And then I said it again, several times, very gently and slowly, and said it so often that he had to go and see, and he got it of course, and came in. He stopped short by the door.
“What is the matter?” he cried. “For God’s sake, what are you doing!”
I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder.
“I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back! ”
Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!

BOOK REPORT: The Grass is Singing | Doris Lessing

Published in 1950, The Grass is Singing is the first novel Persian-born British author Doris Lessing. The book focuses on the tragic fate of the protagonist—Mary, a white Rhodesian woman and the wife of a famer. Taking place in southern Africa during the late 1940s, the story deals with racism, sexism and materialism and depicts the whole picture of African society at that time.

The Grass is Singing opens with the death of Mary Turner, who is found murdered on the porch of her home. However, compared to the crime, people’s reaction is odder. The whole community chooses to keep silent and persons involved turns to guard it as a secret. The way people work this case out suggests that everyone knows everything although nothing has been talked straightforward. We have to see the whole thing from the very beginning, back to our victim’s early life before her disastrous marriage. Mary’s childhood is everything but happiness. Living in poor family of a drunken father and bitter mother, she doesn’t find a relief until parents died and began her single life with a satisfying job. Happy days don’t last long before she is in her thirties and decides to get married after overhearing friends’ insulting talk about her singlehood. That’s when Dick Turner appears and takes her to his farm which he struggles to make profitable after marrying her.

There has been a while when life is peaceful except their marriage turns out to be a relationship without love and understanding. The leave of their first old black house servant become a turning point. Dick finds that Mary, like most Rhodesian woman, is racist and cruel to the native blacks. Mary finds that Dick has a weak personality and shows incompetence in farm practice. They begin to constantly change their house servants. They often quarrel about Mary’s overly hostile treatment to their native black workers and Dick’s decision on farm work. Mary even once escaped to city and back to life that she lived before. They live a solitary life with no social activities except some rare visits from their neighbor Slaters. Poverty keeps them away from the white community and even farther since Mary refuses Mrs. Slater’s invitations because of pride. Dick is badly ill after Mary’s escape, which pushes Mary to go to the farm and oversees the farm labor. She is repressive and shows contempt for the natives. Once, she even whips on the face of a worker who talks to her in English. Farm work doesn’t get any better with Dick getting well and running a series of failing experiments. Dick bring a new house servant whose name is Moses, the native who Mary had whipped.

Mary finds herself feel fear and contempt with a complicated relying on this man. As time goes by, Mary depends more and more on Moses. Their intimate relationship is found by Slater during his visit. He used it to successfully convince Dick to sell his farm to Slater and take Mary away. During those days they prepare to leave, Mary has seen with Moses by Tony, the assistant hired by Slater. In their confrontation, Mary chooses the side toward Moses, which irritates him. The day before they leave, Moses kills Mary and waits for police nearby giving up his planned escape.

This is a great work both in story-telling and theme-revealing. It presents directly the cruel reality of African social situation and people’s destined tragic life living in this society. Mary is murdered by Moses but she is the victim of the society. Mary grows up in a typical white family in Africa which suffers from poverty while keeps feeling superior to the natives. Memories of childhood have a great influence on Mary in many ways, especially in her values of marriage. However, she marries a man that she doesn’t really love in order to fulfill her friends’ and this society’s expectation. The marriage is not an end but a beginning. As a well-educated woman, Mary has her own way of life which is contradicted to her position as a wife in wedlock. She gets ability that nowhere to put to use since husband is the decider of a family as the rule of this society. She has been good at her working and got a well wage, but after her marriage, although Dick asks her opinions of farm but never takes it seriously. She trusts her friends with all her heart only to find that they have spoken ill of her behind her back. When she lives a solitary life with her husband, they again are criticized and despised by the whole community for disregarding the white integrity. As the society forces deeply in her mind, she believes that the natives disgusting and animal-like and treats them bitterly. When she feels the sincerely caring from Moses and begins to learn to see him through heart, she finds some consolation in this harsh society.

Nevertheless, she isn’t strong enough to fight against social force of racism and choose the opposite side against Moses and her true feeling. Her compromise to the society is at the cost of her life.
Moses, the murder, is also nothing but a victim of the society. Different from most of the natives, he gets some education when he works for church. Knowledge gives him fresh eyes to see the cruel world but does not point out a way to change it. He thinks about human nature and unequally social situation but never gets an answer. Having a pure heart, he decides to stay when he understands the misery Mary suffers even she treat him harshly. He takes care of her and tries to bring her life some happiness, but a harmonious relationship between white and black is taboo of the society. When he is betrayed by Mary, anger makes him hold the knife and kills Mary. In the end, he gives up escaping as he planned and waits for punishment. Maybe he knows at that moment, there is nowhere to escape from this kind of destined tragedy, death is a relief.

The Grass is singing is a great success when it is first published. It not only covers varies aspects of African social reality but also portrays the beauty of African lands. Rich meaning underlies in interesting story. It is penetrating and thought-provoking. In a word, it is a book that you don’t want to miss.

BOOK REPORT: To Kill a Mockingbird |Nelle Harper Lee

A Book Report on To Kill a Mockingbird

Published in 1960 and won Pulitzer Prize later, To Kill a Mockingbird is a semi-autobiographical book by Nelle Harper Lee and a classic in American literature. An extraordinary work and probably the most widely read book about racism, it represents the battle of justice and prejudice, goodness and evilness which prevails in humanity from a little girl’s point of view. It covers a span of three years during which both Maycomb, the small town, and people there, especially Scout Finch and her brother Jem underwent significant changes.

Scout Finch, our narrator and protagonist, grew up in a close-knit town of Alabama where people have clear social stations according to their living conditions and their family history in the town. The Finch family fell rather high up in the social hierarchy in this town because of Scout’s father Atticus, an honored man and respectable lawyer. All began in the summer when Dill came and kids enjoyed their adventures with new friends. Despite their age, they knew their neighbors pretty well, except Arthur Radley whose nickname was Boo. They figured him who had been suppressed in his childhood and barely came outside as ugly and scary. It had been their daily venture to try to get him out. When summer ended, school life began. There Scout found those differences and conflicts which she considered normal and natural before become tense and acute. Scout tried to get a conclusion with fist-fighting to understand the way life exist beyond the world she knew. Through the process she went a further step in toleration and learned to see the world in different perspectives. The trail that Atticus took to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, brought dramatic changes to their life. A barrage of racial slurs and insults had been poured upon them because of Atticus’ role in that case, including threats from the accuser’s father Ewell who was a nasty drunkard and fell at the bottom of the social stations as “trash”. However, Atticus insisted his point and explained to kids the reason that he chose to fight for justice both as a lawyer and as a father. On the day of trail, Jem and Scout went to see how the case went. Atticus pointed out the loopholes in Ewells’ testimony with sharp questions and proved with evidence the impossibility for Tom to commit the charged crime. Although the innocence of the black man was obvious even to the eyes of children, the jury convicted his guilty based on his skin color. Tom’s death later in his escape ended the case but not the story. On their way back home from Halloween party, Jem and Scout were attacked. When the man attempted to hurt Scout after Jem out of consciousness, Boo came out and saved them. It turned out that Ewell fell on his own knife and died as sheriff insisted despite the truth that Boo killed him for protecting the kids. Scout showed her understanding comparing this to the mockingbird killing. After took Boo home, standing on his porch, Scout gained her new value of life. And there at home, Atticus waited beside the bed for Jem to wake up.

Throughout the book, going along with the classic transition of Scout and Jem from innocence and maturity, there have been some different themes. However, all of them come finally to the exploration of humanity and morality. To Kill a Mockingbird presents us the constant conversation regarding the inherent goodness and evilness of people. There will be conflicts and battles both between inside and outside and between good and evil, in the end, goodness will suppress the evilness.

When the story started, life seemed to be simple and people were all as ordinary as any folks. Scout and Jem hadn’t been much aware of the truth covered by the quietness until the hour of awakening came. The trail was like a stone hitting on a calm surface of the lake making everything different. Neighbors began to show their different side. Through eyes of Scout and Jem, we see beautiful hearts twisted by rumors and crime imposed on innocence by “honored men”.

Ting well with the title of the book To Kill a Mockingbird, goodness has been well explained and presented by “mockingbird” in the community. In chapter 10, Atticus talked about rifles and told Scout and Jem that “it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because mockingbirds are harmless creatures who do nothing but singing for our enjoyment”. In the story, Tom Robinson is clearly one of the “mockingbirds” who is killed both by fear and by prejudice. He is a kind-hearted and hardworking man and just like the mockingbird never did anything harmful to anyone. He symbolizes the innocent part of our humanity which is shot to death on its way escaping from injustice and prejudice. Atticus, our honored hero, is obviously another “mockingbird”, who fighting on behalf of justice and righteousness against evilness. He represents the bright side of our humanity, being upright and bravery, he had always been the “rays of light” that dark power afraid of. Arthur Radley, our Boo, who had been suppressed by his family then the whole society but never lost his beautiful heart, is also a “mockingbird”. He presents the goodness which has been misunderstood, repressed and even twisted by the society. We also have kindhearted Calpurnia, gentle Miss Maudie and even the old, weird Mrs Dubose who showed no harm and bravery in her sickness. In addition, Scout and Jem, gradually understanding the world and gaining a new value of life, would follow the steps of their father became “mockingbirds” too.

On the other side stands the evil part. The ignorant fear and hatred to the black people is the greatest one, represented by Bob Ewell and white mob. Although it seemed to be powerful and caused the death of Tom Robinson, this ignorance and hatred is nothing but bluff. No matter when it encountered with goodness, outside the jail, outside Tom Robinson’ house or even on the court, it stepped back and feared. In the end, when Ewell was killed and “death buried death”, goodness prevail evilness. When Scout stood on Boo’s porch and watched around, seeing the whole world around with refreshed eyes, we knew hope and goodness will never disappear even in the darkest days and it will wait for someone to “climb into one’s skin and walk around it” to find.

In a word, To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that no one wants to miss through which we learn about American history of fighting race discrimination and through which we learn to see the goodness inside people. It will be the eternal theme of our life.