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Grace Paley's short story

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Introduction

        Grace Paley’s short story “A conversation with my Father,” is a story of a patriarch relationship between a father and his daughter.  The father in this story has made a last request for his daughter to “write a simple story just once more” (26) before he passes away.  The father’s idea of a simple story is in the same format as those stories written by well known male authors.  Paley uses symbolism and character to emphasize the patriarch relationship.  The father has a patriarchic ideology by telling his daughter how to write, and by always getting the last word in during arguments between the father and the daughter.          

The father’s character in the story mirrors a patriarch.  A patriarch is an “old man who is venerated by a group and whose opinions have great influence or authority” (Merit Students Dictionary 738).  The reader is introduced to the father at the beginning of the story as a very old man.  He is “eighty-six years old and in bed.

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Middle

“I would like you to write a simple story just once more…the kind Maupassant wrote, or Chekhov, the kind you used to write” (26).  The father has just made a last request for his daughter to write like a man.  The daughter can not remember ever writing the way her father would like her to write.  The father has a certain power over his daughter which drives her to fulfill his one last request.  He does not accept the story she presents him with because it is not the way the male writers would write.  He says to her, “you left everything out. Turgenev wouldn’t do that.  Chekhov wouldn’t do that” (27).  The father displays patriarchic principles by comparing his daughter to male writers.  A female will undoubtedly write differently than a male, but, because the father holds such a powerful spot in his relationship with his daughter, she tries to write the way he would like her to write.

        Patriarchic ideas are seen in Paley’s story when the father tells his daughter how to write.

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Conclusion

The father in this story mimics a patriarch because the father patronizes the daughters writing and tells her how to write. The father mirrors patriarchic qualities by making demands for his daughter to write the story over again.  

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