Discuss the narrative strategies used by Grace Paley in 'Conversation with my father' to represent the relationship between the narrator and his/her parent, and comment on their effectiveness.
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Discuss the narrative strategies used by Grace Paley in 'Conversation with my father' to represent the relationship between the narrator and his/her parent, and comment on their effectiveness. In a 'Conversation with my father' Paley vividly presents a tragic scene of a dying father engaging with his son or daughter at his bedside and his wish to be told a story "just once more". Paley makes great use of varying narrative strategies to develop the representation of the relationship of the father and child. Through scrupulous use of discourse, dialogue, setting and narrative style and structure I think she successfully portrays the intimate yet difficult relationship shown. The first significant thing we notice is that Paley chooses to narrate her story in the genre of the short story. One of the main generic features of the genre is to juxtapose stories within a frame narrative. This is all too evident in 'Conversation with my father' where the narration of the relationships of two sets of parents and children using an embedded story is central to the text. The frame narrative is chronological and is intermitted with a second and third story. The irony in this story is that the embedded story is also a short story and this is used to great effect by paralleling both and using them to explore the similarities and differences of the two in stylistic and contextual terms. The ideas narration and story telling are central to the text.
Although I have already alluded to the loving and intimate nature of the father and daughter it is evident that other issues are present in the relationship and Paley uses the embedded stories as a catalyst to parallel, compare and explore these. I think that the father and daughter used to have a very close relationship and now although still close emotionally she does not see him as much as she used to. This is shown by the father identifying with the mother after her son left "Then he said sadly, "Number three: I suppose that means she was alone, she was left like that, his mother. Alone. Probably sick?" This is the only time the father shows any sort of sympathy or understanding to his daughter or fictional characters this is shown by the adjective "sadly". I think the father sees the mother's situation very similar to his own. This is also insinuated in the opening paragraphs by the daughter, although it is known the story telling happened a lot in their relationship when she actually visits she can't "remember writing that way". The embedded story also allows the daughters unacceptance of her fathers death to be explored. The decay of the "weeping" mother who could show "the ends of a person" or the potential to be resurrected to "a hundred different things in this world as time goes on" is a symbolic representation of the dying father. They both use the mother as a mode of expression which they can discuss the death.
The daughter becomes more and more adamant and determined until finally totally disagreeing "That's it. She's got a job. Forget it. She's in a store front working". The development of the cynical realism of the father is depicted by his lack of respect for the hopeful first draft of the short story. Under his influence the story is completely transformed and takes all hope away. It is interesting that the daughter, trying to appeal to her fathers' narrative tastes includes closure in the second draft by the addition of "The End". This is noticed and praised explains her father "The end. The end. You were right to put that down. The end" the repetition of "The end" here emphasises and develops the significance of the father truthful and realistic stance in life and reinforces the closeness to his own death. The age difference is also explored by values of the two and eras they both lived in. The daughters' story includes references to drug taking with modern nouns such as "junkie", independent single mothers living alone with children born out of wedlock. The father shows his age by comparing this family to a typical nuclear family by asking "what about the boys father?" and by his exasperations about the woman living in sin "For Godsakes, doesn't anyone in your stories get married? Doesn't anyone have the time to run down to city hall before they jump into bed?" She writes about modern and fashionable Manhattan with "intellectual" and "artistic" characters.
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