Pgs 118-119 from Ántonia’s point of view

After Jim asks me why I can’t go to school, I explain that mother does not complain anymore about none of us helping Ambrosh; I can work like a man now, I can help him. As I was explaining this though, I had trouble extricating from my voice the indignation that I feel. I know that I am probably perceived as a bit snippy but I can’t help but think that I missed my chance at a formal education. Jim asks the question as if I actually leave the work I do unattended. At this point in my life, I am doing just fine with the tasks at hand.

I’ve seen that those with a formal education do not actually know all that much about the human experience. The divide between me and Jim can at sometimes be palpable. Our lives are undeniably different and he does not see his privileges that my family and I lack. He may know more about mathematics or grammar but I can speak English pretty well and I didn’t even have to go to school. Jim is so bold sometimes!

To think that I can leave my family during the day and attend classes is ridiculous. The more I dwell on these thoughts as we are walking towards the barn I can feel my face becoming warm. I am so mad! His assumptions about my life are all wrong, and we are supposed to be friends. How can he be that ignorant to what my family is going through!? I am not from here, and my father is dead. Jim is looking at me funny. Suddenly I am brought away from my thoughts and into reality; I realize I am crying.

This release of tears calms me down. I take a deep breath. School has value, I know that. I cannot expect Jim to fully understand my life, I know that too. I was wrong to think a privileged kid like he could understand it anyway. Perhaps he means well, I just am overwhelmed. I take a deep breath and change my tone. “Sometime you will tell me all those nice things you learn at the school, won’t you Jimmy?”

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Mrs. Shimerda

The boy sits in my home awaiting my daughter. She is stronger then him. All of my children are stronger then this blonde little thing. I wonder how he would hold up in world. He would crumble. I am sure of it. One night Antonia told me she thought they were good people. I don’t believe it. One night when I was coming to return a cast iron pan the old haggard women had given me I heard her and her blonde cherub chattering in the kitchen in there grating tongue. I did not understand much of it, as I refuse to fully take on their barbaric customs, but I head loud in clear the women’s words: “Forget the Bohemians”She is truly an awful hearted women. I left there land with the faulty cast iron pan in hand and later beat on it with a spoon to get out my frustration.

I stir my pot of delicious cabbage soup. It is a recipe my mother handed down to me. I sprinkle in a handful of the dried mushrooms. To think I was generous enough to give them some of our precious supply. But maybe I can get the boy to tell me when to plant corn. Although his grandparents will never reveal their secrets, trying to keep us in poverty this boy is weak. Weak in body and weak mined.

“My grandfather thinks it’s going to be a dry fall” the blonde boy tells me.

How can a person know that? It seems irreverent to assume things about the earth. My God controls all and we are merely sinning creatures living at his mercy. Protestants think they know everything. They look down on good  catholic people like us.

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Antonia’s perspective about a connection with Jim

I seemed to like it; even as I was holding the hand of my little sister. I was talking away in the language that Jim could not understand. Then I looked at this boy and with my eyes I tried to make it clear to him that there were many things that I wanted to say to him.

By touching this boy on the shoulder he understood that I was saying to him, “Name? What name?” He then proceeded to tell me his name (Jim) and I proceeded in saying his name back to him and I made Yulka say it as well. I then pointed to the gold cottonwood tree and said that phrase again “What name?”

We then sat down and made a nest in the long red grass. While Yulka curled up like a baby rabbit and played with a grasshopper, I began to point up to the sky and began questioning Jim with my glance. He tried to give me a word but I was not satisfied with that answer and so I started to point to his eyes. He told me a word and I began to repeat it but it sounded like “ice.” I then proceeded to point to the sky, then to his eyes, then back to the sky but these quick movements just seemed to confuse the boy. Then I proceeded to get up on my knees and I began to wrung my hands. I pointed to my own eyes, then I shook my head, then I pointed to his eyes, and then to the sky. The boy finally exclaimed, “blue; blue sky.” Immediately I clapped my hands and said “Blue sky, blue eyes” as if communicating these two different ideas to this boy seemed to be amusing to me. (25)

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Ilan Trencher Blog7 English 220 4-19-16

            If I remember about 5 days ago, my body died on the first day. It was beginning to rot on the second, and by the third, I was being eaten dead. My eyes, of course, saw nothing, but now they did not exist anymore. This is opposed to before, where they didn’t see because my heart wasn’t working properly. In fact, it wasn’t working at all. On the fourth day I was beginning to amuse myself with the strange new rhyme, one about a “Solomon Grundy.” The funny-ness of how many of his important life events happened from a Mon-day to a Sun-day, with the “high-point” being right in the middle on Wednes-day. I’m waiting for a proper burial, I will think about anything. How long could it be?

            It’s the fifth day. I am unable to feel only what I’m in the process of losing, so I have to hope they give me a burial today, just like all the other days. I just lost a finger, I’m being moved. Hopefully there’s enough of me to bury, I seem to be losing flakes of skin left and right here. Well, I’m not losing body parts or skin anymore (I have very little hair at this point anyways) so perhaps I’m finally being lowered into the earth.

            I suppose not. I’m being moved around again, or something is happening. I’m quite sure my head is being deformed so I’m being bumped around by something. I will wait it out. Patience is rewarded, it would be a shame to lead such a life and not be admitted to a seat in the heaven. I wish I could tell those things that are shaking me around that.

Well there is a different form of shaking. And it’s gone now. I should be leaving soon.



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Introduction–Antonia’s Perspective

I still don’t know why Jim went to all this trouble to write about me. Especially a book this long! I probably don’t even know enough words to fill a book that long and all the words in this book are about me! I’m very flattered and humbled to be the subject of these stories. It’s so nice to have my childhood in writing from a perspective other than my own. It helps me think about how things really happened back then.

Jim told me that when he was traveling last summer, he ran into a friend named Willa whom we both grew up with. Jim and Willa both live in New York now. Jim’s a lawyer and Willa is a writer. In a letter he wrote me, Jim said that he and Willa don’t see each other often. He suspects it’s because she doesn’t like his wife. I wrote back and said that he’s probably not wrong. That doesn’t bother Jim, though. He’s always been a romantic. Even about life in Nebraska, when times weren’t good at all. Everything had something beautiful about it, even when it seemed like the ugliest thing in the world. There is no one more American than Jim Burden. His hair is yellower than the grain and his eyes are bluer than the upper left hand corner of the American flag.

On that train ride, Jim and Willa started talking about me and through this book I found out that I made them recall the old days of our childhoods. He told Willa about our newly rekindled friendship that we are both glad to keep once again. Jim said to Willa that he didn’t understand why she never wrote about me. When he told me this I got embarrassed. Why am I worthy of writing about! If anything, Willa should write about you, Jim, I said. Then Willa told him that he was much more capable of writing about me than she. Then they made an agreement that they would both write about me, which would not be worth the trouble!

Of course Jim was excited about the challenge, so one day he showed up at Willa’s house with a portfolio of stories all about our childhoods together. Willa never wrote her account of me, which was a good thing!  She is a busy woman with a great deal of important work to do!

Jim hadn’t given it a title yet, so he sat and drank the tea that Willa served him. Then he wrote down “My Antonia.” It is fitting, because I’ve always been his. Here is Jim’s story of me, of him, and of us. Of his Antonia.

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Point of View

I heard bickering in the tall grass.  It was in the strange tongue used in this country.  Whenever I heard those words I felt grief; I missed my homeland.  The picturesque hands of this new land felt cold and I looked up at the sky to wonder if my dear friends saw the same clouds or if they were different.  Why wouldn’t they be?  Everything else in this country is not what I am used to.

I finally found the source of the bickering.  My Antonia and Mr. Burden’s grandson were disputing about the ring I had given her.  In my country, that ring meant the world but here the boy turned it down.  I thought his actions were strange.  Back where we were from a boy would not hesitate to take that ring for its value.  Here it was not worth anything.  I mourned for the success I had as I called to my Antonia.

As always, she ran over to me and kissed my hands.  She knew that I was afraid of this country.  I was afraid of what it turned me into; I once was a proud man of my craft who could provide for his family.  I was like Mr. Burden.  Now I am a failure who must rely on the generosity of another man to keep my own family alive.  I knew that language was the barrier.  I heard the way Mr. Burden read.  His success had to be due to his ability to read with the strange tongue.  I looked at my Antonia, my hope.  She had to learn.  Before we left our home for this new land, I acquired a book that had two alphabets.  One I knew and used and the other I prayed would be clear to my Antonia.  I knew I she needed to learn and I looked at Mr. Burden’s grandson.  They had the same generous look in their eyes.  I looked at Mrs. Burden, she was a good woman, and handed her the book while gaining all of my knowledge of this new land.

Finally I used the strange tongue and hoped they could understand “Te-e-ach, te-e-ach my An-tonia!”

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Point of View

The day that they finally buried my father was the day the sadness, the grief, the despair, the anxiety set in. When I first heard the news I wasn’t quite sure how to feel, so I tried my hardest not to feel anything at all. It worked for a few days and it seemed as thought my family was trying to do the same. We did the housework, the dishes, and everything that made the days feel normal, as if nothing had actually happened.

When I saw Jimmy that day, I wrapped my arms around him and began to cry, “Oh Jimmy! What you tink for my lovely papa!” My mom looked over, seemingly indifferent about my emotional state.

The men eventually told us it was time, and we all went out to get my father’s body. I tried to look at him but my eyes were still burning from the fresh sting of tears. He was covered in a black shaw with his head bandaged. It wasn’t even my father anymore, it was just a body. It was awful. It was unreal. I didn’t want to look anymore. My mom placed a prayer book and a cross on his body. I kept waiting for him to wake up and for this to all be a dream. But he never woke up, and neither did I.

Eventually, they placed the lid on my father’s coffin. And just like that, my father was really, truly gone and never to be seen again. We took him into the wagon and to the place where he would be buried. Silence swept over us all as they lowered him into the ground. Some people spoke some words and sang some hymns. It was all very methodical and efficient.

Even to this day, I still drive by where my father is buried after long days of work and glance at the wooden cross placed on the ground above his body and I tell him I miss him. Jim was right – Never a tired driver passed the wooden cross without wishing well to the sleeper.

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Chapter VI from Antonia’s Perspective

Something about the day reminded me of back home, in Bohemie. It seemed to be a warm day at first, but after I had been outside for long enough the cold reached me. It was in the breeze and the shadows. So I made Jim lay on the sun-warmed earth with me so I wouldn’t be cold. The grass waved all around us and I thought about the days of my childhood when winter was just beginning and I had to go into the forest with maminka. I would wrap up in my thick wool shawl, which I left behind because we could not bring all of our things, and kiss father on the cheek before I went. That is when his cheeks were full and had color in them.

Remembering Bohemie put me in a cheerful mood, and I started telling Jim about the badger dogs. Jim seemed impressed, so I embellished as I told about our neighbor’s dog. He killed two badgers, but I told Jim it was many, and there was a star for each one on his collar, like the stars on the American flag. His eyes got so wide, even though he was trying to seem important. I had trouble not laughing.

Eventually, one sad little insect crawled out of the grass. He was so thin and pale, but still beautiful. I have a soft spot for these creatures in my heart, because at night when Marek is making his noises and maminka is snoring, I send my mind out to the sound of the insects and let it lull me to sleep. When I am listening to them I don’t feel the straw scratching my arms, or Julka squirming beside me, and I don’t think about the fact that my father is sitting at the table and looking at his hands instead of sleeping. His hands are different now. Already they have calluses and cracked lines. His friends who are musicians and weavers would laugh at those hands, or tell him he needs a better wife who rubs lard on them at night. Maminka does not do this, she bothers him because he brings home only small rabbits, not like the game he used to find. It’s as if she doesn’t realize that we used to live at the edge of an enormous forest and now we live in an endless field of grasses, like a farm field that God forgot to tend.

This is what the little insect made me think of. It crawled into my hand obediently because it was too broken to care. I spoke to him so Jim couldn’t understand. Hello, little bird. You’ve given up on singing? Come. Little one, it’s not too late. When he began to sing it startled me, even though it was a weak little chirp. I missed that song, and I would be missing it all winter. I knew this was the last time I would hear it. But I smiled so Jim wouldn’t know what I was thinking of.

“I tell you about Old Hata?” I asked. Jim said no, scornfully, like no one important could have a name like that. I always thought of Old Hata when winter was coming, because she sought out our fire when the cold came. “She had many story.” She always smelled like the herbs that she sold, sweet and earthy, like something dug up after the first rain of spring.

I didn’t want to tell Jim how cold I was getting as the sun went down, but he noticed that I was shivering and suggested we leave. But I couldn’t leave the insect behind. I wasn’t ready to let go of him yet, because then he would surely die and the song would be over for good. Jim had his pockets, and I had my dress, but I knew the insect would be afraid in those strange places. My hair was close to grass, so that is where I put him. I could feel his thin legs trembling on my scalp.

As soon as we stood up, I didn’t feel like I was in Bohemie anymore. The grass was tall and beautiful, as golden as Jim’s hair, but it cast long blue shadows in bare patches. We saw my father from far away and my heart skipped a beat. I would not have known him if I saw him walking out of the forest in Bohemie. He was so thin, he could have been a sapling on the horizon. His head was bowed. I tugged Jim along and we ran to him. I caught up his hand and he showed me the rabbits at his belt.

“I shot them all,” he said, with a small smile. “I will make a hat for you and one for Julka. To keep your lovely heads warm.”

Jim couldn’t understand what we were saying, so I told him, and he smiled but still looked put out. It bothered me when he looked that way. There was so much more that I didn’t understand, but he couldn’t bear to miss one conversation!

My father laid his hand on my head but I gasped and pushed it away.

“Careful!” I said. “I’m keeping an insect there.”

He looked at me strangely, so I explained in a tumble of words.

“I found him in the grass. He’s old and ready to die, but it’s not winter yet. It’s not cold enough for Old Hata yet, she would still be out in this warm air. He can still sing, too, when I hold him in my hand. He’s not done with the summer yet.”

“Old Hata,” father murmured. His fingers were still nimble, and he untied my handkerchief and looked down upon my hair. I felt the insect stir, and then I heard its chirp, and tears came into my eyes again. It made me think of father’s violin, which hadn’t sung since we arrived in America. This little bird sang and sang, I hoped he would never stop. For a moment I forgot Jim was there, and I was alone in the world with my father. His hand lay gentle on my head, still the hand of a weaver and not of a farmer, and his dark eyes shone down on me. He was proud of me learning English, but I knew that it warmed his heart to hear my true language on my tongue. I wondered if my voice sounded like maminka’s when she was young. Her voice his high and sharp, but I don’t believe it was always that way. She could say things softly back home, when she taught me prayers and tied my handkerchief before I went out. If only I could be a whole country for my father, so he could be himself again.

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A Question for Danticat

After hearing that Edwidge Danticat had learned three languages in depth–French, Creole and English–I became curious about the relationship of these languages within her, both as an author and as a person, and their interactions within her mind. Whether, for one, there is a preference in comfort of one over the others.

Being a bilingual myself, people have asked the same question to me a number of times in various forms. (Although it was only in the more recent years of my life where I reached the level of proficiency on pronunciation that I am at today, it had been years since writing in both languges became equally comfortable.) They would sometimes inform me that the langage in which one dreamed was the “internal” language, and ask what language I dream in. Sometimes they would tell me about people who spoke two languges, and when they went from one to another, they switched their gestures and, to some extent, personality, without realizing that this happened. They wondered if I was the same way. Or if there was one language I resorted to when I burned myself, or was shocked in some way.

I had answered the question for a long time by saying that both were on the same line. That I sometimes dreamed in English, and sometimes in Korean, and a lot of times went back and forth without making much of it–as it is in dreams. I consider myself as quite different when I am speaking English and Korean, and when I burned myself . . . I wasn’t sure. I would try to check the next time, but probably wouldn’t remember.

But recently thinking back to this, I realized that I was no longer thinking in one language or another. Except for when I was consciously driving myself through a set of logical steps for some particular purpose, I wasn’t thinking in any comprehensible, clear language at all. Which I hadn’t known to be a possibility, as I had always believed that I thought in words when I knew only one language, and still for the most time after becoming bilingual.

As a fellow fluent speaker of more than one language, I would be interested to hear what Edwidge Danticat, who uses her bilingual fluency in her works, too–French, for one, in “Children of the Sea”–thinks of the language of thought, and the role that fluency in more than one language plays in the matter.

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Question for Edwidge Danticat

So far I have really enjoyed reading Krik? Krak!  I love the deep love that the two young adults experience in “Children of the Sea” from their unsent letters.  The hope that they have that one day they will meet again is so romantic, but the ending of that short story is heartbreaking when the boat sinks.

“New York Day Women” was an odd short story.  It was odd to me because a woman was following her  mother around the city on her  lunch  break.  As the woman, Suzette, follows her mother, undetected, she thinks about the critical things her mother says about family or Haiti or Suzette. In a playground, a woman wearing workout clothes leaves her young son with Suzette’s mother for an hour. Suzette’s mother and the son seem quite fond of each other. Suzette wonders whether her mother would have said hello, had she seen her.

“Caroline’s Wedding” was a pretty interesting was well.  The story is really about a woman, Grace’s sister, Caroline, getting married to Eric.  Grace’s mother is upset that Caroline, is marrying Eric, who isn’t Haitian. Grace’s mother makes bone soup every day, which she believes will end Caroline’s engagement.  The story later discusses Caroline’s dad, and how in order to get a visa, Grace’s father married a widow, then divorced her to bring his real family to the United States.  In the end of the short story Caroline and her mother make bone soup together.

My two questions for Danticat would be: Why short stories?  Why not a novel discussing one person’s journey from Haiti to the US?  What does “krik? krak!” mean?  What is it’s significance?

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