Firstly, the story is written in the first person narrative. The narrator writes about a memory and therefore it is autobiographical in nature. This is confirmed by the “in Memoriam” in the title of the story which shows that the story was written in memory of her grandmother, Da-duh.
The story is told from the eyes of the writer’s nine year old self and we see the story solely through the child. While the tone is personal because the narrator is personally involved in the story, there is also emotional distance. It gives the impression that the emotional events are viewed through the eyes of an outsider or a third person due to the way the story is told: through facts and the narrator’s recollection of the event.The passage begins with the narrator informing us about how Da-duh was the one who always brought up New York with “some slighting remark on her part.
” It seems as though Da-duh voluntarily gave her granddaughter a chance to fight her case by making comments such as “they don’t have anything this nice” or “foolish people in New York” that was bound to get a reaction or a comeback from the narrator. This would then unravel into a back and forth game as Da-duh would be then allowed to try and prove her wrong. In addition, Da-duh’s comments about New York and it’s “foolish people” and her “faint mocking smile” show the superiority she feels her world has over her granddaughter’s.As the narrator tells her grandmother about the everyday machines back in New York, she leans that one of Da-duh’s signs of surrender was “her fear, a fear nameless and profound.” The simplest interpretation we can come up with is Da-duh’s free of technology.
The narrator observes that it was the same fear Da-duh felt “that day in the lorry.” This suggests that Da-duh has a “fear and distrust” of lorries and from that we can conclude that it applies to all forms of technology and signs of modernization.However, the nameless fear may not be specified to a single fear. We see from early on that we have not only stepped into the world of culture and tradition but also into Da-duh’s world. She’s in control, she’s “a monarch amid her court.” She knows her granddaughter the things that she believes makes Barbados better than New York.
We get the impression that Da-duh attempts to enchant and influence her granddaughter into falling in love with her world and, being a strong character, she may have thought it to be a piece of cake. What she didn’t count on was for her granddaughter to be the exact same way: stubborn and proud. In my opinion, Da-duh’s nameless fear was the fear of losing her granddaughter to the modern world entirely. She feared not being in control and her granddaughter winning the petty rivalry.The narrator accompanies her grandmother “amid the canes or down in the gully” while she tells her about her “towering world of steel and concrete and machines.
” The writer portrays how in Barbados and in Da-duh’s world, they are surrounded by agriculture and ditches while in the narrator’s world; they’re surrounded by technology and modernization. The “towering world” suggests that the narrator also believed that her world was superior to her grandmother’s. We see here that both the granddaughter and grandma’s characters’ were similar to each other: they were proud of their worlds.
This creates a conflict between them and a clash between their worlds while the one tries to prove to the other that they are not mistaken.Furthermore, we learn of Da-duh’s ignorance of the truth of her own world. The narrator tells her grandmother about the luxury of machines and Da-duh asks whether “the white people have all these things too or it’s only the people looking like us (them)”. Once again, this shows that Da-duh believes that her race has the upper hand over the white people. However, the narrator tells her that “the white people have even better.” This is in reference to the fact that Barbados once belonged to the white minority and that it was colonized by the British Empire. The sugar canes that Da-duh was so proud of were the reason for the African slavery and that in reality, back then, the white people were more superior.
Da-duh’s lack of knowledge of her own heritage shows that what she is immensely proud of is only because of what she believes it to be. It depicts how Da-duh doesn’t have any knowledge beyond her world and how wrapped up there she is to be this ignorant while the narrator knows and believes otherwise due to the modern world.As we read on, the difference in their way of speaking becomes apparent. The granddaughter uses the phrase ‘What d’ya mean,’ while her grandmother says ‘how you mean’ in expressing the same thought. Being from New York, the shortening of words may reflect on the lifestyle that she leads. The apostrophe in ‘d’ya’ represents a missing letter or a vowel that is omitted when said and this might be the case for New Yorkians as they are too busy and always in rush to enunciate words properly.
It’s also a lot more American. Meanwhile, her grandmother uses something more Barbadian and old-fashioned. This further shows the reader how different words of different generations and cultures can be.At this point in the story, for a paragraph, there is shift in perspective.
Initially, we were reading the story through a nine year old’s eyes who didn’t seem to appreciate what her grandmother showed her of the traditional world of Barbados because she was busy backing up her own world. The view was petty, even immature maybe and she obviously didn’t understand a lot. However, when the narrator describes the “incredibly tall royal palm” that Da-duh shows her, we see maturity. She writes not from what the nine year old sees but what she believes her grandmother saw. Her grandmother viewed the palm as “royal” as it was the one last thing she had left to prove that her world was superior.
Marshall uses metaphors and personifications such as “flaunting its dark crown” to convey how majestic the palm was to Da-duh. Very rich language is used to paint a vivid image of something paranomic. We know that the nine-year old couldn’t have possibly processed it as that and therefore this is the present Marshall writing. The reader then understands that in hindsight, the granddaughter understands what Da-duh meant and where she was coming from. Moreover, the different way they both view things also presents the two different worlds. Coming from an agricultural traditional word, Da-duh learnt to appreciate nature and immaterial things while the narrator grew up in a big city and so finds it hard to relate with her grandmother.
Da-duh watches her granddaughter witness the one thing that she thought would guarantee her victory: the palm. Da-duh watched her “a long time “and “very quietly”, letting the narrator absorb the big picture. This implies that her grandmother wanted her win to be grand; a dramatic end to the rivalry that she believed she would win from the very beginning. However, we see that her granddaughter couldn’t give her that satisfaction even though she “almost wished, seeing her face, that I (she) could have said no.” This conveys that while either of them refused to give in to the very end, there was love somewhere between it all.
The granddaughter did care about her grandmother and was ready to let her win because she understood how much it meant to her. There was one thing that stopped her from doing that very thing: her pride and stubbornness that she had inherited from no other than her Da-duh.Once the narrator had claimed her victory by painting a picture of the Empire State Building for her grandmother, we see that Da-duh does not take it lightly. She was “trembling with rage” as she accused her granddaugther of lying. We get the impression that her granddaughter ripped her of her world and left her desperate. Showing her the royal palm was her last grand beauty of Barbados and it had failed her.
At the end of the passage, we learn that in the end, Da-duh does give in and surrender. When the narrator offers proof in the form of a postcard, Da-duh realizes that she has lost and “all the fight went out of her at that.” This expresses her wisdom and age because she doesn’t fight the truth and gives her granddaughter the satisfaction. In contrast, her granddaughter couldn’t do that and let her pride consume her. This shows the bashfulness of the youth and callowness. We see the clash of the two generations here.
The story portrays the two different worlds of culture and modernity, of agricultural and technology, or age and youth in numerous ways. In my opinion, it is mainly through the characters of Da-duh and her granddaughter. They both have similar characters that refuse to let up and this is where the conflict occurs.
They’re both on a mission to be representatives of their world and to convince the other that where they come from is a better and a superior world.