Compare and contrast the concept of grief and its implications in “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich and “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

Compare and contrast the concept of grief and its implications

The two works I would like to discuss in this essay are “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich and “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath. Grief is something that unites both pieces and is very strong emotional basis in them.

Sylvia Path uses her poem “Daddy” to show her deep emotions towards here father’s life sufferings and death. She uses very passionate language to put all her grief, rage, confusion and abandonment into her work. Her father was a Nazi soldier that was killed in the World War II while she was still very young. She was saying that she had no idea where he was killed in the battle; the only thing she had left of him is his picture. She speaks about how she chose a man to marry that remotely reminded her of the father to compensate her grief. Sylvia also expresses a dark anger toward him for his political views and actions in such passages as: “Not God but a swastika / so black no sky could squeak through” and “…the brute / Brute heart of a brute like you.” She goes on talk about how her poor or non-existent relationship with her father caused her to enter an unhealthy relationship. Finally, she conveys a mood of overcoming this man’s dark hold on her. She is still filled with unhealthy rage toward him but in her repeating that she is “through” and discussing having killed someone she demonstrates her feelings of self-empowerment.

In “Daddy,” Plath’s use of Austrian references, in this otherwise so father-oriented poem, suggests that an additional focus of her wrath in it–along with Otto Plath and Ted Hughes–was indeed Aurelia. The anger that permeates the poem is so intense and comprehensive that it seems logical to suppose that all the major figures in the poet’s life–those who had betrayed her or failed her in some way, father, husband, and mother–should be included in it. The otherwise puzzling, seemingly gratuitous references to Austria suggest that, perhaps unconsciously, Plath made sure that every focus of her rage was indeed present in it.

Louise Erdrich presents a little different view on grief in The Red Convertible. It is an emotional story about a young boy and the importance of his relationship with his brother. In the story, Erdrich uses much metaphor combined with simplistic writing approach that helps reader to understand the hidden sense in the pages. Her use of vivid imagery and emotional content allowed the reader to feel a sense of involvement throughout the story.

When I first read the story I thought Lyman is a reliable person. His presentations of events were quite sincere with lots of details. For example while speaking of the two-brothers road trip, Lyman paints the reader a detailed mental picture of the bending willow branches and the “soft dusk” of the “still air.”

However, upon a closer reading one must consider Lyman’s emotional state and ask whether or not it had any effect on the story. Clearly, Lyman and Henry had an extremely close relationship and the dramatic change Henry went through as well as his death undoubtedly affected Lyman more than he, as the narrator, led the reader to believe. The pain Lyman experienced, although concealed within the text of joyful memories, is a strong underlying factor when considering his reliability as a speaker. I considered Lyman to be a dependable narrator until I reached the last page of the story (line 58 on page 189 to be exact). It was here that I found myself questioning the actuality of the events at the closing of the story. The free, animated behavior of Henry was extremely contradictory of the behavior that he exemplified previously in the story. His abundant laughter, which Lyman earlier described as sounding like “a man choking”, and his whimsical dancing that was “something between a grass dance and a bunny hop” appeared completely inconsistent with the prior depiction of Henry as being irate. The abrupt change in character, in turn, led me to believe that this was perhaps Lyman’s way of making the memory of his brother more pleasant-the way in which he would like to remember his brother.

The author uses common language as well as the casual, informal tone. This is done to convey the young age of the speaker. Erdrich’s use of simplicity allowed the reader to focus, not on the language, but more importantly the content of the story.


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