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1. In "Spunk" by Hurston the narrator speaks Standard English while his characters use dialect. This kind of language use makes it appear as though the characters are speaking to you. The narrator in "a man who was almost a man" uses the local dialect to provide voices for the black characters like Dave and his parents. On the other hand the light skinned characters like Joe and Mr. Hawkins use Standard English. He uses this dialect to highlight existence of inequalities in life. The narrator, Sylvia in "The lesson" speaks in African American Vernacular English. It is appropriate for Sylvia who lives in a New York Ghetto. It is used to convey the black people's experience.
2. Spunk and Joe Kanty are quite supernatural. Spunk kills Joe after Joe discovered that he was having a relationship with his wife "Joe came out there wid an axe an' made me kill him" (Hurston, 1985, pg 4). Later Spunk is said to have been killed by Joe's evil spirit. In today's modern world this cannot be accepted to be true since there is no belief in such superstition.
3. Dave decides to buy a gun so that other men will no longer see him as a child. This is an immature move since he doesn't need it considering the little money he earns. After buying it instead of showing that he is now a grown up by giving it to his father as he promised, he goes ahead to lie and hides it under the pillow like a little child. He tries to show that he is a man by trying to shoot but he again fails to show this by shooting the innocent Jenny out of absolute fear. Dave is unable to become a real man because of his fear of the responsibilities that come with one becoming mature. He is also very cunning. This is unlike adults.
4. The narrator decides to use Standard English but filter's Dave's thoughts in Dialect. He wants his readers to completely understand Dave's frustration while working on the plantation, a life that presents no opportunities. He presents vividly the reason why Dave decides to escape from the field.
5. Dave is likely to gain the respect he so yearns for when he goes up north. Though he has a lot of fear but the society as well as his family is the main contributor to his failure. Up north he might be able to find a suitable environment and thus mature.
6. The title "A Worn Path has quite" has very great significance in relation to the story in the text. I tend to think that the writer wanted to symbolize the idea that life is a journey towards death and that all of us at one point must die for life to continue. Phoenix's journey can be taken to be parallel to the difficult journey of life.
7. What stands out about Phoenix as a character in this text is her determination. Though she is old and tired, she decides to embark on the long journey through the woods just to obtain medicine for her grandson. She even gets injured when she gets trapped in the wire but she endures the pain. She says "Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far" (Bambara, 2000, p.457).
8. Miss Moore takes the children out to a toy shop to teach the unequal distribution of money. The children are however divided into two groups. Bigg Butt for instance decides to buy a microscope without knowing its use. He says, "I am going to buy that there" (Bambara, 2000, p. 91). On the other hand, Sylvia and Sugar know what economic crisis buying the toys would cause. Sugar therefore doubts that a country with unequal distribution of money democracy (Bambara, 2000, p.94).
9. Miss Moore is described as a very educated woman who was perfect at speech. Sylvia says "this lady moved on our block with nappy hair and proper speech...and her goddam college degree" (Bambara, 2000, p.1). The narrator thus hates her because she is educated while her parents as well as she are not educated. The other reason is because Miss Moore represented a class that Silvia thought she would never achieve in life. This makes her unable to completely trust her.
10. Silvia is not pleased with the lesson because it tends to degrade them in society. She is particularly annoyed when her friend says that she doesn't think that the cost of the sailboats is the cost of what all of them could eat in a year (Barbara, 2000, p.76). In her own opinion she feels that some people including Miss Moore are not part of that group of poor people.
11. In my own view, Bambara in her book "The Lesson" did a great job in trying to integrate the use of both Standard and Dialect English in her writing. Silvia is both a narrator as well as a character. However, she is able to use the different forms while explaining the story. For instance when they are at the shop she says that she is jealous and wants to hit Sugar and then she asks "Watcha bring us here for, Miss Moore?"(Bambara, 2000, p.87). At that point she had already used both forms.
Folk Knowledge in Spunk
Spunk is more of folk tale. This is because it comprises many elements characteristic of most Folk tales. It is set in black dominated village in Eatonville. The white people are excluded completely from this story. The story is thus concerned about one independent community and its superstitions, traditions and culture.
When Joe is killed it is said that his spirit kept on haunting Spunk. Out of the blue, a black bobcat appears and starts stalking him. One night, the bobcat is howling outside his house and he grabs his gun to shoot it but gets "so nervoused up he couldn't shoot" (Hurston, 1985, p. 6). Interestingly when the men gather the next evening Spunk's body is found laid down dead. This clearly illustrates the intense belief that there was life after death in this community. This is a characteristic that never misses in most folk tales especially ones related to African culture.
Factors that keep Dave from being a complete man
Dave's mother can be seen to have been a major contribution as to why he was unable to overcome his fear and thus unable of becoming a man. His mother is always pestering him of where he had been. When he returns home late his mother is quick to ask him, "Where yuh been, boy" (Beatty, 2006, p.87). By doing this Dave finds little time to be with his peers and learn the ways of behavior of adults. Moreover, his father can also be blamed for Dave's condition. He prefers to go with Dave's younger brother to work and leaves him to go and work on the farm (Beatty, 2006, p.88). In my own opinion, his father should have prioritized Dave as he was older. By doing this he would have managed to teach Dave how to be like a man.
The society in which Dave lives is not conducive for growing people like him. The shop attendant, for instance is unwilling to sell the gun to him by saying referring to him as a boy. He says, "You ain't nothing but a boy. You don't need a gun" (Beatty, 2006, p.12). He even teases him by asking him whether his mother has started allowing him to keep his own money. He asks Dave, "Your ma letting you have your own money now?" (Beatty, 2006, p.12). The shop attendant instead of teasing him should have encouraged him and taught him how to use the gun
Dave is an enemy to his maturity. This is because he is very fearful and he is not enthusiastic about learning new ideas as is characteristic of people who are growing. He should have asked his brother how the gun is used. Instead he just sits at the table and says nothing. The narrator says," His eyes glowed at blue-and-black revolvers. He glanced up, feeling sudden guilt" (Grayson, 2005, p.519). It is rather unfortunate and unreasonable of him to feel guilty that he wanted to buy a gun. As an adult he ought to have been proud about his and even proceeded to tell his father about it so that his would also guide him.
Interpretation of the "Lesson"
Bambara's story can be interpreted to men the unification of the black with their white counterparts. Miss Moore can be seen to be seen to be the bridge between the two societies. She struggles to impart strong knowledge in her students about the unfair distribution of wealth that is so widespread in the society. Silvia says, "And she was black as hell kept for her feet, which were fish white and spooky" (Beatty, 2006, p.191). This clearly shows that though she was black she had some elements that were white and thus wanted to join the two communities together. Furthermore she wore a "nappy" hairstyle at a time when most African ladies straightened their hair.
The main character in "A Worn Path"
The main character in this story, Phoenix Jackson is not crazy. Though she is old and tries to do things that are contrary to what women her age are expected to do, she only intends to show how one person can be determined to achieve his/ her goals. From her experiences one can be able to deduce how much she cares about her sick grandson. She remembers her sole reason for travelling, "My little grandson, he sit up there in the house all wrapped up, waiting by himself," She goes on to say "We is the only two left in the world. He suffers and it doesn't seem to put him back at all. He got a sweet look. He going to last" (Cahill, 2000, p.137).