Monday, May 24, 2010

Literary Analysis on Laura Chester's 'True or Untrue Grit'

For this piece of work, we were asked to do a literary analysis of the short story 'True or Untrue Grit' by Laura Chester. Overall, I tried to go into depth about the different aspects Chester added to her work to make it meaningful to others. One thing that I tried to do was pull universal themes out of that short story. I felt as though it was really difficult to actually come up with universal themes because the story was very confusing. At first, I didn't really understand what my teacher, Mr. Gallagher wanted us to take from the story, because it was very vague and strange. But, I realized that there is more behind the story that comes together once a theme is defined. One theme that I thought was very important was the idea of ownership and belonging. I felt as though these two ideas contrasted very nicely in the story, and I tried to focus on how Chester highlighted these two ideas within her work.

With that said, here is my essay:

Kellie Leonce
English Literature AP
Gallagher: 7
Ownership vs. Belonging

In the short story, “True or Untrue, Grit” by Laura Chester, the author touches upon major culture clashes, but in a lighthearted, comical fashion. Through her subtle use of humor, Chester is able to address the issue of clear cultural stereotypes, while also suggesting that the borderline of “ownership” and “belonging” are clearly distinguishable. In order to create this idea based around humor, Chester incorporates profound irony as well as childish tone. In using humor to mock certain cultures, Chester’s suggestion of distinguishing “ownership” and “belonging” as two separate entities is more easily accepted due to her lighthearted approach. Chester transforms a very controversial topic to a somewhat comical and enjoyable piece of literature, while also getting her point across without hammering it into the reader’s head.

Throughout the story, Nora continues to point out and expand on cultures outside of her own. Though the reader only knows that she is from Manhattan, New York, Chester shows that Nora is clearly in a place out of her ordinary, by surrounding this Manhattan woman in a place with “Hispanic” and “Native American” culture. The first clash of culture is seen when Nora believes her contractor when he says “Mañana”, the house would be completed. Chester touches upon the laid back Hispanic culture when she clarifies “Mañana” as being “Twice as much, twice as long, no exaggeration of fact”. This stereotype Chester incorporates is mentioned as a culture barrier, and she brings it up in a way that pokes fun at both Nora as well as the Hispanic stereotype, while continuing that culture clash. In relation to the Indian Grit, Nora replies “Uh-oh!’ I knew about Indians and (al-co-hol” right after he asks for a drink. Continuing Nora’s ignorance to other cultures, Chester is accurate in creating Nora as a character who is unaware of what culture really means. Nora is obviously not purposefully labeling these people, but she purely and truly gives in to the stereotypes that are put forth. What makes Nora so comical is the fact that she is not saying these things in spite of other races, but just because she reacts as a child would in this case. In displaying Nora as an American in this land of many ethnicities, Chester builds upon the fact that though she does in fact own her land, there may be issues in her belonging.

The fact that this story is based around a huge plot of irony contributes to the fact that Chester is making a connection between the place where Nora owns, and the place where she feels where she belongs, “down in the bowels of the city, waiting for the E train as usual”. In revealing a place where Nora feels normal in the end, Chester makes the reader view Nora as if she is in a place where she now belongs. This belonging that Nora feels in the end is what Grit is trying to get back for himself, and his people. Subconsciously, Nora in fact knows that boundary between “ownership” and “belonging”. Although she owns the land and put a lot of effort into building her house, she knew that the Apache Indian belonged there. Her understanding of this belonging is seen when she explains that “there was one small lien, a simple condition required by the original owners”. Though humor was used when addressing the plumbing, the fact that Nora would give that up for the Apache Indian shows her understanding of his belonging. Nora’s previous stereotype of the Hispanics and Indians also aids the idea that there is a borderline of ownership and belonging. Although Nora came from an outside place and had previous views about these people, she still felt the need to honor Grit’s wishes because deep down she knew that was the one place that he belonged.

The most used literary device in this short story is irony. Irony is used throughout the entire story in the fact that Nora was waiting for the E train in Manhattan while all of the events of the story were supposedly happening. Another ironic incident is Nora’s reaction to her house being finished. She describes it “like the end of analysis, or an affair of the heart”. After complaining in the beginning about how she wanted her house to be finished, she suddenly changes to utter “sadness” in that she was going to miss her “handsome contractor” or even miss the fact that she owned something and was creating something larger than it actually was. Sarcasm is even used when she states that their “property wasn’t huge, only forty-six acres”. Chester now reveals why Nora does not belong in this place. She is not only unappreciative of the fact that her house is done, but she also finds no appreciation of the sacred land she resides on. She is more upset about the fact that her adventure of creating something out of nothing is now officially over. When Nora states that her land “wasn’t’ huge, only forty-six acres”, Chester shows the reader that Nora does not view these acres as anything but land. Grit on the other hand has so much passion and respect for the land that was now being taken over by Nora. The irony of Nora’s responses and feelings show that although she owned the land, she showed no sense of belonging, as Grit had.

Through her irony and mockery of serious matters, Chester is able to connect with the reader on a personal basis due to the humorous and comical nature of her ideas. She refrains from forcing her ideas upon the reader in a serious manner, but she hints her ideas subtly through the humor of her mockery and irony. Chester is successful in structuring her idea of “belonging” in a subtle manner, that at the end of the story, the reader knows that Grit and Nora do in fact end up where both of them belong. In bringing in such different aspects of culture such as Hispanic, Indian, and American culture, and poking fun at each, Chester opened up the story to a more cultural clash while still bringing in the idea of ownership versus belonging. In the story, Grit is not the only character who ends up where he belongs. Although Nora did spend much time and effort on her house, the fact that she did not belong there overruled the fact that she owned the house. In the end, Nora ended up in Manhattan on the E train where everything seemed back to normal for her, intentionally were she belonged.

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