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Paley Essay, Research Paper

Throughout the short story ‘Conversation with my father´ Paley uses, among other strategies, discourse, focalisation and embedding to represent the relationship of the narrator and his/her father. Conflicting views and opinions and elements of appeasement present in the relationship are conveyed by the strategies present in the story. Several narrative strategies are also used to highlight both similar and contrasting aspects of personality, attitude and outlook on society, held by the two characters.

The story is told in the first person, which Paley immediately uses to good effect. In showing the story from this point of view Paley allows the feelings of the daughter to be shown and represented in her own words. It is as early as the first sentence that this strategy is used to show conflict. The narrator describes her fathers´ heart, very negatively, as ‘that bloody motor´ giving clear indications that she is displeased by or angry at the fact that her father is still clinging to life. The thoughts of the narrator are used again, later in the story, to show conflict in the relation ship. The statement from the narrator, ‘I didn´t want to argue, but I had to say…´ shows a deeper conflict in the relationship, a conflict so extensive that the narrator felt compelled to argue with her father. In this same instance and for the same reason the point of view is also effective in highlighting a personality clash between the two characters. A second feature of the story, which is used to represent the conflict and clash of opinions, is the embedded story. The way in which this feature is represented is a simple way in which Paley can demonstrate the differences between the two characters. In varying the way the text is printed alone is used as a metaphor for the characters. The narrators´ story grows throughout giving the impression that her opposition to her father is growing and that the distance between them has been growing throughout her life. Her father is dying and the narrator is gaining more control over the relationship. Paley, however, returns to and ends in the original story, as well as text size and font, implying that the narrators´ father still has an influence on the relationship and will continue have an influence on the narrators´ life. The changing style and point of view between the main text and the embedded story also help to understand the relationship. Beginning in the first person and moving to position with infinite knowledge in the embedded story Paley again highlight the issue of power and control over the relationship. Using the embedded story again as a metaphor, this time for the life of the narrator. Both stories, simplified, are about women who are being controlled, by a father and by drugs, then ultimately gaining control. This is to show and then emphasise the swing of power in the relationship between narrator and father.

Within the embedded story time gives an important representation of the relationship between father and daughter. We are told that the embedded story is one which has been unfolding in the time of the main story but it is told in past tense giving the impression that the story is not unfolding at this time but in fact has ended. This could be construed as showing that the fathers´ life is coming to a close and, as a result, so too is the relationship of the two characters. It is also to show how the relationship and conflict has developed over time. The embedded story moves from being set in the present to, in contrast, being told as if in the past. It is this contrast which again develops conflict within the relationship. The narrator believes in having control over life whereas her father thinks that life is fated to end in tragedy.

A feature present in the relationship is that of appeasement. The narrator wishes to comply with her father´ wish and wants to please him, especially in this hour of his life. This is well represented by Paley by using embedding as a feature of the story. The mere fact that the it is the narrator who tells and changes the imbedded story, at her fathers´ request, Is indicative of her wanting to please him or, at least, not upset him.

Similarities and influence within the relationship is represented by the use of an embedded story. This features show that a part of the father has bestowed itself upon his daughter. Both characters are self assured and try to impose their opinions on one another. This similarity would have been due to their relationship and interaction with each other. The similarities may also continue to develop as the embedded story does. The influence each character tries to hold within the relationship certainly continues to develop. The ending of the embedded story provides a stage for the characters to display their quest for influence.

‘”No, Pa, it could really happen thatway, it´s a funny world nowadays.”

“No,” He said. “Truth first. She will slide back. A person must have character. She does not.”

”No Pa,” I said. ”That´s it. She´s got a job. Forget it. She´s in that storefront working.”

“How long will it be?” He asked. “ Tragedy! You too. When will you look it in the face?” ‘ A further narrative strategy that Paley uses to convey the relationship is repetition. The narrator, in the first half of the story, answers her father starting “yes” and “Ok” this is repeated several times. This is again showing the narrators desire to please her father but is developed further in the second strand of the story.

It is here in which Paley uses repetition to express the changing and argumentative nature of the relationship. The narrator repeatedly answers her father starting “No”. This is in stark contrast to the first half of the story and shows clearly how the narrator is rebelling against her fathers´ views. The rise and repetition of defensive language also indicates an escalation in conflict within the relationship of the the narrator and her father.


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