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A Conversation with My Father

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Ashley Conley

Enc 1102 8:00-9:00

13 February 2008

A Father’s Last Request

The short story “A Conversation With My Father”, by Grace Paley, is written asa story within a story. The story is told by a reliable first person narrator. The Protagonist in the story is the narrator. While the gender of the narrator is never stated, the tone of the story leads me to believe it is a female. The other major character in the story is the narrator’s sick aging father, who seems to be on his death bed. Throughout the story, Paley plays on the story’s theme of different points of view. Paley shows us the father knows he is dying and has a grim look on life, while the narrator is still young and full of life, giving her a very hopeful point of view.

Paley’s story “A Conversation With My Father”, is a story of a very intelligent, yet sick aging father and his daughter who is a brilliant writer. The narrator goes to visit her father and while she is there, he makes a request that she write a simple story like de Maupassant or Chekhov would write, the way she used to write. “Just recognizable people and then write down what happened to them next” (31). The narrator agrees, and tells a short story no longer than a paragraph about a mother and her son who live in Manhattan and are heroin addicts. To stay close to her son and be apart of youth culture, his mother begins using too. He later quits, but his mother cannot kick the habit. Her son abandons her and she is left alone in the city. The narrators father immediately rejects the story, “You misunderstood me on purpose ... You left everything out” (31). The father stated this because the story has no detail. At this point the theme of different points of view becomes apparent. The narrator likes short detail-less stories because they do not take all hope away the way, “There was a woman.. Followed by a plot” (31), can take away all hope. The narrator believes there is always hope which becomes apparent at the end of the story.

The father asks specific questions to get details from his daughter, and gets her to retell the story with more detail, the narrator agrees although this time the story has an unhappy end and the father is again not pleased. This time he is saddened and discouraged. How could his daughter leave the mother in the story in an abandoned state? When her father is unhappy with that ending and when she is questioned about it she quickly says, “She could change” (34), and “She could be a hundred different things in this world... A teacher or a social worker” (34). Her father argues that the mother cannot

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