The life of every person is unique indeed: every one of us chooses his/her own way and tries to follow the chosen way taking into consideration personal desires and the standpoints of people around. Sometimes, our personal desires do not make any harm, but sometimes the desire to follow own dreams may change many lives.
Literature is one of the most effective ways, which help to demonstrate what personal desires both reasonable and unreasonable may lead to. Literature can help to analyze the relations between people, find out its problems, and even solve them from time to time. With the help of numerous literature masterpieces, people get opportunities to learn more about human nature, comprehend the sense of life, and even improve it.
A Conversation with My Father, a short story by Grace Paley, and The Swimmer, a short story of John Cheever are good examples of literature works, which provide the reader with an opportunity to see the essence of life and comprehend the truth of life tragedies.
Not every reader may find common ideas in these two works at once. One of them is more about the complicated relations between a father and a daughter. Another tells a story about the unbelievable journey of one young man from a party to his own home. However, one of the themes that may unite the works of these two different authors is the idea of facing tragedy at the end of the story. Each character faces his/her own tragedy: for one of them, it is misunderstandings with the father, for another, it is the loss of the family and the sense of life.
A Conversation with My Father is not a simple imagery fiction. This work explains the author’s personal aims and describes how difficult the process of writing is. It is not that easy to be interesting to any reader. Her primary purpose was to make her own father be proud of what she was doing. It is quite possible that this story is a kind of talk to Paley’s own father and attempt to explain such a choice.
A peculiar feature of A Conversation with My Father and The Swimmer is the combination of realism with practice and constant experiments. How can a person know for sure about something if he/she does not test it? A Conversation with My Father is a story about story telling.
The narrator, a storyteller, discusses her style of writing with her bedridden father and tries to get an approval to create her stories in the ways she prefer. The father always criticizes her works and underlines her disability to make tragic endings, which make a basis for this life.
In spite of his health problems, his mind is rather alert, and he can easily prove his own points of view and analyze his daughter’s actions. He constantly underlines the necessity to use the works of such great authors as Anton Chekhov or Guy de Maupassant. They presented really tragic stories and used new ways to interpret one more theme.
Even if the father clearly comprehends that he is dying, he tries to explain her daughter that this life is all about tragedies. There are no happy ends. Everything has its reasons, and these reasons do not allow people live a happy life only. Of course, people have the right of choice, but unfortunately, such freedom of choosing does not always suppose something good.
Facing tragedy at the end of action, day, or life is an integral part of life, and people have nothing but accept this truth. A Conversation with My Father challenges the reader to comprehend the truth of tragedy by means of father’s words that there is no hope at the end. The daughter wants to please her father and creates a story about a mother and a son, who are drug addicts. However, with some time, they overcome this tragedy.
In order to make a bit tragic end and amaze her father, the daughter says that the son never comes back home. It is a grief for the mother. This is how the daughter sees a real tragedy. Unfortunately, it is not enough for the father. He wants to see a more tragic end, as the life of every person is inherently tragic; he wants the daughter to realize this, and he will make another attempt to explain everything.
His negative attitude to life and to the decisions people prefer to make is a kind of reflection of his own obstinacy. He does not want to realize that times and conditions may be changed, the only thing he can do is to criticize. His faith in the society is lost, and this is a personal tragedy of his.
In its turn, The Swimmer is a story of one man, Neddy Merrill, who chooses not ordinary way to reach his own home. In fact, this story does not suppose to be tragic. “It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, ‘I drank too much last night.’” (Cheever 603) Neddy’s decision to come back home by means of swimming over the pools of his neighbours becomes a turning point of the whole story.
Because of such a travel, he loses his friends, his job, and even his family. Such a simple decision with such unordinary intentions destroys the lives of so many people. Every reader may comprehend this story in different ways. To my mind, one of the major ideas is the fact that when a person gets an opportunity to have a look at the lives of other families and be involved into them, his/her own life and family may be under a terrible threat.
He wanted to be a new Odyssey in this modern world. “Making his way home by an uncommon route gave him the feeling that he was a pilgrim, an explorer, a man with a destiny, and he knew that he would find friends all along the way.” (The Swimmer, 2000) He wanted to gain recognition, but instead, he gained recognition as a complete looser with no friends and no family.
Such facing tragedy at the end of the story is a good attempt of the author to demonstrate how unpredictable and changeable this life is. People cannot or just do not want to think about their own future and the future of their families. However, such a blind following own personal desires is not always good, and it is necessary to weight all pros and cons to make sure that these actions are not harmful.
Our life is not simple. People face more and more problems during the whole life. The solving of these problems is one of the major purposes of many people. The major character of A Conversation with My Father does not want to believe that even in writing, there always should be a tragic end. However, her father, who loved and cared her so much, tried to explain that this life is not fair, and people should be ready to fight this life and face tragedies.
Is it really so necessary to present the tragic ends only in the literature works? Is it correct that people do not have an opportunity to enjoy happy life and not face troubles at least in literature? Of course, facing tragedy at the end is an inherent feature of the lives of every person, and this tragedy is called ‘death’. But if people always think about tragedies only, they may simply forget about the present and cannot enjoy this life. In such case, there is no sense of life at all, and living without any sense is useless.
With the help of the work by Grace Paley, A Conversation with My Father, and the short story by John Cheever, The Swimmer, the reader gets an opportunity to analyze what is so precious in this life. The right of choice and following personal desires is crucial indeed.
However, care about relatives and people around is also an inherent part of this life. Elder people want to share their experience and teach their younger generations not to make mistakes. Sometimes, such learning is quite possible. However, people just cannot always get understanding, and have to face tragedies at the end of their lives.
Cheever, John. The Stories of John Cheever. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 2000.