Respective culture Essay
‘The Gold Cadillac’ can be seen as quite similar to ‘A Stench Of Kerosene; where the mother appears powerful as Dee has the power to stand up to her husband. This is portrayed after Wilbert has just brought the new car and Dee says: ‘That Mercury wasn’t even a year old’. And when she refuses to ride in the car: ‘ …mother refused to ride anywhere’. From Dee’s character we get the impression that she has power not only as a mother but also as a woman. However in Pritam’s story only mothers have the power and only mothers and wives are respected in society because they are believed to be the women’s roles in society.
This is shown in ‘A Stench Of Kerosene’ where Manak’s mother is referred to only as Manak’s mother giving us the impression that she is only considered as a mother in society and nothing more. By calling her this she is being robbed of her identity, individuality and in some ways of her freedom. On the other hand in ‘The Gold Cadillac’ it seems that even black women have power which is surprising as when this story is set there were many racist states in America. We get this impression from when the mother is constantly referred to as Dee giving her, her own personal identity and not limiting her to her role as a mother or as a wife like Manak’s second wife who we only know as Manak’s second wife.
At the start of the story the father Wilbert is completely against the idea of selling his car. However, by the end of his story he has had a change of heart and decides to sell the car. This is a very surprising change in his attitude, considering his attachment to the car at the start of the story. His decision may be down to fear, which his daughter was put through whilst riding in the golden Cadillac and how much of a risk he realised they were all at after being arrested by the police: ‘driving this car any further south with you girls in the car, it’s just not worth the risk’. This could be seen as similar to ‘A Stench Of Kerosene’ in the sense that Manak’s mother is concerned about what is best for him just like Wilbert and Dee are concerned about what is best for their two daughters.
In these short stories both authors show different approaches to the prejudice issues of different cultures. In ‘ The Golden Cadillac’ Taylor shows us this by telling the story through the eyes of an innocent and confused little girl. By doing this Taylor makes the effectiveness of racism all the more clear to the reader. In ‘A Stench Of Kerosene’ Pritam uses a completely different approach. She shows how women are not treated equally through Manak’s treatment of Guleri.
She also shows how women are not treated fairly through Manak’s second bride, she is bought by Manak’s mother, Manak does not love her and it is as though she is a piece of property. Also Manak’s mother does not seem to care if she hurts Guleri or the second bride as long as her son benefits from it. Guleri feels betrayed as she was in love with Manak and he took a second bride, which is why she kills herself.
In these short stories two very different cultures are displayed. In ‘A Stench Of Kerosene’ we see an Indian matriarchal society where mothers have the most power within their families. We also see that the women who are not married or mothers do not have much power. In ‘ The Gold Cadillac’ we see that the story is set in America where it appears at first that black people have equal rights. However, it is clear that in the south they do not. We also see that mothers have the freedom to challenge the decisions of their husbands and are respected just like all the men. The ways in which the two stories are set are similar.
‘ A Stench Of Kerosene’ is set in India; we get the impression that people get on well in this society. However, as the story progresses we realise the disadvantages faced by women. We are similarly misled in ‘ The Gold Cadillac’ in fact it is not immediately that the family in the story is black until we get further into the story. At first we think that black people are equals in society until the family travels into the south and receives much discrimination.
In both of the stories ‘The Gold Cadillac’ and ‘A Stench Of Kerosene’, the authors Mildred Taylor and Amrita Pritam attempt to convey the harsh realities of their respective culture. In Pritam’s story women are not always treated as equals and in this case they are not respected unless they are married or are mothers. In Taylor’s story she is attempting to show us that in America black people have not always been treated as equals. In each case the authors appear to be pitiful of the ways in which women and black people are belittled in society. We as the readers are shown this through the strong imagery, brevity of structure and the narrative impact. Both authors give us meaning and the reader is left with a wider knowledge of how culture informs the way in which people are treated depending on race and gender.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 8 November 2017
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