The significance of the title “Dead Men’s Path” is that it reveals the attitude of the main character, Michael Obi, towards his ancestors. “‘The whole purpose of our school,’ he said finally, ‘is to eradicate just such beliefs as that. Dead men do not require footpaths’”(Paragraph 24). Mr. Obi does not respect the village people or even the village priest, because he feels that they are below him. He finds everything that the ancestral path stands for to be silly. Although the priest refers to the ancestors as “our ancestors” when talking with Mr. Obi, Mr. Obi does not share the same emotional connection to these ancestors as the priest does. This is why he refers to the ancestors as “dead men.” The idea of family and tradition is not of concern to Mr. Obi. His main priority is education his way, and this all leads to his downfall.
Mr. Obi is eager to close the footpath in order to impress the Government Education Officer, but ironically this closure ruins his reputation as headmaster. “That day, the white Supervisor came to inspect the school and wrote a nasty report on the state of the premises but more seriously about the ‘tribal-war situation developing between the school and the village, arising in part from the misguided zeal of the new headmaster’”(Paragraph 29). If Mr. Obi let the tradition of the path continue than he would not have put himself in this situation. Now the Supervisor does not see all the hard work that Mr. Obi put into the school, instead all that is seen is an inexperienced headmaster who has created a serious problem. This “tribal-war” is what he will be remembered by and not for being an excellent teacher which he bragged about.
In Ismet Prcic’s “Porcus Omnivorus” the story’s setting influences the characters’ demeanor. “Mustafa’s grandfather was born in a shed. The shed was right next to a puny, derelict house where the rest of his family sat in miserable silence…The room was pungent with smoke from a malfunctioning chimney…”(Paragraph 1). The setting described here reveals that this family is poverty-stricken. The members of the family can not afford to fix the chimney and must withstand the horrible smell of the smoke in order to use the chimney for heat. There is not one positive attribute in the description of their home giving it a depressed feeling and evoking a sad mood in the reader .
One event that displays how the story’s setting impacts this family is the birth that occurs. A birth is something wonderful and something that is usually celebrated. However, there is no celebration during Mustafa’s grandfather’s birth, because everyone sees the birth of another family member as an addition to the number of competitors who live under the same roof and compete daily for their survival. It meant less food for everyone and less space in the already small house. The family’s reaction is motivated by their physical environment. If the family lived in a big, nice house and were better off, the baby’s birth would be welcomed with smiles and hugs. They are unable to appreciate the beauty of a new life because of their economic state, and it is unfair to the innocent baby.
The dominating mood of depression shared by the family members also influences their behavior. They have created a gloomy atmosphere in their household and can not appreciate any good things that happen. Mustafa’s grandfather’s birth could have been used to change their constant state of defeat, because if even one person expressed joy, that feeling of happiness can rub off on others. What this family fails to realize is that they do not have to let their setting influence their lives in a negative manner all the time. This family lets the fact that they are poor darken their spirit and even kill their spirit.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby Myrtle Wilson transforms herself into a new fake lady when she is around her sweetie, Tom Buchanan, because she desperately wants a new life outside and away from the valley of ashes. “The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was converted into impressive hauteur. Her laughter, her gestures, her assertions became more violently affected moment by moment, and as she expanded the room grew smaller around her, until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air”(31). When Nick Carraway, the book’s narrator, first met Myrtle in the valley of ashes her liveliness was described as a positive attribute, but now that Myrtle is under different conditions she has used that same energy into something nasty. Nick now describes her with impressive hauteur which makes Myrtle seem like she has transformed into something negative. Hauteur, meaning arrogance, signifies the ugly character that Myrtle becomes once she is in her new fancy clothes and in her New York City apartment.
Myrtle’s gestures are described as violent which again proves the new arrogant persona she has undertaken. She is no longer linked with ladylike terms and is now presented as more of a man. Even the word assertions, which means forceful and aggressive declarations, is another manly term used to describe her ways. Violent signifies her resemblance to Tom. His rough and aggressive character has rubbed off on Myrtle, because she believes if she copies his behavior she will fit right in with the upper class. Since Tom is suppose to be a fine upper class man. In Nick’s description of Myrtle’s presence in the room he claims that Myrtle expanded which describes her personality not her physically. Expand which means to increase in volume signifies her exaggerated persona. Eventually Myrtle is said to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot. It shows her never-ending talking and annoying ways. Nick uses these words to show that he doesn’t hear words from her, only noise, which signifies her unimportance and reminds the reader of Myrtle’s lower-class status. Myrtle revolving on a pivot signifies her desperate need and want to be larger than life and her desperate cry to be the center of attention. She is over the top and tacky in her ways. Finally, the smoky air is a signifier, which stands for her fake persona. Smoky represents an untrue and hazy image, which in this case is Myrtle, because she is not being herself. It is an act, a show. She does not know how to be a lady of upper class even though she tries so hard to imitate one.
In Lars Eighner’s, ” On Dumpster Diving” the narrator displays his interpersonal intelligence through his analysis of the different individuals he encounters. Howard Gardner’s, “Multiple Intelligences” explains the seven different intelligences including the one displayed by the narrator, “Interpersonal intelligence builds on a core capacity to notice distinctions among others; in particular, contrasts in their moods, temperaments, motivations, and intentions. In more advanced forms this intelligence permits a skilled adult to read the intentions and desires of others, even when these have been hidden”(Paragraph 31). This interpersonal intelligence demonstrated by the narrator in, “ On Dumpster Diving” is an intelligence that deals with analyzing others, “ At first the new scavenger is filled with disgust and self-loathing. He is ashamed of being seen and may lurk around trying to duck behind things, or he may try to dive at night”(Paragraph 39). The narrator has been dumpster diving long enough to know what new homeless dumpster divers go through. He understands that there is a process to the way the newcomers adapt. There are emotions that the newcomers feel that are not voiced out loud, however, the narrator notices them because of his interpersonal intelligence. Since the narrator knows it is a difficult transition to be a part of society and then become an outsider, he acknowledges that the moods revealed by the newcomers are normal, because
Although the narrator has not received formal training in how to understand others, he shows interpersonal intelligence despite that, “All the Dumpster divers I have known come to the point of trying to acquire everything they touch. Why not take it, they reason, since it is all free”(Paragraph 45). The narrator has the “Dumpster divers” figured out. He realizes that they do not know how to differentiate between useful and free. However, he also understands that the “Dumpster divers” who reach this point of desperate hoarding are trying to fill a void, because they have nothing else. These behaviors are analyzed and offer an insight of the person. Through the analysis of their actions and reasons for hoarding, the narrator understands that the hoarding helps the homeless individuals feel better and gives them comfort. The narrator notices distinctions between the hoarders and the homeless people who realize that only the useful and beneficial things are what need to be hold onto. On some level the hoarders begin to lose their mind, because they can not control themselves from gathering all that is pretty and all objects they want not need. In contrast the other group still tries to reason and collect objects in a smart tactical way in order to survive.
In Tillie Olsen’s, “I Stand Here Ironing,” the depression that the country is suffering through negatively affects the personal relationships of the narrator. This social condition not only affects the people of this time financially but also emotionally. For the narrator, as a mother, the condition affects her relationship with her daughter, and this is seen throughout the short story.
The narrator went through some very difficult times trying to provide for her daughter. In the struggle of doing her part as the sole provider to her young daughter, she failed to be there for the young girl emotionally. The mother showed that she wanted to be there for her daughter, but it was tough to do so, “It was the pre-relief, pre-WPA world of the depression. I would start running as soon as I got off the streetcar, running up the stairs, the place smelling sour, and awake or asleep to startle awake, when she saw me she would break into a clogged weeping that could not be comforted, a weeping I can hear yet”(9). At the time the mother was not receiving any type of help, and she was a single mother which added to the desperate need of her to provide for the daughter financially. She found herself in a situation where she was helpless. There was no help during a time that the mother truly needed help. She was forced to sacrifice the loving mother-daughter relationship in order to be able to give her little girl the basic needs like food and shelter.
The nation’s depression was affecting families and the way they formed family relationships within themselves. There was no time to build a meaningful bond, because of the need to find a job and do the best to work and survive during this historically sad and hard time. The way their life unfolded was a direct look at what was going on around them, “She is a child of her age, of depression, of war, of fear”(55). Even though there are things the mother regrets about her relationship with her daughter and the way she raised her, she did what she thought was best. There was only so much that she had to give, because her resources were not what are available now. There was only so much the narrator was able to do especially when her surroundings were the harsh realities of the Great Depression.