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Michelle Morano’s “Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood” Essay

The essay “Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood” by Michele Morano is a work that parallels the Spanish language and life. In the story, Michele reveals a little about herself as a character in the essay. She offers the reader a glimpse into an extravagant daydream into the locales of exotic Spain in which she hopes to one day visit to escape her husband whom had recently tried to kill himself. Throughout her fantastic tale, she encounters many unusual characters and proceeds to compare aspects of the Spanish language such as clauses like, ‘si’ and ‘como si’ (Morano 111), and ‘verbs of doubt and emotion’ (114) to the complexities of life.

As I first began reading the essay, I was puzzled that Morano chose to ‘speak’ in the second tense as it is a rare form of writing, especially for a non-persuasive essay. While she was using her own experiences to provide the reader with an imaginary world, she wrote as though she hoped her audience would find themselves in her shoes. I also found it difficult to understand Morano’s style of writing because of her choice to use the future tense. I was able to grasp the concept that this extravagant adventure had not occurred yet, but I found it difficult to insert myself in her whimsical, romantic production. Once I began reading the essay and analyzing it, however, I took a liking to her ‘what-if’ style of writing. It suited the topic matter very well. Morano was able to equate the Spanish language with life beautifully with her writing style and extensive use of imagery.

While I enjoyed the style of writing very much, the essay itself left me tentative on weather or not I enjoyed the piece as a whole. I am very familiar with the Spanish language, but I believe Morano could have clarified each educational segment a little further. As amusing as it was to brush up on high school Spanish, I found the presentation of the content in the text itself very confusing. I am uncertain that I would have enjoyed the piece as much had I not taken Spanish in earlier years of schooling. I also found it distracting how Morano would switch from her ‘grammar lessons’ to her fantasy life in Spain so abruptly.

Beginning to read the piece, I was unsure of whether or not Morano had actually lived these experiences she was writing about, or if they were a thoughtful delusion of the future. For example, while reading about Morano’s encounter with the swimmer (110), I found myself being pulled into the reverie of this romance in Spain; and suddenly I would be brought back to this lackluster high school Spanish class. And while Morano did provide the reader with a comparison from the language to the event itself, the change seemed so abrupt that it left me displeased.

I also could have gone without the jumping back and forth between Morano’s life with her depressed husband and her musing of a life in Spain. While I do believe that her history with her husband was pivotal to the back story, I found the bouncing between her Spanish daydream and her real life experiences with her husband very distracting. I consider it would have suited the essay better had Morano simply used that as an introduction and left it at that.

One feature of the essay that I enjoyed, although, was the fact that Morano took something as lifeless as the Spanish language and seemed to enliven it to the reader. I find it very rare that an author is able to put life into something as cold as grammatical concepts, especially in a different language. Morano, through her experiences in Spain, was able to provide the reader with a looking glass into a world where language isn’t just language and grammar isn’t just grammar but they’re part of being alive. She is able to convey to the reader that while details such as how to express emotion in Spanish would seem tedious any other point, experiences such as sleeping with a stranger in Spain unexpectedly brings out these ‘grammatical elements’ of human nature such as doubt and excitement (115).

As a whole, I did enjoy the essay. I found Morano’s use of descriptions and interactions between characters very intriguing. I was able to sympathize with Morano as a character through her internal struggle of leaving the man that she had been with for a long while for a fresh start in Spain.

Morano, Michele. “The Best American Essays.” Grammar Lessons: the Subjunctive Mood. Ed. Lauren Slater. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. 107-121.

Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood

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