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The Old Man Isn’t Here Anymore Essay

1. Schmitt’s purpose in writing this travel narrative, is to show the differences between the Chinese and American cultures, when it comes to many different things. Main examples in this narrative are; living under the same roof, loss of a loved one, and funeral etiquette. In the Chinese culture it is excepted to come into common areas in your under clothing. Where in America, this would not be appropriate at all. In most places in America, law enforcement would be called on some one outside of their living area in nothing but their underwear and shoes. The narrative shows the many differences in funeral etiquette. One such being, white floors being the preferred color for the loss of a loved one. The family is still very grateful for the gesture, and wants the author to attend the funeral service. Second, wearing of the black swatch of cloth on your sleeve, to identify you as a member of the funeral party. Third, walking in a precession with the casket to the crematorium, and then having to pay extra, so that the loved one is cremated alone. Final, taking the black swatch off of the sleeve and placing it into an outside fireplace, then taking a leaping step forward to help the loved one “ transcend the gap between life and death“.

2. The author used a fictitious paragraph, to tell us how she thought it would be to live in common housing in China. She talks of how she would, “ I’d wander into their kitchens in the late afternoon and sit around sipping green tea and chatting in Chinese about their lives.” The author uses this to show, the reader what her ideal situation would be, living with people of a different culture under the same rough. This scenario is not what happened, the other occupants of the home would barely acknowledge the writer, let alone speak to her. This was useful in showing the reader what she wanted her living experience to be. The other ways the writer was narrative, were the description of the interaction in the hallways between the author and the others living in the building, and the funeral. The author went into great detail with the funeral to make sure we completely understood her observation, as well as her feelings of loss herself.

3. I believe so much of the article is dedicated to the funeral and cremation, because the writer wants us to not only see the vast differences between the two cultures, American and Chinese. But, to experience the feelings it is bringing up from the writers past, and her present. Her feelings of loss of the grandfather that died before she was born, and the loss of the “ buzz-cut grandpa” she had come to look forward to seeing. As for the cremation, in America, we as a culture would be outraged to pay extra for our loved on to be cremated alone. Never would we think it acceptable for more than one person to be cremated at the same time. The wearing of the patch of black on the sleeve, is similar to the black garters that are worn around the arms at certain funerals in the American culture; in particular that of a fallen officer or team mate. All of these descriptions are helpful to us as the reader, in order to give us a clearer mental picture of what is going on during the funeral and cremation of the “ buzz-cut grandpa”.

4. Schmitt’s tone in this article, is not a somber one. I feel that her tone is, one of respect and gratitude. At no time during my reading, did I feel as if the author wanted me to feel sad. Instead, I felt as if the author wanted the reader to know how much she wanted to be a part of this community that was living together under one roof. I felt the respect she had for the differences in the cultures, the need to learn and share in every day living in this country that was far away from her family and home.

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