In this essay I aim to examine the themes of childhood in the short stories ‘The Trout’ and ‘Crackling Day’. I will go about this by examining the words, thoughts and actions of the characters that the authors have created. I will also examine the social attitudes of the time period in which the stories were written and how they relate to the theme of childhood in both stories. The Trout is about a 12 year old girl called Julia who when exploring finds a trout in a well.
Eventually she sets it free in to the local river.
Crackling Day is about the journey of a little boy in Johannesburg, South Africa, to collect some crackling from the something or other. The first impression I got from The Trout was one of confusion. The fairy tale style of the story made it not very realistic. It was almost as if the story was written ‘out-of-this-world’ which made the story odd. The first impression that I got of the main character, Julia, was that she was very sarcastic and rude.
However when I re-read the story I realised why she was acting that way. I think that she acted that way because she was trying to grow up.
The themes within The Trout and Crackling Day are both treated in a different way despite the fact that they both have the same theme of childhood. Crackling Day uses more language and descriptive words to illustrate his point as opposed to symbolism and imagery, compared to The Trout.
For example the theme in The Trout is childhood and growing up, “her long lovely neck… “. This is similar to a Swan, which implies that Julia is gradually blossoming in to a mature adult. There is also a underlying desire that is occasionally shown from Julia that she wants to grow up.
For example when her mother tells her a fairy story to explain how the trout got in to the well she simply dismisses the story “Pooh… “. I think that she dismisses the story because fairy tales are seen as childish and she wants to seem mature. Another example of symbolism that shows that Julia wants to grow up is when she mocks and teases her brother after they have run through ‘The Dark Walk’. I think that she mocks her brother because she wants to make herself appear to be more grown-up and braver than him “Cry babby!
” However you can tell that the process is not complete because she still engages in name calling towards her brother “I hate you”. Her spiteful words towards her brother show that although she is trying to mature, in some ways she still has the mentality of a young child. I also think that the trout symbolises a different side to her growing development. Julia is longing for freedom from herself and that she feels trapped. She wants to be rescued form the confines of childhood. This is shown by the way she ponders over the freedom of the Trout “It troubled her that the trout was always in the same position…
” and feels sorry for it. She is also trying to form her own opinions as her reaction to her mothers fairy tale about the trout shows. “Mummy, don’t make it a horrible old moral story! “. This shows yet again of her impending maturity, because when children are maturing many want to form their own morals and opinions. Julia’s spurn towards her mothers story shows us that she is starting to do just that. I think that the Julia was created by the author because he wanted to highlight a moment in everyone’s life. The beginning stages of puberty.
It is an universal truth. The language in The Trout and Crackling Day are very different. The language used in The Trout is very descriptive compared to the Crackling Day. Also the language is used to describe different things. In The Trout the surroundings are described in a very artistic way “… a lofty midnight tunnel of smooth” and “sinewy branches”. However in the Crackling Day the language used to describe the surroundings and settings is very plain. It is almost non-existent. Instead language is used to describe their thoughts on the atmosphere around them.
It uses more objects to describe rather than adjectives, for example “It was a half-human monster” and “… winter was more bitterly, bitingly, freezingly real than ever… “. Although the language used in both stories is very different, I think that it symbolises the same thing, the lack of freedom. The lack of freedom in The Trout is because Julia is at ‘that age’ and wants to grow up, where as in Crackling Day the language represents a lack of freedom through an oppressor, apartheid. The different societies in which The Trout and Crackling Day are written cause the writers to treat the theme childhood in different ways.
In the Crackling Day the story is about the denial of childhood. Lee encounters a bias against him which makes his childhood different. However The Trout is about what happens when you do have access to a childhood. I think that in The Trout and Crackling Day both Julia and Lee start to take responsibility for their actions and the world around them, however they both feel conflicting emotions as they complete their actions. For example in The Trout when Julia first starts her attempt of rescuing the fish she is very frightened “…
They were both mad with fright” but as the rescue continues and she nears the river edge she becomes more and more confident about her ability to rescue the fish. After the rescue she is quite thrilled of the fact that she managed to successfully free the fish “She hugged herself and giggled”. I think that she is happy because she has just experience her first taste of responsibility so she feels more mature. At the end of the story her brother discovers that the trout has disappeared, so he asks Julia where she thinks the trout could have disappeared to.
She replies in a patronising tone “… she said superciliously… “. I think that this also shows that she feels more mature because she now considers herself to be ‘above’ her brother hence the patronising tone. In the Crackling Day when Lee first starts to attack the white boy in anger without giving much thought about the consequences, “In a fog of rage I went toward him… “. This shows that at his point he still has the mentality of a child, because when you are little you are often egocentric and ignorant of the ‘real’ world. Although Lee’s age is not described in this story.
I think that Lee is forced to start growing up before his time due to his circumstances, there is no time to be a child, “I should have run when he told me to… ” this shows that he is starting to realise that some fights are not worth the consequences. I also think the ending of the story shows that Lee had started his journey towards adulthood. The location in both stories is very significant to the plot, but it is shown in different ways. The irrelevancy of the setting in The Trout adds to the mystery “… they arrived in G… ” I think that the mysterious nature of the story could be symbolic.
It was set in the countryside because it enabled him to take the story to an idyllic place. However although the location of Crackling Day is not specifically said, the writer leaves clues in the text which is very specific to the region “Damn Boer dog” and “Yes, baas”. This shows us that the Crackling Day is set in South Africa during the time of apartheid. The characters in The Trout and Crackling Day both show courage within their daily lives but it is shown on two different levels. In The Trout Julia shows courage on a more Human level, she faces up to a universal truth (when she complete her rescue of the trout).
However in Crackling Day the narrator shows specific courage in a specific situation (when he is receiving lashes from his Uncle). He also shows the human capacity to deal with racism, hardship, fear, brutality, inequality and the reality of life. Although one form of courage may seem ‘better’ than the other, they are both equal in their own way. In conclusion I think that the theme of childhood in both stories is treated in the same way, but the result is the same. Both of the authors demonstrate that even It is about a bid for freedom.