How do Taylor and Abrahams convey childhood experience in ‘The Gold Cadillac’ and ‘Crackling Day’? What messages, about life in the societies in which these stories are set, do the writers convey through these children’s experiences?
Taylor and Abrahams convey childhood experiences in ‘The Gold Cadillac’ and ‘Crackling Day’ in many different ways, in the two stories the childhoods of the main characters are very different. The two stories were both set in very racist times. ‘The Gold Cadillac’ was set in the deep south of America in the 1950’s.
‘Crackling Day’ was set in the time of the Apartheid South Africa, at this time there was ethnic separation in South Africa.
In the story ‘The Gold Cadillac’ the children had been brought up in a very secure home, with all of their relatives around them. They live next to their aunts and uncles and they hardly have to do a thing. They have fun outside without having to worry about any racism.
In the story of ‘Crackling Day’ the child had grown up in a nice house in the city, however when he moves to the south to live with his aunt and uncle his whole lifestyle changes.
One of the major ways in which both authors convey childhood experiences is through the childish behaviour and language of the narrators. In ‘The Gold Cadillac’ they use language such as ‘daddy’ and use short and simple sentences. This shows the childish language and the maturity level of the narrator. In the text of ‘Crackling Day’ it says “Good idea……Race to the fork!” This shows a childlike game that shows that they are more interested in playing than getting the food.
In ‘The Gold Cadillac’ the children ‘run through the corridors banging on doors.’ This shows childhood innocence by showing the characters doing childlike and immature things. Another way the authors convey childhood experiences is by showing a state of innocence around the children. The childish behaviour seen by the reader reminds them the narrator is just a kid sets up the idea of virtuousness; this makes the powerful endings more emotive. Also, that a lot of pleasure is taken out of very simple things, like going for crackling or riding in a car. The sense of community is shown in ‘Crackling Day’ when they meet up with the rest of the community whilst getting the ‘crackling’, also that they are poor as they travel a long way to get food, even though it is only a couple of penny’s worth.
One of the writing techniques that the authors explore is the use of rhetorical questions. For example in the story of “The Gold Cadillac” As the police arrest the father they ask “Whose car is this boy?” this shows the mistrust clearly, it is a rhetorical question because they know that the answer will be ‘It’s mine’. They then accuse him of lying and take the car. This makes the final decision seem extra harsh as the police are just being cruel to the father.
The author of ‘Crackling Day’ uses the cold weather to set the boys up as victims. They do not have many pieces of clothing on and the clothes they have on are do not protect them from the cold. In the text it says “There was a sharp bite to the morning air.” This shows that the boys have little defences against the weather and are “helpless victims of the bitter cold” as they are also victims of racial prejudices. As the cold ‘bit’ into their bodies in the morning, the ‘white man’ forced the whip to ‘bite’ into the narrators back. In ‘The Gold Cadillac’ the weather is used to portray the different destinations. In the north it is sunny and the children are playing outside freely in the park or on the beach. However when night comes in the south and the father is asleep, the author uses the darkness to portray a sinister side to the south.
The relationships between the families are very strong. The relationship the narrator has with their parents in ‘The Gold Cadillac’, show a lot of love and togetherness it shows this when then the text says “we hugged our father in joy.” The parents are clearly in control of the children; this is shown when the children refer to their father as ‘Sir’. In the story it shows the parents care for the narrator when the father says “no need to be scared now sugar, Daddy’s here and so is mother-Dear” This proves that the relationship that the narrator has with their parents is very strong. The relationship that the narrator has with Wilma also shows a lot of love and care. I know this as it says in the text “Wilma grabbed my hand” this is showing sisterly love. We can also see that the whole family is really close when the text in The Gold Cadillac says “My uncles came out from the house and my aunts, carrying their babies came out too” This shows a lot of love and warmth in the society around them and that there is nothing to be worried about in the community. When the father was arrested whilst travelling down south in the gold Cadillac, they change cars to his cousins’ ‘Chevy’. This will not draw as much attention to themselves, this makes them feel safer. This movement tells us that the society is very unforgiving and racist through the closeness, love and care of the family.
The relationship the narrator has with their aunt and uncle in ‘Crackling Day’ is a different kind to the one the narrator shares with their parents in ‘The Gold Cadillac’ but they do share some similarities. I know that the narrator in ‘Crackling Day’ does not have any parents and is living with his aunt and uncle who love him but are a lot sterner then the parents in ‘The Gold Cadillac’. In the text it says “Only a small piece, understand?” This shows that the upbringing of the narrator in ‘Crackling Day’ was much tougher than the one in ‘The Gold Cadillac’. You can see the love in the relationship at the end of the story when the narrator is being beaten for fighting, it says in the text “Then suddenly Aunt Liza went limp. Tears showing in her eyes” It was very painful for her watching the narrator get beaten. At the very end there is a very big show of family love, the text says “She cuddled me close, warmed me with her own body. With her big hand on my cheek, she rocked me, first to silence, then to sleep” Aunt Liza felt sorry for the narrator; she cared for him and made sure he falls asleep.
The relationships that the narrators’ share with the rest of their helps the reader to recognise and reiterate the suffering that living in this kind of society caused, whilst the endings, where the families come together and help each other, help to show how the family love is still the most important thing.
The narrator in ‘Crackling Day’ shows ignorance and confusion quite clearly whilst he is completing his job to receive the crackling. Whilst he is talking to the white man serving out the crackling he didn’t know he needs to say ‘baas’ Andries has to nudge him and tell him what to say because he is not aware of how to address the white man in this community. Also he doesn’t know that he should avoid the white children because Andries says “Better run for it” and the narrator replies “Why?” This shows the narrators ignorance of the situation he is in as he does not realise the power of the white children. In ‘The Gold Cadillac’ the narrator shows ignorance of the situation when it says “I couldn’t understand why the signs were there and I asked my father what they meant.” She was confused when she saw the signs “WHITES ONLY, COLOUREDS NOT ALLOWED.” and could not figure out why they were there. It also shows innocence when it says “They searched my father I didn’t understand why. I didn’t understand either why they had called my father a liar.” This shows ignorance of racial discrimination because they had grown up in a safe, trustworthy environment where there was no discrimination. As soon as she is put in this situation she is confused and “felt as if I was in a foreign land” because of the racial discrimination. There is a similarity between the two stories in this sense as they both show a sense of confusion when they are put in situations of racial prejudice that are not normal to them. The ignorance and confusion helps us see what the children are feeling when they come across situations that are not logical to them.
Fear is a major part in the stories, In ‘Crackling Day’ it says “I grovelled at Sam’s feet begging him” this is before he was about to be beaten for fighting with the white boys, it shows that he had learnt to be scared of the white man and of Uncle Sam. We see that he is afraid when the text says the word “grovelled” and “begged” these are words associated with suffering and pain, this helps the reader see that the narrator is scared. In ‘Crackling Day’ it says “He’s new here, he’s from Johannesburg they don’t know how to behave there” this shows that the narrator does not know how to behave in his new environment because it is different than the one he has grown up in. In ‘The Gold Cadillac’ the narrator shows fear when it says “I was afraid to sleep until my father woke” The fear shows us that the environment that they grew up in is nothing like the one that they are in when they are scared. It shows that society, though mostly loving, can be ruthless as well. The fear shows us the severity of the fathers arrest and the white mans power to take their father away for no reason but also whilst putting more emphasis on the horrific events that happen at the end of the stories, because innocent people such as the ones in these stories shouldn’t b made to feel intimidated.
In conclusion Taylor and Abrahams convey childhood experience of racial discrimination in ‘The Gold Cadillac’ and ‘Crackling Day’ by mainly using the innocence, ignorance and confusion of the children when they are in a strange, hostile place. I think that the author’s methods are very effective and they help create a clear picture of the upbringing of the narrators and the environment they are in. In the two stories they both went on a journey that started in innocence but taught them a harsh lesson about the world outside their upbringing. This journey happens in both stories, one on foot to collect food and the other in car to meet with relatives, they both portray the fear of racial prejudice and a confusion of not understanding how to act in different circumstances. This is a life journey where we learn lessons that are not always nice.
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