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Explain and discuss in detail the importance of relationships or conflicts in each of your studied texts? “Moving Pictures’, by Ro Cambridge, and ‘my father running with a dead boy’, by Carl Nixon, are short stories with a central theme of parent/child relationships. In these texts the narrators is the adult son or daughter whose relationships with their (now dead) parent is complex. We share their insights and their emotions as they recall experiences or gain a new perspective. We see the strength of this bond, despite difficulties between parent and child.
In ‘Moving Pictures’, geographical details are crucial to the daughter’s memories of her mother. The story begins with a reflection on how a visit not to the Farmers in Hobson Street is so different from those made in the narrator’s childhood. She goes on to recall how ill at ease her mother was when the family came to Auckland, and then to describe the fun-house mirrors which distorted the children but transformed their fat mother into some ‘tall, long-legged, elegant. This was the mother I yearned for.
‘ Although she loves her mother, she is disappointed by her appearance, and more importantly, afraid that she will grow to resemble her. The comment ‘she died as this as I could have wished for’ is an important, sad admission of her preoccupation with what really was of little importance, yet what was a barrier in her relationship with her mother. The narrator’s mother dies and she is devastated, not that she realises it herself at the time. From feeling no emotional impact whatsoever, she then becomes fearful of life and overeats to protect herself.
She becomes reclusive. She leaves for Greece, the second important geographical setting, and although acknowledging her desire to be comforted, she indulges in rich Greek food instead as her solace, to point where she feels ‘as sleek, and as fat, and as impervious as a seal. ‘ She is not as impervious as she would think, however, when her mother’s reflection stared back at her in the mirror. She is distraught – and is comforted by Mrs Striandopoulos, a more vigorous version of her own mother. Her time abroad seems to be a period of denial.
Pregnant and overweight, she returns to New Zealand and visits her mother’s unmarked grave. As she passes the places of her childhood – the orchard, the school and the creek – she could suddenly remember her mother again, the mother ‘who crept with us into the cool jungle of boysenberry vines and laughed with us at our juice stained mouths and fingers. ‘ This is the turning point for the narrator. She has found her mother. She cooks the food her mother had cooked for her when she was a child – her mother re-enters her life.
There is now no obsessive eating, nothing to run away from, and she loses weight. ‘When the baby was born that last bulge disappeared. ‘ The final location is the maternity hospital and once again the narrator sees her reflection and that of her mother. This time they are quite distinct but she acknowledges some shared characteristics, the most important of which is the ‘fragile, heavy weight of a daughter. ‘ She finally affirms the bond with her mother. She is healed – she and her mother smile at each other.
Her lover for her own little daughter leads her to recognize the lover her mother had for her. In the second short story,’ my father running with a dead boy,’ the narrator, Greg, is at his father’s funeral, not particularly emotional. Despite his relationship with his father not having been very close – ‘I dread the awkward silence which [is] always near us’ – he has an awareness of his father’s presence at the funeral. His father seems to be shuffling forward to hear what is being said about him, but always keeping just out of his son’s line of vision.
There is an abrupt change to the rather predictable funeral eulogies when an old man in a crumpled suit gets up to speak. This story within the story is bout to change Greg’s perception of his father tremendously. By the time Blackie has finished his story Greg’s father is not a tired, quiet, old father who lacks personality but a young man who was strong, tanned, with an eye for the ladies, and who risked his life to save two children, a man who grieved that he could only save one, a man who took the time to comfort and assist the grieving mother. Greg’s father is a hero.
Greg does not discuss the impact that this story has on him. He merely describes the last section of the funeral. However, he does share a vision. Across the small river outside the church he sees a young man gently holding a dead boy. He runs off effortlessly, but not before he smiled at Greg,’ happy to be alive and young. ‘ Greg stays watching until his father has disappeared between the pine trees. The impact of Greg’s father’s death and of his ‘ghost’ is dealt with less explicitly than the parallel experiences in the first story. But the impact is great nonetheless.
Greg has glimpsed a father who loved life, who had mates and plans, who risked his life to save someone else’s, who showed incredible strength and tenacity, who showed a great heart. He seen a man less ordinary, a man he did not know to be his father. In conclusion, parent/child relationships have been central to these stories. Both narrators are coming to terms with the death of a parent. A daughter wants a less frumpy mother, loses her, grows into the image of her mother as she grieves, finds her memories and welcomes them and is finally healed.
Her relationship with her mother is re-established at the birth of her daughter. The story ends with a shared smile. And a son’s memories are tinged with regret that his father was too old even to have been playful – and that their relationship was strained. But during the course of the funeral he is given the opportunity to see the person his father was before he aged. He meets his complex compassionate and ultimately humbler father. And this story also ends with a smile.