Short Story Comparison
Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” and Saki’s “Sredni Vashtar” are two unfamiliar literary pieces to me. I have never read Walker and Saki’s pieces. These two stories have their own similarities and differences that I find interesting. Each of the authors’ life and race is definitely an influence to the development of their stories. Walker’s race is a huge influence to “Everyday Use”while Saki’s extensive traveling is what influenced Sredni Vashtar. Clearly, Walker and Saki led two different lives. Everyday Use and Sredni Vashtar have similar structures of dissension between the characters which can be blamed to the two authors’ similarly rebellious lives. It is also noticeable that Walker used easy vocabulary however Saki used a bit complicated words.
Alice Walker and Saki’s lives are very different. Alice Walker is a black American who has Cherokee and Irish roots. She grew up in Georgia but she felt out of placed there. She states that, “People have so many hang-ups about how other people live their lives. People always want to keep you in a little box or they need to label you and fix you in time and location”. One of the most interesting facts about Walker is her right glass eye. It went blind when her brother accidentally shot it with a BB gun. She claimed that it had a great impact on her as it was what made her realize how women make sacrifices. Eventually, she married a Jewish lawyer named Mel Leventhal whom she had a daughter with. They were quoted as the “first legally married inter-racial couple in Mississippi”. This fact brought them a steady stream of harassment and even murderous threats from the Ku Klux Klan. In 1976, she and her husband divorced. Her works typically focus on the struggles of blacks, particularly women, and their struggle against a racist, sexist, and violent society. Her writings also focus on the role of women of color in culture and history. Walker is a respected figure in the liberal political community for her support of unconventional and unpopular views of principle.
Saki is the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro. Saki is a British writer who is considered the master of short story and is often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. In 1893, he followed his father’s footsteps by joining the Indian Imperial Police, where he was posted to Burma. From 1902 to 1908, Munro worked as a foreign correspondent for The Morning Post in The Balkans, Warsaw, Russia, and Paris; he then gave that up and settled in London. I think his world of writing is influenced by his various experiences in traveling around many countries. Saki’s world contrasts the effete conventions and hypocrisies of Edwardian England with the ruthless but straightforward life-and-death struggles of nature.
“Everyday Use” and “Sredni Vashtar” only have few characters; they have dissension structure between them. In “Everyday Use”, Maggie is Dee’s sister. Maggie is badly burned by fire when she was young; she is a very nice girl but has low self-confidence. When Dee is around Maggie, she is not comfortable. Maggie is the complete opposite of Dee’s character. Maggie shows a special regard for her immediate family while Dee only cares about is popularity and social status. Mrs. Johnson is the narrator of the story and she is the mother of Dee and Maggie. She lives with Maggie and she is an African-American. She lives without a husband and with poverty but she is very strong and independent. She is overweight and has a bad skin because of her work. She can work like man. Dee is attractive, sophisticated, and well-educated but very selfish and overly confident. In the story, it is indicated that in her early years, Dee might have caused a house fire. “Why don’t you do a dance around the ashes?” She had hated the house that much. She feels ashamed of her family because of their poor living. The reason that she goes back home is to collect her family’s antique belongings to turn them into artifacts in the museum. She even changes her name to Wangero because she thought that would make her a bigger part of the African culture which is the current trend. In Sredni Vashtar, Conradin is a 10 years old boy who living with his cousin and guardian, Mrs. De Ropp. He is weak and can’t live longer than five years. He has an imaginary religion that he created himself. He worships a polecat-ferret he calls Sredni Vashtar. He prays to let bad thing happen to Mrs. De Ropp. She is very strict and dislikes Conradin.
The language is very different between “Everyday Use” and “Sredni Vashtar”. In “Everyday Use”, Walker’s language is very easy to understand and makes the readers feel comfortable even though English is second language to me. Words are not that hard to because the narrator is in the writing. It makes it easy for the readers to understand the writing. “Sredni Vashtar” is hard to read, language is more difficult than “Everyday Use”. Saki also made use of more advanced vocabulary than that of Alice Walker’s vocabulary in “Everyday Use”. Sredni Vashtar uses some Hindi. For example, “Sherni” means “Tigress” in Hindi. “Vastar” is a region of India with hills and forests. Sherni Vastar in Hindi means The Tigress of Vastar region.
Upon comparing the two stories, I can understand the authors’ biographical backgrounds play a very important part for the pieces. The two stories have a long time gap between them. “Everyday Use” is published in 1973 and “Sredni Vashtar” is written between 1900 and 1914. The historical events on their time are important part for the works as they mirror the events of their society. They reflect their society such as Walker’s participation in the civil rights movement which is mentioned in “Everyday Use”. Dee loses her poverty, got an education, and explored her African ancestry. Conradin also resists to his cousin’s pressure of religion. If we look carefully the stories actually have more than just plots and rebellious characters. They are a representation of the society where Walker and Saki lived with.