The Issue of Generation Gap in Story 'A Conversation With my Father'

The 1960s was a period of change that old-fashioned establishments ended and people reach freedom. Women; while being regarded as secondary entered to the workforce and with the help of it, the 1960s were linked to women's freedom and independence in their lifestyle choices. Women raised their voices to become equal with others. During this period some influential Americans were murdered such as President Kennedy and Martin Luther King. This made people, especially women to become anxious in the sense that they began to fear fighting for their rights and began thinking that fighting for your own dream and faith may cause these kinds of problems. As everyone valued women as inferior, they joined to the workforce in order to change the idea of others. Their way of seeing things and acting accordingly changed, because they are considered to be the new generation. Therefore there are certain differences between this new generation and the old generation, the gap between these two generations widened when people began acting and thinking in opposite ways. Grace Paley's story is a perfect fit that represents this gap by showing how a father and her daughter view things differently from one another and how this gap challenges their relationship.

'A Conversation With my Father' deals with the conversation as well as conflict of the narrator and her father while portraying the generation gap clearly. It is being shaped as a story within a story. It involves both the daughter and her dying father's story, and the one daughter composed which father questions. The gap between the generations created a major difference in their point of view and this shaped the story. With the help of this, we see different points of view to a certain point. The characters are in contrast with their way of thinking and also expressing it too. He is in his deathbed but even their idea about his illness is different from one another. While the daughter implies the reason for his illness is his heart and muscle failure, he thinks that it is because of a potassium shortage. The gap between them shapes the way how they see the illness itself.

Father wants her daughter to write a story but the one she writes does not please her father because he thinks she does not use important details. He says ' I would like you to write a simple story just once more, the kind de Maupassant wrote, or Chekhov, the kind you used to write. Just recognizable people and then write down what happened to them next.' The story that she introduces does not fit the idea of her father and he wants her to rewrite it, he might have thought that the implications of the generation gap that the narrator uses in her story caused a dilemma. In her story, we see a woman who became a junkie just to keep the bond strong with her son, because all of a sudden he became a junkie too, and how her son left her hopeless and alone. He thinks that she left out so many information that is important, by doing so he believes that she needs to start over in order to do better.

From this example and the way he sees his illness, we understand that he is far from reality and has his own realities which are in contrast with the daughter. Moreover, this shows us how the older generation views things while the new/younger generation is being represented with the narrator's perspective. In her second attempt to write and extend the story, she gives more details and information about the characters and the events while ending the story with the implication 'the end'. She wants to emphasize that the story is ended but her father argues that this is the end of the character because she was left alone and as a junkie. The father as the representation of the old generation believes that she is a poor woman who lives a tragedy and 'ends' her life.

The narrator herself says that she is only forty and that she can find a job and continue living, the father denies this and says that the life ends so she must accept it rather than trying to create other scenarios. This is the indication to his death, he wants her to understand and accept that he soon will be dead. By this, he wants to show the real world and wants her daughter to realize the real-life from his perspective, aka from the perspective of the older generation which is clearly against the youth culture and generation. However, she does not want to admit it and tries to make her father believe that life goes on and the end does not strictly mean the end of the character with her perspective in her story.

To sum up, we see the generation gap between the narrator and her father by seeing their opinions and reasons to them. The father wants to make her believe to his ideas in order for her not to be sad when he dies but because the younger generation is against their values she does not want to understand what he means clearly and even he emphasizes that she misunderstood him on purpose which he makes a reference to the difference of their generations. Both of them are aware that they think differently from one another because of the gap and the narrator wants to make him happy so she allows him to comment on the way she writes. As we read through we see both their relationship and their point of view intermingled to one another with representing their ideas both by comparing and encouraging one another.

07 July 2022
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