Close Reading #2
When Helene arrives in the south, she is baffled by the severe segregation between colored and whites. Something as simple as using the toilet is segregated so vigorously that “colored” people use “a field of grass” as the restroom. Through Helene’s diction and behavior, she portrays the “luxury” she possessed when going through Tennessee and Kentucky and having the privilege to use a toilet rather then a field of grass. Helene’s surprise reaction to the realities of the segregated south shows how she underestimates the harsh reality of the whites and colored.
The women with four children is a symbol of reality toward Helene’s views on the segregated south. When the woman tells Helene the bathroom is “yonder”, it leaves Helene confused and puzzled. The woman, looking at Helene as a sophisticated person, is dumbfounded by her confusion because of Helene’s educated appearance. This adds to Helene’s characterization by supporting the fact that Helene is naïve and lacks knowledge of the South.
The women is a foil to Helene because through the conversation they have, it creates growth for Helene as a human and makes her realize how life really is in the south. On the other side, the conversation also reveals Helene’s insecurities as a black woman. Because of the confusion the women causes over the restroom, Helene is forced to concentrate and think about what is really going on. When she leaves the train, she is hit harshly with reality. With the help of the woman, she now sees the truth that lies in front of her, even if she desires not to.
The narrator, similar to the woman, highlights Helene’s insecurities. The narrator makes Helene hesitant to ask the women where the restroom was, this shows that she felt a lack of confidence with in herself. Helene’s hesitant action is evidence of the narrator’s diction. The narrator uses confusion and another character to foil Helene to see the truth of...
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