09 July 2012
In almost every literary work, there is a lesson learned by the narrator of the story through other characters and/or occurring events. Two short stories that have this happen are Lan Samantha Chang’s “Water Names” and Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson.” In both of these stories, adults are teaching the lesson to the children. However, this lesson is taught in an entirely different approach in one story than it is in the other. Waipuo of “Water Names” requires thorough attention from her grandchildren and ignores all questions asked, leaving the children to come up with their own meaning of the story. On the other hand, Miss Moore of “The Lesson” answers all questions asked, and even asks questions to the children. It is clearly evident that Waipuo and Miss Moore have different teaching ethics. This is most likely because the children in both stories are different. However, the lesson taught in each story is the same—just in a different context.
Just by looking at the name “Waipuo,” one could probably guess that the heritage of this woman is of Chinese descent. Just by knowing some basic knowledge of the Chinese, one would know that they are extremely family oriented. This is why in “Water Names,” Waipuo tells a tale of the ancestors to the grandchildren. The myth tells of an ancestor who “lost her mind to desiring” (178). At first, one may think that Waipuo is warning the children, so they don’t end up the same way. However, the lesson could be taken the complete opposite of that. As stated before, the Chinese are very family oriented. Waipuo’s story can be one of encouragement, not caution. The lesson is this: One should go after what he/she desires most. Even if someone is killed going after what he/she desires, at least an effort took place. That person never sat around wondering “what if.” That’s what Waipuo wants for her grandchildren; to get out of their small city....
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