Engelsk B - 2015
Memories can be a good thing, just as well as a bad thing. It all depends on what you’re remembering. Grief, on the other hand, is never a good thing. Remembering things that bring you sorrow or sadness is the dark side to memory, and can sometimes follow you throughout your entire life. The grief and the sorrow, is just one theme among others, touched in Skye Brannon’s short story »Fireweed«.
The main character in the short story is Baluta. He once lived in Liberia, but is somehow living in America at the time being. He lives with his brother, Jato, and his sister-in-law. Every morning Baluta goes to work by car, whilst his brother and sister-in-law must get up extremely early to catch the initial bus every day. This makes Baluta sad, but he can’t help it, he is the one who has to go where the busses do not go, and therefor the on he has to go by car. Baluta’s life is marked by grief, and his past keeps catching up with him. Before going to work, he puts on a smile alongside his new identity - Joel. The idea for a fake working-identity was initially his brothers, but Baluta adopted the idea very fast and smoothly. Once he is wearing his work shirt, and the nametag “Joel”, he puts up a façade between his true self and the person he is working for and thereby changes his personality. “Joel” is a hardworking, professional and well-integrated citizen, who is not to fear by anyone, whereas Baluta is a caring member, of a proud African family, haunted by his past, and the sorrow it brings. You can say, that Baluta’s two different identities reflect the two very different environments he acts in. We do not get any accurate geographical definitions of where the story takes place, but it is written, that Baluta drives through the ghettos of his neighbourhood to reach his destination through gates and past swimming pools. Baluta, himself, is not wealthy at all, and that is indicated by the fact that he lives with his brother and sister-in-law. In addition to that, the water is cold, and the family’s car is duct-taped. The place Baluta, or “Joel”, works is quiet contrary to Baluta’s home. The neighbourhood seems rather extravagant, and the people quiet shallow. For example, they can’t even remember Baluta’s work-name or where he is from.
Throughout the story, which last about a day, all the things Baluta sees in this extravagant area, reminds him of his past, and we are brought back to see Baluta’s past, through flashbacks. Several times, Baluta is reminded, by things he sees around the neighbourhood, he works in. With the help of, and within, Baluta’s flashbacks, we get an insight of his traumatic childhood, where he one day returns to his family’s hut, just to find the entire family - his father, grandmother and sister who had somehow, and for some reason, been like a mother to him - murdered. As already mentioned, sorrow and grief are some of the themes touched in this story. None the less, the main theme must, in my opinion be difference - the difference in economy, the difference in colour and most importantly the difference in lifestyle. The woman Baluta is working for in the story is very suspicious when she meets Baluta, and her biggest problem in her life at the moment, is the colour of the guestroom in her enormous house. This creates a strong contrast to Baluta’s life. He is living in poverty, and had to see his family die, from a near distance. It seems like he’s only earning enough to get through the days, and in the same room as him, is a woman who is complaining about a cabinet not working as it should, and the lack of paint in the right colour to her guestroom. Considering the huge differences, Baluta seems to be the happier of the two, even though he has had a rough childhood, and has lived in poverty, he is still getting up in the morning, with a smile on his face and ready to work, whereas the stay-at-home mom seems to be unhappy and stuck in the little details, instead of enjoying what she has got. And funny enough, her cell phone’s ringtone is the well-known U2 song - “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.