Monday, March 26, 2012

The Test

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The beginning of the short story, The Test, by Angelica Gibbs provokes the reader’s attention through early descriptive lines like, “When they found the boulevard they found it crowded with cars headed for the beaches.” (Pg 115) This enables the reader to picture the scene of the beach and the crowded area. They reader is able to relate to the scene and so therefore they wish to read on.

The main theme in The Test is a very disturbing one of racism. The United States of America is a clever place to set a story that’s theme covers racism because of America’s horrific history and racist past. Though there is not too many lines in the story that give away a theme of racism, one line establishes that Marian is black and Mrs Ericson is white. This line is when Marian is talking to Mrs Ericson and she says, “They probably like it better if a white person shows up with you.” Pg 115 Not only does this establish the colour of the main characters but it establishes the racist attitude of the American population in whole and is symbolic of the way America was during the civil war and the white population way of thinking even only back as far as 140 when this story was set. Other lines that enforce the theme of racism are when the instructor says to Marian, “Old enough to have quite a flock of Piccaninnies, eh.” This then shows us that the instructor is racist.

The three main characters in this short story are Marian, Mrs Ericson and the driving instructor. Marian is a black young woman and is a wonderful worker who works very hard. This is very evident when Mrs Ericson and Marian are talking and Mrs Ericson exclaims, “Oh Marian, if I could only pay you half of what you’re worth!” Marian is well educated she got a College degree the year before which takes the driving instructor by surprise. We are encouraged to like Marian and respect her for what she is mainly through the dialogue between Mrs Ericson and herself. Pg 115-116

Mrs Ericson is a very sweet, kind and fun-loving person she is anything but racist. She employs Marian as a sort of maid to clean and look after the children. She shows her great sense of thankfulness to Marian when she is said to have wondered for the thousandth time, “How the house had ever managed to get along without her.” She continually compliments Marian and her driving and this shows us her sweet and kind personality. We tend to be positioned by the author to like Mr Ericson because of her complimentary attitude and non racist approach towards Marian.

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The driving instructor is extremely off-putting during the Test and is had a very racist and stereotypical attitude to the way he treated Marian. He treated her as uneducated and unfairly. His racist attitude came through clearly in only one line which was, “He began to whistle ‘Swanee River’” and then asked, “Make you homesick.” (Pg 116) In a very stereotypical was as if she was a typical black that came from down south. Also when he said, “Old enough to have quite a flock of piccaninnies, (Pg 116) we see his racism come through. This racism causes us to be positioned to dislike the instructor because we already have been positioned to agree with and like Marian.

A lot of chit chat and warm fuzzy talk between Marian and Mrs Ericson which reveals their relationship. Through dialogue we find out about Mrs Ericson’s warm nature and excellent complimentary attitude towards Marian. Pg 115

The plot in the story starts off with Mrs Ericson having a high confidence in Marian and she expresses this through speech like, “You drive beautifully Marian.” Then after the driving inspectors have turned up and Mrs Ericson leaves the racism starts. Lines that include the words, “Swanee River,” and “Piccaninnies,” (Pg 116) we see the racism from the driving instructors. Marian gets so angry she yells at the driving instructor and therefore fails the test. The plot is straight forward, easy to follow and travels at a quick speed.

The Language is very descriptive and all information is concise and straight forward. Some of the very descriptive language comes at the start when we are first meeting the characters. When Mrs Ericson looks at Marian we get a description of, “Mrs Ericson watched her dark competent hands.” (Pg 115) The story very subtly portrays racism and very subtly reveals its objection to it. Through silence and statements like, “Marian did not answer.” Pg116 We can see the author Angelica Gibbs object to racism. Some of the techniques used are narrative commentary, dialogue and conflicting characters. A lot of racist remarks by the driving instructor are symbolic of the racial problems in America that has been going on for centuries. Remarks about Piccaninnies (Pg 116) we see racism happen and we are disappointed by this after the splendid descriptions and compliments in the opening.

Through dialogue we find out about the major theme in the story of racism but with out dialogue we have no way of finding this out. We find this out through the chatting in the car during the driving test between Marian and the driving instructor. Pg 116-17

The Car is the only main setting of the story. The car is firstly being driven to Marian to the driving test before she drives in the actual driving test. The car in my opinion is symbolic of slavery as strange as it may seem. Towards the middle of the story a description of Marian in the car is, “Marian’s hands tightened on the wheel.” (Pg 116) I thought it was like she was stuck in this car almost stuck in hell for these few minutes of the driving test like her forefathers were stuck in slavery in Africa and in America all those years ago.

We are positioned by the author to accept Marian and Mrs Ericson and her values, attitudes and beliefs. We are positioned to dislike the driving instructor because of the racist remarks towards Marian.

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