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A Discussion On the Story "Penny in the Dust", Part 2

Keith: Nowadays, if a child loses something and the parent has to find it, essentially the parent immediately hands it over to the child, because-well, if they didn't, a whole bunch of crying would ensue and it would just be a big, ugly scene. In this story, the father doesn't hand over something as simple as a penny, when it's found. The child's father keeps it, sticks it in his pocket. Why?

Jill: I have no idea if this has anything to do with it, but I was going to say maybe the father saw how upset his son was over losing a penny and his reasons for being so upset-it was almost like the father didn't want the son to have the burden of that penny. Like, if he were to ever lose it again-it made him so distraught, because the penny clearly meant a lot to the little boy. So I don't know-it was almost like he was taking the penny so that the son didn't have to worry about it anymore, worry about keeping it safe. Keith: Let me just read this passage and see whether this makes you think of anything else, okay?

"He looked up then. It was the only time I had ever seen tears in his eyes. It was the only time in my seven years that he'd ever put his arm around me. I wondered, though, why he hesitated when he put the penny back into his own pocket. Yesterday, I knew. I found the penny again when we were getting out his old suit, in the upper vest pocket, where no one ever carries change. It was still shining. He must have kept it polished. I left it there." Jill: This story could also be in the symbolism section of the anthology, because the penny symbolized the boy's love for his father, and because he expressed his love for his father through the penny, essentially. Or-

David: This reminded me of something that I heard about Jim Carrey-what Jim Carrey did, the actor, before he became successful. He had a very different relationship with his father, he was exceedingly close to his father. They laughed, and they hugged, and they had a blast together. They were very poor and they worked together, actually, cleaning floors. Anyway, he promised his father he'd become really, really wealthy someday, sort of the way the child did here, with this notion of finding treasure. He wrote his father a check-no, he wrote himself a check, to be cashed later when he became wealthy, and this is when he was penniless, for ten million dollars. Soon after Jim Carrey made his first huge amount of money and was successful, his father died. He found that check, and he folded up the check and put it in the coat pocket of his father as they buried him. That's sort of-I don't know, somebody could find a parallel life series in those two. But, I think there was-the relationships were completely different, but still-it might be indicative of relationships between boys and their fathers. How sometimes it's so difficult to express feelings, so you take these small tokens, or icons, or a little talisman of the whole relationship between the father, that means something satisfactory to both people. I'm trying. Keith: Essentially, you have the notion. The events that resulted in the loss of the penny, and the father finding it, and the father showing emotion that the child had never seen before, that entire part of the father's life had been just sucked up into that penny. It then represented everything that that child and that father had together. That moment was there in that penny, that symbol of a penny, and the father kept it forever. So, Jill was right, it could be in the symbolism part of this anthology, but that story was forever lost, and would have been forever lost if the sister had never said, "Do you remember when you were lost that one time?" That first-person account of the events of those two days over which the story took place would never have been told if the boy had not been asked by his sister-the man had not been asked by his sister, and then proceeded to tell the whole story. So that's why it's in the point of view section.


Keith: Nowadays, if a child loses something and the parent has to find it, essentially the parent immediately hands it over to the child, because-well, if they didn't, a whole bunch of crying would ensue and it would just be a big, ugly scene. In this story, the father doesn't hand over something as simple as a penny, when it's found. The child's father keeps it, sticks it in his pocket. Why?

Jill: I have no idea if this has anything to do with it, but I was going to say maybe the father saw how upset his son was over losing a penny and his reasons for being so upset-it was almost like the father didn't want the son to have the burden of that penny. Like, if he were to ever lose it again-it made him so distraught, because the penny clearly meant a lot to the little boy. So I don't know-it was almost like he was taking the penny so that the son didn't have to worry about it anymore, worry about keeping it safe.

Keith: Let me just read this passage and see whether this makes you think of anything else, okay?

"He looked up then. It was the only time I had ever seen tears in his eyes. It was the only time in my seven years that he'd ever put his arm around me. I wondered, though, why he hesitated when he put the penny back into his own pocket. Yesterday, I knew. I found the penny again when we were getting out his old suit, in the upper vest pocket, where no one ever carries change. It was still shining. He must have kept it polished. I left it there."

Jill: This story could also be in the symbolism section of the anthology, because the penny symbolized the boy's love for his father, and because he expressed his love for his father through the penny, essentially. Or-

David: This reminded me of something that I heard about Jim Carrey-what Jim Carrey did, the actor, before he became successful. He had a very different relationship with his father, he was exceedingly close to his father. They laughed, and they hugged, and they had a blast together. They were very poor and they worked together, actually, cleaning floors. Anyway, he promised his father he'd become really, really wealthy someday, sort of the way the child did here, with this notion of finding treasure. He wrote his father a check-no, he wrote himself a check, to be cashed later when he became wealthy, and this is when he was penniless, for ten million dollars. Soon after Jim Carrey made his first huge amount of money and was successful, his father died. He found that check, and he folded up the check and put it in the coat pocket of his father as they buried him. That's sort of-I don't know, somebody could find a parallel life series in those two. But, I think there was-the relationships were completely different, but still-it might be indicative of relationships between boys and their fathers. How sometimes it's so difficult to express feelings, so you take these small tokens, or icons, or a little talisman of the whole relationship between the father, that means something satisfactory to both people. I'm trying.

Keith: Essentially, you have the notion. The events that resulted in the loss of the penny, and the father finding it, and the father showing emotion that the child had never seen before, that entire part of the father's life had been just sucked up into that penny. It then represented everything that that child and that father had together. That moment was there in that penny, that symbol of a penny, and the father kept it forever. So, Jill was right, it could be in the symbolism part of this anthology, but that story was forever lost, and would have been forever lost if the sister had never said, "Do you remember when you were lost that one time?" That first-person account of the events of those two days over which the story took place would never have been told if the boy had not been asked by his sister-the man had not been asked by his sister, and then proceeded to tell the whole story. So that's why it's in the point of view section.