Friday, May 4, 2012

Presbyterian Crosswalk

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Barbara Gowdy depicts the way a child understands the world in “Presbyterian Crosswalk” by showing how they will quite often misconceive things. At the beginning of the story, the reader is shown that Beth believes that when her mother ran off with another man, Beth was supposed to go with her. Beth also feels that there may be something ‘not right’ about Jesus due to a hymn that she is read in Sunday school. Another example of how Gowdy illustrates a child’s understand of the world is when Beth goes to her friend Helen’s house and sees the ‘No Solicitors’ sign on their door and mistakenly believes this refers to her father’s occupation. In these ways, Gowdy shows the reader how a child’s comprehension of the world can be much different than that of an adult’s.

When the reader is introduced to Beth’s father, they find out that Beth is unsure of how he feels about her. She says that when her he comes home, he seems surprised to still see her there and says, “Who do we have here?” (74). She thinks that maybe he would have liked it better if she had gone with her mother and he resents the fact that he still has to care for her. She also says that when she gets rowdy, he squints at her as if she were radiating bright light. Beth believes that her father simply wants peace and quiet in his life, and she is just a nuisance to him. Beth is just a child, and as a result, she has a different view of the world, which is the reason she misinterprets her father, and believes that he wanted her to leave with her mother.

When Beth goes to Sunday school, she is a little disturbed by a verse of the hymn they are read because it speaks of “Jesus wanting to hold children to His ‘bosom…’” (75) Gowdy displays how a child might think that an action like this is wrong, but also fears the consequences of upsetting God. Children are taught to be wary of strangers and even though in this scenario it is perfectly fine, children cannot always distinguish what is ok and what is not. Beth does not realize that Jesus loves children as a parent would, but she can acknowledge the fact that He is our savior. She is afraid that she may go to hell for these thoughts and as a result chants, “I love Jesus…” (76) every night for six months to try to make herself believe she really does love him. By showing how Beth is a little uncomfortable with Jesus holding children to his ‘bosom,’ as well as demonstrating her fear of God’s wrath, Gowdy displays an adequate view of how a child’s understanding of the world is greatly affected by the way that they are brought up.

Helen has a “No Solicitors” (80) sign on her door, which Beth believes refers to her father’s profession. Her father is a lawyer, but Beth knows that he can also be referred to as a solicitor. Gowdy uses this to demonstrate how children have a tendency to confuse terms or mix up meanings, especially when they are so similar. In this case, Beth believes that Helen’s family does not want lawyers coming to their house, when inn actual fact, the sign refers to door-to-door salesmen, not lawyers. Beth, not having enough exposure to the English language, does not realize her error, and assumes that the term solicitor refers exclusively to lawyers.

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