Chalk it up is a narrative whose narrator is a child who feels the pain her mother but cannot do anything to stop it. The theme of the story is women loneliness and pain which is explained by the narrator of the story. The narrator, Colleen, is the last born in a family which has three other girls who are old enough to go to school. She starts by describing the uniqueness of her home which has sun like windows at the top of each room's door. Perhaps to describe how the loneliness feeling is felt in the house that is dominated by her father.
The father is portrayed as a monster-figure in the family whose personality is feared by everyone. The father of the narrator tells his wife, "listen, Nettie. Listen carefully; you know I am a serious man, so mind how you upset me" (p.19). The writer presents a society dominated by man where women have little say in the affairs of the family. Women are represented as submissive creatures who should endure all the tortures of men for the sake of the children. The narrator describes the life her mother who mostly spends time crying and lonely. The mother seeks solace in crying and reading bible stories. The narrator has more knowledge on what goes in the house since she spends time with her mother all the time. She has been left home as her siblings go to school so that she can keep her mother company. She feels the pain of the mother whenever she is around her. She knows that her father is the cause of the pain, but there is nothing she can do other than stay by the side of her mother. The character of "papa" in the story is used to portray the personality of a man who does not consider the feelings of women. He takes himself as a superior being. This personality is evident when the father does not want to take his wife's advice to send Colleen to school despite him being able to read and write. At the same time, he blames his wife for the incidences that led to the injury of the narrator.
The perspective of the narrative has been colored in different feelings as told by the narrator. As the mother lives the home, the narrator hands her a pack of chalk and says, "is nice soft chalk, mama, and plenty colors. Red and yellow, blue and green, even silver and gold." (p. 26). These are meant to keep her mother company as she colors her world into anything she feels. The variety of colors symbolizes the mixed feelings developed in the story by the writer. There are bright times shared by the family while at other times there is a feeling of sadness felt by the character of the mother. The narrative is told by a child who has not yet gone school yet she presents ideas for a perfect family. She knows when things are wrong with the surrounding environment in which grows up in. She can tell when the mother is faking her smile to hide her pain from Colleen. As the mother is being separated from her daughter, she has the hope of coming back to a home that is better than it is. The mixed colors of the chalk are a symbol of the life one chooses. The mother chose to endure the pain of a bully husband who did not care about her feelings however she seeks joy in her bright daughter Colleen.
Pamela Mordecai, (2013) Pink Icing: Chalk it up.
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