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Critical Analysis of Lee Smith's All the Days of Our Lives - Essay Example

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With a title which calls to mind the long-running soap opera, 'Days of Our Lives', Lee Smith takes the reader into the world and mind of a woman whose life is the antithesis of the drama played out on the TV screen. The first two lines create a picture of an unhappy woman, who may possibly possess a streak of adventurous spirit.
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Critical Analysis of Lee Smiths All the Days of Our Lives
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Download file to see previous pages But the scene she sets is dreamy and romantic, full of color, yet devoid of emotion. The reader is made more aware that Helen lives life in a haze of Salem cigarette smoke, romantic daydreams and unrealistic perceptions. The picture she paints of her ex-husband Howard firmly places him in a tidy, orderly, realistic place, with a similar personality, her opposite, it emerges.
She cries in bouts of self-pity throughout the story, but there is unconscious humor in the picture painted of a lonely, old lady cutting frozen dinners in two. And still we are in Helen's car, as she segues into the image of herself as a nurse, all in white. Her stream of consciousness has deftly moved the reader from the hot interior of an automobile to the cool, dark sea, and back again to the mundane reality of a divorced woman with too much on her mind, a vivid imagination and a
way with words. The 'solid sun', coupled with the 'pest control man' lend an air of irritation and frustration, and her character begins to emerge as less empathetic when she refuses to respond to her apparently helpful neighbor.
Within the setting of her home, her attitude to her children, her soap on TV, her lack of impetus, all serve to further dispel the idea of a woman with some spirit. Her 15 year old daughter, Denise, appears to have more common-sense, determination and grasp on reality than her mother.
"In some funny way, she is not young at all" and
"Denise will never have a ball in her life, and both of them know it." (Smith, p. 3)
The reality of the toddler, the put-upon teenager and angry little boy, all gathered in a small, chaotic domesticity are not to her liking, but she can block them out with the imaginary drama, the luxury and wealth on the screen which she prefers to immerse herself in. The question arises as to whether Helen is selfish, weak, ineffectual or a victim of circumstances beyond her control. The answer may be that she is all of these. The atmosphere she soaks up from her TV serves to remove her from the reality of her life. She gives desultory attention to real people, avid interest to soap actors.
It becomes more apparent when Judy, her childless sister arrives, that Helen is dependent on others. Judy faces life as it is and she acts as a catalyst to bring Helen down to earth for a time, reminding her of the eccentricities of Howard. She takes off Helen's 'rose-tinted spectacles', with honesty and humor and the result is that:
"Even tragic Helen has to laugh." (Smith, p. 6)
Their interaction has defined the differences in the sisters and the roles they play for each other. It has made Helen think about marriages, her sister's, her parent's and shows the reader that despite negative experience, Helen's perceptions remain detached from reality.
"Helen had known all about marriage anyway, that it was like a beautiful pastel country
out there, waiting for her to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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