Between Earth and Sky by Patricia Grace
In Between Earth and Sky by Patricia Grace we have the theme of struggle, happiness, connection and freedom. Taken from her The Dream Sleepers collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed female narrator and after reading the story the reader realizes that Grace may be exploring the theme of struggle. The days previous to the narrator’s pregnancy appear to be days of difficulty. She was not happy within herself or with other people. Particularly her husband. This may be important as Grace may be suggesting that the narrator blames her husband for the position she finds herself in. He may be busy with the cutting of the tree (possible phallic symbolism) but it seems like he has the easier of roles to play in the story.
The connection between the narrator and her husband if fully apparent to the reader. She disliked him yesterday but as she nears giving birth to her baby she finds herself falling in love with him again. She is not only happy but see feels as though she is at one with herself. This too may be significant as symbolically Grace may be attempting to use this oneness for irony. The narrator is due to give birth and she accepts the position she finds herself in. Similarly she is at one with her other children who are playing around her. There is also a sense that the narrator feels a freedom coming over her when she gives birth. It is possible that Grace is using the narrator giving birth to their child to suggest that all women are at first tied down by a pregnancy but do eventually make a reconnection with themselves or motherhood.
There may be other symbolism in the story which might be important. The children chasing the worms or eels could have phallic representation and suggests how easy it is for men to live their lives in comparison to their women. However more importantly that just as the eels or worms can escape from the children so too can men evade being caught up in the emotions that come with giving birth. It is as though Grace is suggesting that men and women really are different. Emotionally and mentally both sexes look at things differently. The fact that the narrator has other children and that her husband may be the one who can capture the eels could suggest that the narrator today is comfortable in the role she plays in the family. She is happy to be a mother even if at times she feels constrained by the position she finds herself in.
The end of the story is interesting as the experiences of motherhood help the narrator when it comes to giving birth to her child. If anything the feelings that the narrator feels liberate her. This is not something that the reader would expect for a mother to feel. Some people may consider having children to be a drain on the role of the female in society, but not for the narrator. The birth brings on a freedom for the narrator. She may have been unable to live her life as she saw fit but this as a moment has passed. The narrator is happy. She no longer feels burdened by her pregnancy.