The First Day by Edward P. Jones
In The First Day by Edward P. Jones we have the theme of connection, desperation, love, pride, authority and fear. Narrated in the first person by a young five year old black girl the reader realizes after reading the story that Jones may be exploring the theme of connection. The narrator’s mother longs to bring her daughter to school so that she can read and write and be educated. Something that the narrator’s mother is not. Even when she goes to the first school and is refused, this does not stop the mother from trying another school. Where she has a little bit more success and is helped by another woman when it comes to filling out the school application forms. This is significant as the narrator’s mother may have had to swallow her pride and ask the other woman to fill out the school supplication. However the woman who fills out the form is not doing so for the narrator’s mother’s benefit. She gets paid handsomely for the act.
Symbolically the desperation that the narrator’s mother feels is also noticeable by her journey across New York City. She will not give up on finding an education for the narrator. Which may suggest to some readers that the narrator’s mother wants what is best for her daughter and does not wish for her to end up like her, poor and living in poverty. It is through this desperation that the mother shows love for her daughter. She is prepared to do anything for her. She even clothes the narrator in new clothes and perfumes. Things she may not well be able to afford. At no stage in the story does the reader suspect of think that the mother is looking after herself. Her number one priority is her daughter.
It is also admirable that the narrator’s mother in the first school challenges the authority figure. This happened when she is told her daughter will not be admitted to the school. This is interesting because a black woman had no place in society at the time the story was written and they were not allowed to challenge white people. So the fact that the narrator’s mother, who can neither read nor write makes a challenge makes her that much braver. Also at no stage of the story does the narrator’s mother give up. She perseveres throughout the story and will not take no for an answer. Something that is noticeable when the mother and daughter go to the second school.
The end of the story is interesting particularly the fact that the narrator can hear her mother’s footsteps in the hall as she is leaving. This is important as it maintains the connection between mother and daughter. There is also a sense that the narrator knows of the sacrifices her mother has made. She has to travel across New York and then she may have felt embarrassed to ask another woman to fill out her daughter’s application from. From such a sad story comes a happy ending. A resilient and determined woman has made sure that her daughter will have an education. An education that she herself did not have and as such will live a better life than she has lived.