To Da-duh, in Memoriam by Paule Marshall
In To Da-duh, in Memoriam by Paule Marshall we have the theme of conflict, connection, confidence, change, acceptance and pride. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed female narrator the story is a memory piece and after reading the story the reader realises that Marshall may be exploring the theme of conflict. Not only is there a sense of conflict between the narrator and Da-duh but both their worlds are in contrast to one another. The narrator is from New York City (urban) while Da-duh lives in St. Thomas, Barbados (rural). It is as though both the narrator’s world and Da-duh’s world are in conflict with one another. Something that is noticeable when the reader realises that Da-duh thinks that the narrator may be lying about New York. It is as though Da-duh cannot imagine what it is like in New York. She has nothing in Barbados to compare it too. If anything the narrator is opening Da-duh’s mind. Which is somewhat ironic considering that she is the younger of the two. Usually one expects a young person to learn from their elders. However this is not necessarily the case in the story. Both characters take something from the other. Though the narrator does not realise this till the end of the story.
It might also be important that the narrator and Da-duh spend so much time together as symbolically Marshall may be exploring the theme of connection. Da-duh is the oldest of her family while the narrator is the youngest of her family. Despite this there is a sense that both are connected even if Da-duh has no understanding of what life might be like in New York for the narrator. It is also noticeable that both Da-duh and the narrator are confident people. Something which may be important as it heightens the sense of conflict that may exist between both characters. With neither character giving the other an inch. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Da-duh looks into the narrator’s face to see if she is lying when the narrator is talking about New York. Both characters are also proud of where they come from. Particularly Da-duh. To her Barbados is the world. She cannot imagine a life outside of Barbados. If anything Da-duh also regrets the introduction of machinery. It is as though a moment in time has been changed due to new technology coming to Barbados.
It might also be case the Marshall is suggesting that socially both Da-duh and the narrator are different. The incident with the narrator beating up the white girl because she spoke negatively to the narrator is something that is foreign to Da-duh. While the narrator would see herself as being a white person’s equal. Da-duh would not. If anything Da-duh believes in a racial hierarchy with white people being superior to black people. Which may suggest that the confidence that the narrator shows throughout the story is not mirrored by Da-duh’s beliefs. Similarly the narrator embraces technology while Da-duh has difficulty accepting that times have changed. She does not believe that technology can have its benefits. This could be important as symbolically Marshall may be using the advances in technology over Da-duh’s life to highlight further the sense of distance that exists between both Da-duh’s and the narrator’s world. Da-duh cannot accept technology while it has been part and parcel of the narrator’s life so it is easier for her to accept it. However despite the differences between Da-duh’s world and the narrator’s world both seem to enjoy each other’s company.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader senses that after Da-duh has died and the narrator has grown up. She cannot forget her time with Da-duh. Something that becomes clearer to the narrator when she isolates herself in her apartment and regrets the fact that there are machines downstairs which disturb her while she is painting. It is as though the narrator longs for the simplicity that was Da-duh’s life. She may not have understood Da-duh when she was a nine year old girl but as a woman she appears to have a deeper appreciation for how Da-duh lived her life. Which may be the point that Marshall is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that when an individual is young as the narrator was when she met Da-duh. They might not fully understand their experiences or the benefits of their experiences with their elders. When the narrator first met Da-duh her questions were similar to challenges to the narrator. Rather than understanding or appreciating the life Da-duh lived. The narrator defended her own world without really looking at the beauty of Da-duh’s world. To the narrator Da-duh’s world was a world that was lost in time. The opposite to her own world. However in adulthood the narrator learnt to appreciate Da-duh’s world and life. Realising that in reality they may not be that different from each other.