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My father Took A Cake To France- Cynthia Flood

This is a case study of discontent, dissatisfaction. He comes from Canada, from a small town. He's embarrassed even on the name of his native town. No matter where you come from, you can actually develop and become a great person. He is very distinguished, he is acknowledged for his academic achievements, he has recieved many honours and recognitions, there is a contradiction in his life. His life is a contradiction to his attitude, to his own country. His attitude hasn't change, although Canada has developed into a desirable place to live in. There are two plots: one happening in 1928 when he was a young scholar, and 50 years afterwards we see him dying of cancer. And he is still caught up in this mental pattern, caught up in this dissatisfaction. What sort of man is he? He is not an idealist, or romantic, he is not in love with his wife but in his own idea of the woman, he wants her to become somebody else. He is self-absorbed, self-centered and ego maniac who despises all these things that Canada offers. He believes that Canadians, then and now, are ignorant, stupid, vulgar, Canada is cold and wild and hostile to him. Canada is simply a blue print of her mother country Britain, and that is that he cannot ever transcend in his life. His glasses are always clean, which is fine, but it can also mean neat freak, sterility. The cold figure of his, which is very lean and who remains thin until his dying day that also tells us sth about his character, peronality. His pale hair ( not blond ), and he is dour and stiff and when he looks at another person then the gaze is chilled metal, his gaze is that cold, his gaze is killing. What does he want? He wants respect, status. Form is clearly much more important to him than the essence. And we can see it when he buys the cake, and he wants the cake to be most beautiful. Does he really have this aesthetic appreciation of things? No. The cake is supposed to be a symbol of love, a proof of love that he takes to her wife, and he makes sure to show everyone that he chose to marry her, which in a way implies that there were some objections. What is his ideal of the woman? Of the other. He is really this patriarchal product who wants the woman to be an angel in the house and this angel is supposed to be characterized by all these characteristics, she is supposed to be fragile and delicate and mysterious and unknown. And not only unknown, unknowable. She is so different from him that he can never really get to know her, she should be strange in that romantic manner distant. So, he is not romantic at all, he is just caught up in this trap of objectifying other people, especially the women that he meets. Who are these women? His wife, Madame Papillon, the bakery girl, his sister, the cleaning woman, daughter. Does any of these women fit his ideal of the other? His wife is more modern, on their wedding day she picks some mock orange flowers on the way, she is impulsive instead of obeying the traditions, the rules, the norms imposed by the patriarchal society. Then, she is not fregile and delicate at all. She doesn't like house work, she likes reading and telling stories and she spends most of her time in the garden, she has a strong nose, strong will. She is a capable woman. Her hair is short and that was a very modern hair style at that time. Her eyebrows were very think and dark. She is not really obsessed with looking beautiful, she wears the same dress most of the time. The meals that they have are very good, only he destroys everybody's apetite with his comments. He is now complaining because he reads the letter from his friend who is in France, and because everybody who got their BA in arts could now get the scholarship and can go see the world and study, and he who deserves it so much, he did not get all these things. That is how he still feels about himself in this world. Why does he carry all those books? 'The waste land', 'Dover beach'= absolute absence of meaning. He sees the world as absolutely meaningless. And when he looks at this very beautiful bakery girl, delicate, rosy, so when he gets THAT ideal, he is cruel to her, he makes her cry.

So, you want beauty and this ideal other, and when you get it you kill it. It is clear that he cannot be satisfied with what he gets. He creates this idea that this beauty will also soon fade, is he trying to protect himself from ths beauty? This is self-defence mechanism. So, he is a scholar and we realize that this scholarship based on this interpretation of the books that he reads does not really contribute to humanity. His intellect is somehow wasted. He marries his wife because he wanted to feel as a honorable person. He says: I took her just as he took this cake. The things that he finds beautiful are simply objects. Madame Papillon- she is the one who was expected to be capable of dealing with this nasty man. But he overpowers her as well. He treathens her simply by looking at her. Bakery girl- she is funny and so very pretty, so it is easy to fall in love with her, but he protects himself by being cruel to her. At the end she wraps the cake, puts it on the counter and she goes back into this bakery room and closes the door behind her. He is all alone, and later on when he leaves the shop he feels so frustrated, he feels humiliated because this bakery girl turned her back on him. The sister- it all revolves around playing the piano, the sister is the gifted one. He says he has more talent and that he is gifted with long fingers, and all the money that was supposed to go to his sister's education, went to him and his trip to England. The cleaning woman- she knows everything, she understands, but she doesn't want to hurt him although she is in a position to do so. All these women conspire in his favour, they try to protect him, but don't manage to safe him from himself. The daughter- he gazes at her just like he gazes at Madame Papillon and the bakery girl. He is so full of self-pity, but we understand that he is a victim of dissociation of sensibility where we have a saturation btw intellect and heart which is seen in the fact that he is there where many men are in the world of scholarships and she is in France where love is, many men one woman these are the oppositions, which then brings us to the relationship btw the country and the woman. Canada- England and France- two traditions that were supposed to converge and create Canada but instead we have two solitudes. He as a scholar should have reached the gap, should have connected these two traditions and cotrary to that we see him hating the Quebecois, the Jews, hating all those Eastern Europeans with strange names who come to Canada, he hates all these who actually belong into the category of the other and that is why he failed as the scholar as well. His problem is that he cannot live here and now, he does not have the art of living. So he brings her the cake to France, it should be a sign of his love but that is also the way that he sees things the sign of self ordination. I'm the one who brings the gifts to you. In this story the wife accepts it, though by the end of the story we don't know how she responded. Milena: Almost the whole story takes place in Europe, mostly in England, her father is a young student of history(26), and he reads history, and one of the dominant themes is the way that things are done in England, and the way that they are done in Canada. He is a son of a Canadian minister, he is not really proud of his graduation in Toronto, the moto of this college is ' truth shell make you free'. The difference btw England and Canada is reflected through all the spheres of his life. He is under great influence of the European writers, the stories that he keeps reading are the stories of Arnold Bennett ' The Old Wives' Tale' which is another important theme, the theme that is dealt

with in this story, evanescence, transitorines of everything, the beauty will fade away. He is just an observer, he observes and admires beauty in this scholary manner, even cynical and cruel sometimes, that is why he quotes T.S. Elliot, in his mind everything is connected so he has these verses in his mind coming from the Waste Land, and he thinks about the idea of buying the cake for his wife who is waiting for him in France and everything is somehow related in his mind. So, from the beginning we can see that this is a young man who is influenced by everything he reads, and this is a totally different experience that he has now in Europe, in England. The first dominant theme here is the difference btw England and Canada, through this you can coclude a lot about his relatioship with his wife, with the narrators wife, and then through this relationship you can find out about his relatioship towards the other women in his family. Another theme, admiring beauty in a detached scholary manner. He is all the time aware that this moment will pass. The theme of intellectual snobbery and elitism which is reflected in his relatioship towards the shop assistant girl, and the question why is he poor and so many people rich. And why the young people today have more opportunities than he had. The relationship towards women. Firstly, towards his wife. So, they got married, and he was at his post graduate studies and the ydecided that she should move to France and he should travel to see her every weekend, so his life is actually strickly divaded btw the two spheres, the one in England where the books, the learning is, and another sphere, the emotional sphere, of marriage, his wife, the apartment in Paris. How is it explained in the story? At that time there was a kind of a stereotype of a student, an ideal of a student and a student was not supposed to be married, so he did not want to have these quarrels with the University authorities. Why France? ' A perfect metaphor...'. The dissociation of sensibility, the life of the intellect and the life of the heart and pleasure, they are separated. Of course she could have stayed somewhere in England but it was for him a sort of a limit that he made in his mind, he has to cross the borders in order to come to his wife. What is his wife like? Does he really percieve her the way she is or she wants to change her in a way? She is not a proper housewife. She is not fregile and delicate, he would be a proper knight who would please her, provide for her, give her presents. This is a ideal woman in his mind, but she is not like that. He would prefer that she was very mysterious, unknown, in fact unknowable. So, we have here the projection that he has towards Canada. Why is England better than Canada? Although he is supposed to be impartial and objective as a proper scholar, he says England is better than Canada first because there is history, then Canada is a land with no literature, no myths, the new world, every part of England has its story. In the shop: Immediatelly when he comes in he hears the bell, and he comments on this. In Canada you can only hear buzzing, machines and so on. When he sees the shop assistant he describes her as fregile, delicate, respectful. What is the cake that he buys? A French cake. It is not a proper romantic gift, it is actually the cake with the history of France. He would not like to be a king, he is quite satisfied as a scholar, but he would love to be a citizen of a nation ruled by kings. In Canada people do not have the feeling that they belong to a sort of a monarchy, because the king and the queen come once in a blue moon. While in England and France it is totally different. That is why we have here the fear of exclusion. He feels excluded from the vision of the proper monarchy. The next fear is of irony. This topic is connected to the one that we already mentioned, admiring beauty and the idea that everything is transitory, that the beauty of this shop assistant will fade

away. Here is the irony, once a glorious tale of this country, of France is now just a great vision, sth that he can see on the cake, the irony of life. The relationship with the other women: His sister- he has beautiful fingers, he could have been a pianist, but he could never get the piano lessons because of his sister, she was the one who was given these classes. But the truth is that his sister actually sacrifised her calling for him. All women are somehow engaged in the process of pleasing him, and he is all the time dissatisfied and chriticizes everything around him not realizing how lucky he is. He criticizes funny European names, the Jews, the people who wear brown suits... Because of his intellect, he feels that he is superior in comparison to other people. The moment she realizes that he will not have enough money to buy the cake, he feels frustrated, because she is the witness, he does not show the embarrassment. He gaze at her. She shrinks. Then, he continues, he becomes a chilled metal, cold and killing. The end: 'She...' The narrator did not want to have bad feelings about her father, this is his version of event. There is another version, her mother's, but in the other story.

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