[an analysis by Samuel Wampler]
Edward P. Jones’ short story, “The First Days,” is very intriguing by the prospect the first line sets out for the reader. A short excerpt of the sentence, “before I learned to be ashamed of my mother,” hooks the reader into the story with a question of interest. Why would this person be ashamed of their mother? The story leads the reader on until a peculiar bit comes into play, where the narrator comments that her pale green slip and underwear with a little girl dancing on the front are new articles. The perfume is entered in, as well as the detail that the toe of the narrator’s leather shoes is nicked in class—all of this done in the past tense—which tells the reader that the story is told from the perspective of an older person.
This story is simple in its sentences, but powerful. Everything the reader needs to actually know about this piece is actually right on the first page. The dichotomy between the child and mother are elaborated, as well as the motif of abandonment. The narrator’s mother was forced to abandon her first choice for a school, her God for a different school, and her child to a more-than-likely thought “disorganized” school. The narrator deals with the abandonment set forth by the mother’s echoing footsteps. By weaving the motif through this story, the reader can make sense of the excerpt from the first sentence. The motif also ties the story together like a bow. The metaphor of the perfume also ties the story together by representing that gardenia is not the school of the mother’s choice, and Walker-Jones is much more suited to the scent.
All in all, this story was very concise and mellow. By addressing the motifs, the piece really comes together well and allows for an easy read that doesn’t require too much depth of thought.