A Conversation with My Father Essay - Critical Essays

Critical Overview

"A Conversation with My Father" is Paley's most critically discussed work, perhaps because it is also her most overtly metafictional one. When it was first published in 1972, critics hailed it as one of the best stones about storytelling ever, since it is a story which reflects the complexities of life through the complexities of fiction. It has also been commended for its articulation of feminist themes.

The question of Paley's relationship to her characters has been a matter of critical debate. The disclaimer at the beginning of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute states that "Everyone in diis book is imagined into life except the father. No matter what story he has to live in, he's my father, I. Goodside, M.D , artist, and storyteller." This statement leads one to assume that the unnamed narrator is Paley herself. Further proof is Paley's discussion elsewhere about visiting her father when he was terminally ill, and the reference within the story to Paley's other fiction, namely the comment her father makes about people talking in trees which refers to the short story, "Faith in the Trees." But, as Neil Isaacs notes in a study of Paley's short fiction, readers should refer to the narrator as Paley only "as long as we understand that we are talking about a Grace imagined into life as the Paley storytelling persona." According to Isaacs, critics such as Rose Kamel, who refer to the narrator as Faith (a central character in many of Paley's stories)...

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