Respond to the following: "A Handful of Dates' becomes interpretive as it illuminates some aspect of human life or behavior. An interpretive story presents us with an insight- large or small into...

 Respond to the following:

"A Handful of Dates' becomes interpretive as it illuminates some aspect of human life or behavior. An interpretive story presents us with an insight- large or small into the nature and conditions of our existence. It gives  us a keener awareness of what is to be a human being in a universe- sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile."  - Perrine

With the above in mind, discuss the interpretive value of Salih's short story.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is significant interpretive value in Salih's short story.  This is evident when we understand the definition of an "interpretive story" as one "with an insight- large or small into the nature and conditions of our existence."  This insight is one where the reader gains "a keener awareness of what is to be a human being in a universe- sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile."  Such a condition describes the narrative that Salih offers.  

On one hand, a significant part of the story is the undeniable love that the boy has towards his grandfather.  Salih activates the universal archetype of how children worship their parents/ grandparents.  There is a hero worship that the boy offers in describing the love he holds towards his grandfather.  In almost universal terms, this is communicated to the reader with the descriptions of how people would receive the boy as he walked with his grandfather ("pat me on the head and give my cheek a pinch.")  It is also seen in the boy's feelings of how he sees his grandfather in connection to his own identity:  "I loved him and would imagine myself, when I grew to be a man, tall and slender like him, walking along with great strides."  Salih's story reveals a "keener awareness" of what it means to be young.  It evokes this interpretive value because a significant part of childhood is the worship of our parents and elders, to a point where it blinds us from all else. The exuberant and innocent love of a child is a part of existence in our universe.

The flip side to this experience is also revealed in Salih's short story.  Part of the universal condition intrinsic to the story is how children lose their innocence.  The boy realizes the competitive and exacting nature of his "heroic" grandfather.  In developing his empathy, the boy realizes he does not love his grandfather as much as he originally felt.  At the moment of truth, a point where the boy feels a great deal of connection to Masood and a sad resignation of how his grandfather seeks to exact control over Masood in the desire to appropriate the world in accordance to his own subjectivity, the boy reflects a loss of innocence:

Then I saw them dividing up the sacks between them. Hussein the merchant took ten; each of the strangers took five. Mousa the owner of the field next to ours on the on the eastern side took five, and my grandfather took five. Understanding nothing, I looked at Masood and saw that his eyes were darting to left and right like two mice that have lost their way home.

This moment is where greater interpretive value of the story becomes evident. The boy's increased awareness of the world around him and the actions of his grandfather contribute to a change sense of identity.  It is a moment where the boy, and the reader, gain a "keener awareness of what it means to be a human being."  The "hostile" aspect of consciousness is revealed, and confirmed in the ending where the boy vomits the dates his grandfather gave him.  The instant in which the boy says that he "hated" his grandfather, the story's interpretive value is its exploration of a loss of innocence.  It is a condition that is shown to be a universal part of being young.

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