In the below quote from "The Third and Final Continent," the narrator mentions his aspirations as an adolescent as he looks at his son. Discuss the sense of ambition from his adolescent past and...

In the below quote from "The Third and Final Continent," the narrator mentions his aspirations as an adolescent as he looks at his son. Discuss the sense of ambition from his adolescent past and the future and results of that ambition (i.e. his new life in America): "In my son's eyes I see the ambition that had first hurled me across the world."

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

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The narrator's ambition is a distinctive trait that defines his life as the story develops.

The beginning of the story clearly establishes ambition as an essential part of the narrator's understanding.  This is seen in the narrator's approach to how he approached his student years, as one where he was "struggling to educate and establish" himself abroad.  Ambition was a significant element behind those early lean years, as it fueled his three work journey on a boat and some very cold nights in London.  Had the narrator not possessed this drive, he could have been content to live a life in Calcutta.  He could have been like his brother, working in the jute factory.  However, his desire for more is what fueled him to travel to strange parts of the world.  It sustained him while he experienced very difficult conditions in the hopes of achieving successful results. 

This is what drives him to accept his job in America. The narrator wishes to take another leap into a strange new world because of his pursuit of results that reflect "success:"  The salary [at the new job] was generous enough to support a wife, and I was honored to be hired by a world-famous university, and so I obtained a green card, and prepared to travel farther still."  He struggles mightily in the process.  He experiences cultural displacement, financial hardship, a lack of community, and a stinging emotional coldness that mirrors the climates while being completely different from the life he led in Calcutta. However, it is clear that the narrator wants to establish his own life away from the life he led.  

The closing to the story reflects that the narrator still sees ambition as a fueling force.  As a father, he recognizes the same ambition in his son.  However, there is a difference.  Ambition accompanied the narrator because he was alone.  In seeing the same drive in his son, the narrator affirms the difference that distinguishes them: "But I remind myself that he has a father who is still living, a mother who is happy and strong."  The narrator is not going to stop his son's ambition because he recognizes it as the force that defined his adolescent past.  However, he will reorient it in reminding the son that he is not as alone as he once was.  

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