In "Rose-Johnny," what's the smell in the apartment Rose-Johnny and Mr. Wall share?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Rose-Johnny," the short story by Barbara Kingsolver, Mr. Wall allows the narrator Georgeann to go inside the apartment to see Rose-Johnny. Here's how the narrator describes the smell inside that apartment:

"The rooms were cold and felt infused with sickness and an odor I incorrectly believed to be medicine. Because my father didn’t drink, I had never before encountered the smell of whiskey."

We can tell that Georgeann is giving us the story long after it happened, because at the time it happens, she's only eleven years old and can't correctly recognize the smell of whiskey, a strong alcoholic drink. She mistakes it for the smell of medicine. But now that she's older and is reflecting on the past, she knows what whiskey smells like and can give us the correct information.

This question is worth thinking about: not just so you can show your understanding of that paragraph, but also because you can use the answer to go a little deeper into the story. We already know that Georgeann was curious about Rose-Johnny simply because she was forbidden from talking to her! If Georgeann keeps reflecting on her past and filling the gaps in her childlike understanding of the world, and seeking out any information and experiences that she's been sheltered from, then the theme of the story must have something to do with exploring the unknown.

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