To Da-duh in Memoriam

by Paule Marshall

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I would like to know what "borders" the narrator crosses when she visits her grandmother, in the story "To Da-duh, in Memoriam" by Paule Marshall.

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The narrator crosses an obvious border of going from the United States to Barbados in the Caribbean, but she also crosses the "borders" that divide one culture from another and that separate one generation from another.

This last boundary, the generational one, touches upon the life/death antithesis which is a motif in Paule Marshall's story.

We both knew, at a level beyond words, that I had come into the world not only to love her and to continue her line but to take her very life in order that I might live.

After the narrator arrives, Da-duh perceives this emissary from her family: 

It was almost as if she saw not only me, a thin truculent child...but something in which for some reason she found disturbing, even threatening.

Immediately, there is a competition established between the grandmother, who loves her home, its beautiful and productive fruit trees, whose names she intones "as though they were those of her gods," the sugar cane fields that the narrator fears as they appear like swords to her, and an amazingly tall royal palm tree that stands on a high hill. For, the narrator challenges these treasures of her grandmother against the modern appliances that her family owns, their electricity available with just the flip of a switch, and the magnitude of structure in the Empire State Building. All of these things are from a world that Da-duh does not know, and the realization that such progressive machines and buildings have left her behind leads Da-duh to become listless because her spirit has been injured by the deforming of her symbol of power, Bissex Hill.

It is not long after this defeat that Da-duh dies. "She died and I lived," comments the narrator. As an adult, she moves to a loft that is right above a noisy factory in the heart of New York. Sitting above the din of the machines, the narrator paints waves of sugar cane and swirling van Gogh suns and palm trees across a tropical sky, trying to join the two worlds, but the

...tread of machines downstairs jarred the floor beneath my easel, mocking my efforts.

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