To Da-duh in Memoriam

by Paule Marshall

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What question does Da-duh repeatedly ask the narrator in "To Da-duh in Memoriam"?

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The question Da-Duh repeatedly asks is whether the narrator has anything in Brooklyn that matches what Barbados has to offer.

When the narrator visits with her grandmother, Da-duh, the latter takes her out to explore the grounds adjoining her house. The "grounds" include a sugar-cane field, an orchard, and a...

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gully. In the orchard, Da-duh points out mangoes, sugar apples, guavas, breadfruit, limes, and papaws to the narrator. She is utterly convinced that Brooklyn lacks all the bounties that Barbadoes has to offer.

When Da-duh shows the narrator the sugar-cane field, she further expounds upon her hypothesis that Brooklyn doesn't have any cane fields that produce the sugar its inhabitants so readily consume. She also maintains that the narrator probably doesn't even know where sugar really comes from. All the narrator can do is to explain that she has two cavities and therefore is not allowed to consume much sugar in her diet.

When Da-duh takes the narrator down to the gully, she is especially triumphant. She takes to gloating when the narrator admits, without prompting, that New York City has nothing to match the splendor of the Barbadian woods. It appears that Da-duh is intent upon making a point about nature. She is convinced that nothing green can grow and thrive in New York City. Perhaps in her own way, Da-duh is desperately trying to preserve what she believes are the values of an older generation. 

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Da-duh asks her if she has anything as nice where she comes from.

When the narrator goes to visit her grandmother, Da-duh, the old woman gives her a tour through the grounds of her Barbados.  Throughout the tour, Da-duh continually asks her granddaughter if there is anything as nice where she comes from.

Finally, turning to me, she said, “I know you don’t have anything this nice where you come from.” Then, as I hesitated: “I said I know you don’t have anything this nice where you come from….”

In the countryside, there is certainly more beauty and nature than in the city.  Da-duh is trying to remind the narrator of the beauty of the simple things.  In addition to the geographical difference between Brooklyn and Barbados, there is the cultural difference between the girl and her grandmother.

The girl tries to tell her grandmother about the wonders of the city, but the old woman barely comprehends.  For her, the country life is all she has ever known.  She seems to relate to the narrator more than her sister, as it is to the younger girl that she decides to give the tour.  The question is both an expression of curiosity at her daughter and granddaughter’s life and a self-serving attempt to protect what she has.

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