Grace Paley’s Later the Same Day contains the stories of people speaking in the varied dialects of New York City. In these stories, identity is formed through people’s acts and through their unique stories. As in Paley’s earlier collection, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, Faith Darwin is a recurring character, but here she is the mature woman, looking back at her life. In “The Story Hearer,” for instance, Faith is asked to tell her lover, Jack, the story of her day. Despite her effort to “curb [her] cultivated individualism,” she ends up sidetracking, watering her “brains with time spent in order to grow smart private thoughts.” Jokingly, Faith comments on men’s love of beginnings, and thus suggests that women move through stories and time quite differently, tempted by the private, rather than the “public accounting” of life. Similarly, in “Zagrowsky Tells,” “Lavinia: An Old Story,” and “In This Country, but in Another Language, My Aunt Refuses to Marry the Men Everyone Wants Her To,” identity is a matter of individual stories told in first-person narratives and ethnic dialects.
To a lesser degree than in Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, identity is also a matter of one’s relationship to history and community. In “The Story Hearer,” Faith wants to rise above her time and name, but finds herself “always slipping and falling down into them, speaking their narrow language.” In...
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