Linda Hogan

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Describe Roberta's changes from start to finish in Linda Hogan's "Making Do".

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There are many changes in Roberta James from the beginning to the end of the story called "Making Do" that focuses on the contributions of everyday women to society (and especially in Chickasaw society). In short, Roberta goes from a young teenager with low self esteem to a strong woman who learns to live with grief.

When we first meet Roberta James, she is fifteen, unmarried, and pregnant. As a result, she has a very low self esteem. It is at this point that Roberta decides to take whatever life dishes out for her. Roberta’s life is filled with the changes you ask about. Her three different children (from three different men) all pass away. Roberta’s lovers all leave her.

It is the specifics of the deaths of the three children that are most striking. Harriet dies when she is six years old due to tuberculosis. Wilkins, Roberta’s one male child, dies at birth. Roberta proclaims that he simply “died of life.” Finally, Angela dies after a mysterious revelation that she reveals to her mom that death was imminent. Further, after this last death, Roberta truly needs time to heal from loneliness and isolation and grief.

The next change is instituted by Roberta herself: she heads out to try life on her own. Her grief and despair over losing her children is evident here.

Some mornings she pulled at her flesh just to be cer­tain, she was so amazed and despairing to be still alive.

Also, Roberta begins to cope with her grief with an interesting Chickasaw hobby: whittling. This is specifically the way that Roberta “makes do” (which is the inspiration from the title). How is Roberta making do? She is carving little birds out of wood and asking these precious pieces of art to be put on her children’s graves. By concentrating on this task, Roberta learns to make a life for herself.

In conclusion, we see the young Roberta change from a teen who doesn’t think much of herself to an independent woman who whittles as the focus of her grief for her children.

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