Student Question

How do connections to others reshape an individual's sense of self in "Neighbours" and Seedfolks?

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"Neighbours" is a short story by Tim Winton, and Seedfolks is a young adult novel by Paul Fleischman. Both works are centered on a particular neighborhood, giving the respective narratives an insular feel and articulating a microscopic point of view of the people who live there. In "Neighbours," Winton features a young white Australian couple who move to a neighborhood in Queensland which is predominantly composed of European immigrants. From the beginning of the story, readers quickly learn that the couple have prejudices against immigrants and migrant groups. Initially, the couple perceives their new neighbors as uncivilized and unsophisticated. They experience culture shock when they observe the ways of their immigrant neighbors. However, the couple gradually begin to understand the humanity beneath their prejudices as they develop interpersonal relationships with their neighbors. The couple experiences commonalities with their "foreign" neighbors that are universal, regardless of nationality and ethnicity—such as the struggles of day-to-day living in an uncertain economy—and other general daily issues that all can relate to. By looking at their neighbors as fellow Australians and, more importantly, fellow human beings, the once-judgmental couple enriched themselves through understanding and empathy.

Similarly, Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman centers on a neighborhood in Cleveland that is primarily composed of immigrants, first-generation Americans, and American minorities. The title refers to the community garden project initiated by a Vietnamese girl living in the neighborhood. The book is composed of several vignettes that depict the lives of the various characters in the intertwined stories. They all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and races, and have varying personalities. However, as the community garden begins to develop and the crops they planted begin to grow, the connections between the once-socially distant neighbors become stronger. The urban garden itself is an analogy for the development of the economically-deprived neighborhood, because it takes an entire community to take care of vegetation. By accepting and respecting others' differences whilst still working together in harmony, the residents individually grow like the plants they are caring for.

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