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Jermaine Parker Professor Lister ENGL 201-014 6 November 2009 Analytical Response #2 “The Inheritance of Tools”: Lessons

Passed on to Generations In Scott Russell Sanders’ essay, “The Inheritance of Tools,” he explores the knowledge, values and ideals that are handed down from one generation to the next. He uses examples throughout his writing to explain the principles, traits and morals he inherited from his father and grandfather and how he in turn is instilling them in his children. Sanders received some exquisite tools of a simple nature. They seem to represent a lifestyle and value system based on morality. He appreciates these tools not just for their face value, but for their representation of the family’s history. This sentiment is best expressed in the line, “The grain in hickory is crooked and knotty and therefore tough, hard to split, like the grain in the two men who owned this hammer before me” (132). Simplicity does not undermine the quality and strength of the tools or the men of his family. Throughout his family’s history, a strong work ethic and self-reliance has been paramount. For example, his grandfather's post-matrimonial activities were atypical to say the least, building a house with his new spouse rather than, well, you know. Sanders text is smattered with whimsical rules from his father about carpentry such as, "Look at the head and pretty soon you’ll learn to hit it square” (134). These lessons, given to Sanders as a boy in his father’s workshop, would one day be passed on to his own children as they tinkered away in his workshop. As a young boy helping his dad work in the shop, he began modeling himself on his father and learned his work ethic. He got guidance when he needed it on how to drive a nail or saw scraps of wood, but, more significantly, he was absorbing his father’s behavior. Later he

Parker 2 repeats the past as his son and daughter fill the role of apprentice carpenters. He gives several examples of passing on his knowledge, values and skills to his children via the same methods. Lessons in life are centered on the family pastime of carpentry. Working with simple hand-tools, as father and grandfather had, exemplifies the lifestyle he grew to believe in. In many instances, he explains how his forebears built whatever they needed with their own hands, with examples going as far back as to include cavemen. They took control of their lives and shaped their destiny with those hands. My favorite example in Sanders' essay of this hands-on, do-it-yourself idealism is, “My grandfather used this hammer to build a house for his bride” (132). Examples are also given to display how he is now teaching the values he learned to his children. The values Sanders learned, and in turn passed on, are displayed as he proves that his daughter’s happiness is more important than his “drum-tight,” “handsome wall” (136-37), the very wall he was in the midst of creating when he received the news of his father’s demise. This wall was not as important to him as was easing his daughter’s anxiety for her gerbils’ well being. Merely offering to tear down that wall, for what some might have deemed an insignificant reason, meant the world to that adoring child. This act of sacrifice helped mold her young psyche, whether she realized it or not at the time. We learn many of our values, ethics and principles not from direct preaching, but by modeling ourselves on behaviors that we observe and admire. Sanders heard many credos from his father, such as, "If you're going to cut a piece of wood, you owe it to the tree to cut it straight" (136). He could have heard this line a thousand times, but without observing his father practicing what he preached, it would not have meant much. Our ethics seem to be more inferred from the behaviors we observe and mimic than from spoken rules. Sanders also reveals to us the last lesson his father gave him. After his father's demise he must learn, on his own, that life goes on. His father never shows him how, yet in his absence,

Parker 3 Sanders still learns to deal with his grief. In the closing paragraph, Sanders details his reaction after the news of his father’s death. He goes to his tools and sits in quiet reflection, knowing these tools, his “inheritance,” are the only tangible items he has now of his father. Yet they are not the only legacy his father has left behind. The family he cared for and the strong moral fiber he created them from will transcend time. In that moment, Sanders takes his tools and does what his father would have expected. He goes back to work, ensuring everything is done as correctly as possible, square and true with the world. “The Inheritance of Tools” is a retrospective narrative that you could almost see as one of those movies where the son looks back on his time spent with his father. Sanders gives the events in the story life with his use of imagery backed up by his similes and use of metaphors. Sanders learned many things from his father, most notably the art of carpentry. How he describes the different activities that he took part in with his father, and the passion he puts into his words, help convey to the reader the unique and meaningful bond that he had with his father. This bond would prove to carry on and remain strong even after the passing of his father. The “tools” that he inherited from his father, both physically and intellectually are cherished and precious to Sanders, such as the hammer and the ability to cut wood with skill. However those “tools” were really just the foundation for bigger and more important “tools” that would keep him linked to his father for the rest of his life. “I saw my father testing the sharpness of the tools on his own skin…” (139) Being able to replay past events in his mind and see his father’s face, sparked by doing something that his father taught him are what really matters to the author.