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Ross 1 Andy Ross ENL 102: Professor Kish Essay 1 Final Draft

Silence isnt Always Golden


In the short story Pilgrims by Julie Orringer, silence plays an important role. Sickness is not discussed in Ellas family or the Kaplan family. At the end of the story when Clarie dies, no one tells the adults what is wrong because it is what they are used to doing. Not talking about cancer and death has caused the children to keep difficult things to themselves. The old saying silence is golden is thrown around a lot, but in this story, silence changes the ways that families interact with each other. The story starts off with Ella and her family going to The Kaplan household for Thanksgiving dinner. Ellas mother has cancer and the house they are going to has more people who have cancer. Mrs. Kaplan passed away from cancer. Ella and her brother start to play with the other children and Peter and Clarie Kaplan are introduced. They show off their tree house to the other kids. There is a balcony at the top of the tree house that the children could jump off of onto a trampoline. The children take turns jumping off the trampoline but when Ella goes she loses her tooth. The next kid jumps down and causes Ella to drop her tooth into the bushes. Ella, being still young, runs inside crying to her parents. They tell her to calm down and they need privacy because her mother needs to sleep. At dinner everything is going well until Mr. Kaplan becomes upset about his late wife. It becomes clear that it is something that is not talked about in their household. After dinner, the children

Ross 2 go outside. Peter steals Claries glass of red liquid that she calls her mother. He climbs the tree house and throws it off the side. Clarie, who is so attached to the liquid leans after it, but the railing breaks and she falls to her death. Instead of telling the adults what has happened, the children bury the body in leaves. In both Ellas family and the Kaplan family, illness is not talked about even though it is present in both families. When a topic that reminds Mr. Kaplan of his late wife comes up at dinner, he does not want to talk at all. After Ella loses her tooth she runs inside screaming but it is looked over by her parents. The only excuse given to Ella on why it is looked over is that her moms sleepy. (13) Ella knows that something is wrong but knows that she is not supposed to talk about it. Both sets of parents dont realize the effects that this silence will have on their children. Ellas view to be silent about sickness is reinforced at dinner. After the subject of Mrs. Kaplan causes Mr. Kaplan to leave the room, all of the adults left at the table begin to pray. Ella looks at her mother and notices that *her+ lips formed the words, but no sound came out. (16) Ella takes this as something that she is not supposed to talk about. After Clarie falls from the tree, none of the children tell the adults what has happened. Ella tries to but isnt able to because of the meditation going on. Ella should realize that a little girls life is much more important than meditation. She does not tell her mother because she thinks that this is something that should be kept silent. When Peter tried to cover up what happened, he uses silence. He tells the other children that if a kid cries or says anything, *hell+ kill them. (21) Some of the kids, including Peter, probably know that telling the adults is the best thing to do. Peter has learned that his dad will become incredibly sad if he finds out so he tries to hide the situation. This is the result of the family not talking about all the bad things that have happened.

Ross 3 Clarie and Peter not being able to talk about things openly has stunted their ability to grieve. She does not allow anybody to touch it but her. Clarie holds on to a jar of red liquid that she tells everyone is her mother. Even when it is thrown off the top of the tree house she tries to hold on. Claries death was the result of her not being able to let go. The same quality becomes obvious in Mr. Kaplan at dinner. Clarie was not given the chance to let go by her fathers inability to talk about the subject. During Claries fatal fall, silence plays a large factor. After Clarie started to fall, there was a quiet instant; the soft sound of water falling on grass then *+ Clarie hit the ground.(19) The quietness told of in this sentence helps to describe the shock and helplessness that the witnessing children felt as they watched the girl fall to her death. None of the children speak after Clarie hits the ground either. The children stand waiting for her to stand up. Then they realize that she is not going to get up and there is a silent moment of terror. This quick but deadly incident is brought out more by no one talking. During the ride home, Ella begins to understand the severity of the situation. She knows that how the children handled the situation was wrong and that they would have to deal with it soon. She closed her eyes and followed the car in her mind down the streets that lead their house, until it seemed they had driven past their house long ago and were moving on to a place where strange beds awaited them, where they would fall asleep thinking of dark forests and wake up to the lives of strangers. (22) She starts to figure out that when it comes to illness and death it needs to be talked about rather than put aside.

Ross 4 Although the children are young, they should realize that telling is the best solution. The reason that no one tells is not what it usually is: they are afraid of getting into trouble. The real reason that they dont tell is because it is not the type of thing that is talked about within these families. Children should always feel comfortable talking to their parents because they are the people who will love them no matter what. This is not the case in the two main families in this story. Neither the children nor the parents feel comfortable discussing some important things. The parents do not anticipate the consequences of their actions. Although not telling the adults was not the cause of Claries death, it was not the correct thing to do and it could lead to more similar actions by the children. If the parents want to change this aspect of their relationship with their children, tough topics should be discussed in private.

Ross 5 Works Cited

Orringer, Julie. How to Breath Underwater. Pilgrims. New York City, New York: Vintage, 2003. 2-22. Print.