My Mother by Andre Gide, 1942
The magic trick:
Remembering one’s mother through two anecdotal memories
This is not the history of a woman; it’s more a historiography. Our narrator tells the story of his mother’s life through two seemingly random anecdotes. Are they random, though? Of course not. The selection of these two memories, in effect, becomes the story. We get a picture of his mother, yes. But, in considering why these are the two representative memories for the son, we get a picture of the narrator and the relationship between he and his mother. And that’s quite a trick on Gide’s part.
My Mother told me she proposed to give a Littre dictionary to Anna Shackleton, an impoverished friend of ours whom I loved like a son. I was bursting with joy, when my Mother added: “The one I gave your Father is bound in morocco. I’ve decided that for Anna a grain binding would do.”
I at once understood, what I had not known, that grain was much cheaper. In an instant all my joy was gone. And no doubt my Mother noticed this, for she continued very quickly:
“She won’t know the difference.”
No, no. The giving came from her nature, but not this mean little trick. And I was vexed also at her wishing to make me so to speak a party to it.
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