Mary Karr's "Texas, 1961" is a brilliant piece of writing that illustrates Karr's troubled childhood. Karr is a great poet and essayist that knows very well how to get reader attention. Her language skills brilliantly illustrate two transitions of her childhood-before and after the arrival of her grandmother. After reading the story, I was emotionally touched by Karr's family circumstance, but my emotion drifted away toward the end of the story due to the detail of grandma's suffering.
The action that was describe as "ring-tailed bitch" was the action of a caring grandmother. Her use of language is marvelous. There were three aspects of her writing that she combines to empower the story. First was her description of people and family circumstance. Her descriptive words vividly bring the reader into the story.
Second is the humor she bought to the story. Third is her persuasive organization. These three aspects are combined to give the story clarity and interest. "Texas, 1961" is a humorous piece of writing. Throughout the story, Karr's use her descriptions and use of humor brought the story to life. Her humor is often cut short in the story.
She was trying to be intimate with her reader and at the same time show the sensitive side of her perspective. The humor makes the story sound natural and honest. Before her grandmother's arrival, Karr describes her family lifestyle as dysfunctional. There were bad eating habits, unhealthy eating styles, and unpolished behavior around the house. There was a lack of parent discipline for the children.
The important mother figure is also found to be missing in Karr's life. When Karr says, .".. generally Donna Reed over me" is a clear statement of a desire to have a mother figure that would nurture and care for her. Also want to have some female figure to set an example of being a girl. Within the family unit there was the lacking of family bonding. When they eat dinner in the center of the bed, they often sit facing away from each other. There was conflict between the mother and father.
Their living style is very isolated-within the family and their society. Their family structure is uncivilized and doesn't live up to the expectation of society. Karr's descriptions of her family circum stand illustrate the sadness of her childhood. Then the arrival of Karr's grandmother changed the household around.
She quickly set boundaries and rules for their family lifestyle. She provided them healthy foods, which they never had before. The change was clear when Karr says, "Suddenly our family dinner involves dishes you saw on TV, like meatloaf-stuff you had to light the oven to make", something that they were never custom to before. Their dinner also involves the dinner table, linen, and sitting facing each other-creating a family atmosphere. She introduces the children to bible reading, even though she wasn't a religious person herself. She wanted to use Christianity to guide them.
Grandma transformed the family into a more structured unit. Even though Karr's family situation had been improved with the arrival of grandma but throughout the story she showed extreme bitterness toward her grandma. In Karr's belief, her grandma arrival brought confusion for her. Even though deep down she doesn't approve of her family's lifestyle but she was well adapted to it. She wants a little change in her lifestyle, but the change that grandma brought is too extreme. Karr described her freedom to be completely stripped away overnight.
With all the changes that grandma made, Karr was forced to acknowledge her own shame about her dysfunctional family. Her acknowledgement hit her pride. These factors were the root of her long lasting bitterness toward grandma, even after her death. Toward the end of the story her powerful method of organization becomes clear. At the beginning of the story she stated the entire ordeal in her childhood-no discipline, no parent nurture, and etc.
Readers would often sympathized with Karr's situation, and believed that a child should not be in such an awful situation. Her description of these areas is very specific. She noted every little detail. Then toward the end of the story, where she vividly mentions grandma suffer of cancer. The indication of grandma's sickness quickly shifted the readers' emotion toward grandma. For readers who understood grandma's motive would be deeply touched by her character.
Grandma character is heroic. Despite of her cancer, she devoted her time and energy to improve her family's lifestyle. Readers noticed Karr's organization purpose is to draw sympathy toward her ordeal and help her readers to understand her anger toward grandma. If Karr had told readers about grandma's illness at the beginning, the sympathy would be toward grandma and the bitterness would appear to be unreasonable. What grandma had created is a warm family feeling, which had always desired. Looking pass the surface, grandma wasn't "ring-tailed bitch" as described, because she actually care and want her family to live in a more structural ize lifestyle.
The family is together against grandma, and doesn't seem recognize that the situation have changed for the better. One person "ring-tailed bitch" is another person hero.