The Sky is Gray and Mr. Parker Essay Example
The Sky is Gray and Mr. Parker Essay Example

The Sky is Gray and Mr. Parker Essay Example

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  • Pages: 3 (1282 words)
  • Published: September 11, 2017
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"You are not an adult until you prove it." Frank Moore Riley, a philosopher, asserts his theory that one is not considered a mature individual until they personally demonstrate to others that they are one. In the short stories, The Sky is Gray, by Ernest J. Gaines and Mr. Parker, by Laurie Colwin, two young children are desperately attempting to prove their maturity to society. In The Sky is Gray, James, a young black boy, tries to convince his mother that his tooth is not bothering him so she will not have to spend money on him when it is already so scarce. In Mr. Parker, Janie, a young girl, constantly strives to act like an adult and be regarded like one, but her parents always carry the image of a little girl in their minds. Social class and standard affect the coming of age in anyone. If one is wealthy, he can prove his maturity by buying and using expensive materials. If one is less economical fortunate, he could show his development through personal independence. In both The Sky is Gray and Mr. Parker, James' and Janie's social classes affect their behavior during their time of adolescence, which directly impacts the pathway each reach to adulthood.

To begin with, the way each character thinks contributes to his/her

development. When James was young and was told to kill a small bird, he does not follow the command, as he is too afraid to kill such an innocent living creature. Only after "Auntie and Monsieur Bayonne talked to me

...

[James] and made me see" (Gaines 327) that if they did not kill the bird the family would have no dinner, James did not become so reluctant and naive. Now, James never wants to cause trouble, and is always thinking of new methods to help out in his family. For example, when James' mother is about to take him to the dentist, he tries to back out of it by saying, "It ain't hurting me no more, I can eat anything on it" (Gaines 324). On the other hand, Janie does not try to help out her parents at all. When her mother suggests that Janie should start taking piano lessons with Mrs. Murchison and not Mr. Parker, she storms angrily out of the room. Later when the subject is brought up again, she "stuck my [Jaine] fork into a potato to keep from crying and muttered melodramatically that I would rather hang myself before I'd go back to Mrs. Murchison" (Colwin 70). A similarity between these two characters is that they both think that many adults view young teenagers as adolescents who do not know anything about the world. When James and his mother are waiting for the

dentist to call his name, they meet an elderly woman who expresses her feelings to a young boy, another patient at the dentist office. The boy does not agree with her ideas, and so she begins to laugh at him and humiliate him. Likewise, Janie believes that her old piano teacher treats her students like infants. Janie exclaims this because all of

Mrs. Murchison's students play music

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from "Little Classics for Children" (Colwin 70).

This book, in Janie's mind, is a symbol that proves Mrs. Murchison does not believe her pupils are mature enough to play other, more decorated pieces composed by Bach or Beethoven.

Moreover, James and Janie do not realize that they are indeed adults by being in a different society. They are only considered "grown-ups" by a selected few of their social class. Since James and his mother do not have enough money to ride a bus home, they decide that walking was the only solution. Since it was very cold outside, James turns up the collar of his jacket to keep his neck warm. However, when his mom sees what James has done, she scolds, "You not a bum, you a man" (Gaines 348). If James' family were wealthier, they would not need to walk home. Furthermore, James' mother would not have the opportunity to reaffirm that James is indeed a man, not a bum.

In the same way, Janie would not have had the chance to hear Mr. Parker praise her musical talents, if her family could not afford piano lessons in the first place. For now, it will mostly likely be a long time before one would tell Janie that she is truly an adult. Aside from the similarity that both characters could not have realized that they have become adults if it weren't for their social class, there is a main disparity between James and Janie. After both are praised like an adult, James is the only one who feels like his class has gone up. Even though this is not stated in the text, reading the whole short story gives the impression that James feels better than a "poor black boy". He has been rewarded with the best gift of all; the praise of his mother.

Lastly, personality is another key to adulthood. This is seen in the way that James and Janie initially react after people begin to treat them like adults. Ironically, after finally being considered as an adult, Janie starts to act like a child again. She "walked home slowly, divided by dread and joy in equal parts. I [Janie] had performed like an

adult and had been congratulated by an adult, but something had been closed off. I sat under a tree and cried like a baby" (Colwin 71). The ultimate reason why Janie cries is because she is still a child at heart. Being suddenly accepted in a realm where she is regarded as an adult, Janie does not have anything to turn to, but her childhood feelings and actions. Although she does not lose her entire youth, Janie is definitely a mature woman. On the contrary, James does not cry. Even though the story fails to explain the events after he had been praised, it is implied that he is fully an adult. Since James' personality is loving and strong-willed at the things he does, the reader recognizes that James will never act like a child again. Similarly though, James and Janie share a ____ attitude. They both treat whom ever they want with respect, and whom ever

they don't want, without respect. For example, whenever Janie is with her piano teacher, she treats him with respect. When she gets home to her parents, she treats them with a lot of impertinence because they will not let her take piano lessons with Mr. Parker. Similarly, James does the same thing. To rudely talks to a girl he meets on the bus, thinking that "I [James] don't want have to bust her in the mouth" (Gaines 329). To his mother though, he speaks to her with great admiration.

Without a doubt, the coming of age is very frustrating, but is an integral part to adolescence. Numerous children attempt to act like an adult just so they may earn the respect from other adults. In The Sky is Gray, by Ernest J. Gaines and Mr. Parker, by Laurie Colwin, James and Janie are no exception. Their thought process, social standing, and personality are the key aspects that influence their pathway to maturity. In "Life and Letters of Thomas Huxley", Thomas Huxley says it best: "The rung of a ladder is never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man's foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher." As James and Janie's foot rested on their childhood, they constantly attempt to discover adulthood, a desperate search for the next rung in their ladder of life.