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Short Story "presbyterian Crosswalk" by Barbara Gowdy

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Throughout the short story "Presbyterian Crosswalk" by Barbara Gowdy, there are many references made toward different methods of communication that the main character uses in her attempts to understand the world around her. Beth perceives the notes left by her grandmother, as well as the telephone, radio, and the sign "Presbyterian Crosswalk", as being concrete images and objects that she employs to make sense of the world she lives in as well as what is certain and uncertain in her life.

One of the most prominent ways that communication is achieved is through the notes drawn by Beth's grandmother to both herself and her father, which contribute to the ways in which Beth interprets the people that surround her. While simple and easy to understand, the illustrations prove to be effective in developing and shaping the way Beth views the main people in her life. For example, Beth's mother is represented not by a name or the title "mother" but as a witch's hat, while her father is depicted as a man's hat (Gowdy, 62). As well, Beth's friend Amy is referred to as an exclaimation mark rather than an actual name (Gowdy, 61). These symbols show the way Beth is forced to rely on the general representation of an individual, rather than the concrete image and sound of a name, which contributes to the confusion she has diffrentiating between the certain and uncertain aspects of her life.

The notes present Beth with the challenge of trying to figure out the ordinary people and objects in her life, which becomes echoed in the way she attempts to further interpret greater aspects such as gravity, otherwise thought to be a solid and unwavering theory.

The messages that Beth's grandmother leaves for her and her father tend to be repetitive and a frequent part of her family's routine. This is magnified in the way Beth tries to communicate spiritually by repeating the same phrases over and over again. Beth is described as chanting "I love Jesus, I love Jesus, I love Jesus," on multiple occasions (Gowdy, 63,76), as well as saying "Water go away, water go away, water go away," while attempting to make Helen's head reduce down to its normal size (Gowdy, 66). Beth's ability to depend on the comfort of prayer and to use it as a form of communication is a

characteristic that seems to have arisen from her ability to imagine, further intrepret and find second meaning in the everyday things and people around her. Beth believes that by communicating in this way, using her imagination and faith in God, that she is able to change the outcome of events throughout her life that she does not accept.

While her grandmother's notes attempt to connect Beth with an image of familiarity, the form of communication through the telephone presents her with the struggle of coming to terms with the events in her life that she does not understand. The telephone in Beth's house represents the physical connection that she has with the rest of the world and serves the purpose of emphasizing the anxiety she feels regarding all of the questions and uncertainties she has by focusing them upon one singular object. To Beth, the telephone signifies the only connection she has with her mother and the problems that arrise from not knowing where she is. Beth remembers how her grandmother would refer to her mother when she recalls:

Her grandmother disclosed nothing, pretending to be deaf if Beth asked about her mother. Beth remembered how her mother used to phone her father for money and how, if her grandmother answered and took the message, she would draw a big dollar sign and then an upside-down V sitting in the middle of a line - a witch's hat. (Gowdy, 62). Gowdy's description of Beth's grandmother shows how Beth associates the telephone with her mother, connecting the two in a way that is described as being negative and stressful to her family. Throughout the story, the telephone is also used to draw a connection between Beth and the fragments of her life that she tries to make sense of. For example Beth feels very anxious throughout the story when she observes:

Today there were several envelopes addressed to her father, a couple of flyers, an empty cigarette package and a crumpled pink note from her grandmother's pad. Beth opened the note up. "Call," it said, and then there was an upside down V. Underneath that was a telephone number.

Beth thought that it was a message for her father to call the church. Her mother hadn't called in over



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