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Cofer’s “Silent Dancing” and Sedaris’s “Ashes” Essay

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Updated: Oct 8th, 2021

Regarding literary works of Judiz Ortiz Cofer “Silent Dancing” and David Sedaris “Ashes” it is important to note that both of these stories discuss family relations and problems. Comparing them, one should understand and explain the way of the connection of those literary works, particularly their similarities and differences, draw a relationship between them.

Analyzing and comparing “Ashes” by Sedaris and “Silent Dancing” by Cofer the reader is enabled to understand the course of relations in two different families and to undertake the idea of two different life paths that lead both main characters to understanding of their life destination; at the end of the stories both main characters get to the point when they realize that each single day must be lived to the fullest despite any difficulties and troubles that may appear in their lives.

In order to be able to achieve the above listed objectives, one may regard and analyze both stories, and then compare them. “Ashes” written by David Sedaris is a personal story. To represent and portray his family’s relationship, author uses humor and satire.

Similar to Sedaris’ “Ashes”, Judiz Cofer in her work also reveals her life story to the reader through the narrative. “Silent Dancing”, as well as the preceding story, is based on the description of the rations within author’s family. But unlike “Ashes”, it appears to the reader not like a humoristic story, but a serious mixture of true facts and some items of her interest that can not be proved, but according to Cofer, actually, happened.

For example, Cofer tells about the notches of spike heels on the coverage of the linoleum floor, but afterwards she notices that “the indentations cannot be seen in the home movie” (p. 47). Here might be pointed out that the author mixes fiction facts and true information with the view to keep reader in the condition of excitement, as the reader has to rely on her word.

It is impossible to say that Sedaris’ story “Asher” is less exciting and interesting then Cofer’s narrative. It is significant that the author of the narrative gives his own name to the main character of the story – he calls him David. Like in “Silent Dancing”, David’s life story begins with tense and in a certain way stress situation. The latter of two stories starts with main character’s rejection of marriage. He considers it as a rejection of the family, especially, in the situation with his sisters. The main character is not a common person, he differs from other people and that makes him to suffer from the society and those who surround him.

David explains his incapacity to marry with the fact that his is a homosexual, but this is actually the way to keep his sisters closer to the family and himself, to stay in a similar position with them. He concludes that the high importance of marriage for him and their surrounding is, “another good reason to avoid it” (p. 140).

The main character of Cofer’s “Silent Cancing” is also appears to be in a difficult situation, because of her Spanish origin. She tells that, “It seems that Father had learned some painful lessons about prejudice while searching for an apartment in Paterson… how much resistance he had encountered with landlords who were panicking at the influx of Latinos into a [Jewish] neighborhood…” (p. 45). But unlike David, this little girl tries to make her family happy in every way possible by being obedient. So here might be viewed two manners in which main characters of those stories take care of their families.

But then the situation seems to get reversed. After his mother has been diagnosed with lung cancer, David admires her as she is one that “threatened” or “chose to ignore the problem” (p. 141), he tries to spend a lot of time with her and make her happy as he feels that any moment might be his last moment with her, but their conversations become impersonal as they are both afraid to complain about life and to make each other upset.

Unlike him, the main character’s cousin of Cofer’s narrative, whose terrible deed with baby the girl has been afraid of since her childhood, tries to escape from her origin and her family as she hates and disrespects everything Spanish, she does not care about her mother. She says, “I never speak Spanish in public. I hate these [Spanish] parties… My life is going to be different. I have an American boyfriend … I sneak out of the house late…I hate rice and beans…” (p. 49).

It is significant that Cofer’s main character learns a lot about her mysterious cousin and analyzes her personality, concluding that she (her cousin) does not understand her compatriots and her family though she has been surrounded with love and care. The analysis of cousin’s behavior helps the main character of the Cofer’s story to understand her own problems and personality (now she is enabled to figure out, where her fears about terrible accidents with babies come from).

Quite similar, the character from Sedaris’ story tries to understand the expression of father’s emotion on public, and his family’s manner to demonstrate affection with the usage of sarcasm. Later on David discovers his father’s thrifty tastes and personality that prevent his family and mother from happy living in comfort. Therefore, David reveals his own version of his parents’ relations, “he had made a commitment to make her life miserable” (p. 147).

Both of the main characters of those two narratives find the key for understanding to their life at the end of the stories that is expressed in a different manner and determined by different life situations, but still leads them to the similar understanding of their life. For example, such change happens with David, when he realizes that his mother is left alone, and scared, “staring at the tip of her cigarette and envisioning her self, clearly now, in ashes” (p. 149).

As for Cofer’s main character, the similar change happens to her when she meets her father’s uncle at holiday dances, “he is dying of alcoholism, shrunken and shriveled like a monkey…as he comes closer I realize that in his features I can see my whole family… In a few years he will retreat into silence, and take a long, long time to die… [She tells him] I don’t want to hear what you have to say…” (p. 51). Despite these characters accept their life as it is, with its happy and sorrowful moments; they both understand that the person must live each day to the fullest.

Works Cited

Atwan, Robert. Convergences. Bostan, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Cofer’s “Silent Dancing” and Sedaris’s “Ashes”." October 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cofers-silent-dancing-and-sedariss-ashes/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Cofer’s “Silent Dancing” and Sedaris’s “Ashes”'. 8 October.

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