The Hammer Man
My Grandma Smoked Cigars
Love is when an individual develops a deep feeling or affection for another person (Jackson 49). The theme of love clearly stands out in the three short stories titled The Hammer Man, My Grandma Smoked Cigars, and Jeannie Miller. Jeannie is loved by a guy named Andreotti and the narrator himself but eventually, it turned out that the person who truly loved her was not able to express the love. As for the narrative My Grandma Smoked Cigars, the speaker’s grandmother began smoking, to signify love. In Bambara’s The Hammer Man, the storyteller is in love with Manny.
In the short story The Hammer Man, the speaker, who is a young girl is in love with Manny. Both the narrator and Manny are black. In the beginning, one may wonder whether there is any love since the orator seems is glad that Manny has fallen from the roof, as it is written, “I was glad to hear that Manny has fallen off the roof”(Bambara 35). Even though the young woman considers Manny as crazy and they engage several fights, she does not hate him but has great admiration for the young boy. Her love for him is demonstrated by the manner in which she describes his expertise in basketball. When she found him in the basketball court playing alone, she talked to him but Manny ignored but the storyteller says that she continued standing there for quite some time for a reason she could not understand (Holmes 1). This was a clear indication of her love for the boy. Additionally, the narrator tried to defend Manny when the police came to interrupt his play, and this is was a sign that she loved him. However, it is not clear as to whether the young boy feels the same way towards the girl (Sklar 210). Nonetheless, the theme of love fits the story since affection is evident in the speaker and Manny.
The theme of love has also been developed in My Grandma Smoked Cigars through the characters the grandmother and grandfather, as well as smoking cigar by the old woman. The storyteller reveals how his grandparents’ love was “a passion that didn’t have time to become a habit or just friendship” (Ulibarri 208). This means that their love was so strong. The storyteller also narrates how his grandfather used to smoke cigars when he was alive but during that time, his smoking would be considered as the patron. In other words, it was a symbol of authority. After the death of his grandfather, the orator’s grandmother began lighting cigars, allowing the smoke to spread all over the house, as it made her feel the presence of her husband. Then, with time, she would lock herself in a room and smoke. The fact that the grandmother started smoking cigars indicated affection for her dead husband. The narrator is convinced that it was a way of communicating with his grandfather and when she came out of the room where she had been smoking, she would tread her grandchildren gently and with affection. Love is also evident among other members of the family. They have a strong bond including the storyteller and his siblings, her mother, uncle, and even his uncle.
In Jeannie Miller, love unfolds through three characters, the speaker, who is a young boy, Jeannie Miller, a black young girl, and Pelusa Andreotti, a white young man, from one of the wealthiest families in Resistencia. Jeannie came come to the city via a student exchange program and quickly fell in love with Pelusa. Pelusa went ahead and introduced her to his family and friends and this made Jeannie happy. On the other hand, the speaker had developed a soft spot for the black girl who had become her best friend but kept his feelings to himself. He says that “…although I fell in love with her, I never told her because we had become such good friends…” (Giardinelli 94). The narrator was jealous of Jeanie’s love for Pelusa and perhaps, that is the main reason he did not like him. However, the theme of love in the story is somehow altered as it is later revealed that Pelusa did not truly love Jeannie. When she returned to Wisconsin, her home area, Pelusa started making fun to his friends about how he had slept with Jeannie. Even when she returned with his pregnancy, he publicly rejected her. Rue love also stands out in the narrative. The storyteller kept on missing Jeannie after she returned home, battered Pelusa for prompting Jeannie to kill herself, and also visited her grave.
Overall, the three stories The Hammer Man, My Grandma Smoked Cigars, and Jeannie Miller depict love through the characters. From the stories, it is clear that true love never fades. In My Grandma Smoked Cigars, for instance, the old woman began smoking so that he could connect with his lover who was dead. The narrators in The Hammer Man and Jeannie Miller become angry seeing how their lovers are treated.
Theme: place and sense of belonging
Hello, Gramma’s Fine, an’ Y’all
Heaven on Earth
Place and sense of belonging is a prominent theme in the short stories Hallo, Gramma’s Fine, an’ Y’all, Heaven on Earth, and Eleven. This theme is about how various characters demonstrate the need to belong somewhere or rather, in a place (Lambert 1422). In Eleven, the narrator, whose name is Rachel would love to feel that she fits in her peers but the fact that she does not makes her sad. In Hallo, Gramma’s Fine, an’ Y’all, the characters find it difficult to be accepted by American society. On the other hand, the old woman fits in well in her son’s family in the short story Heaven on Earth.
To start with, the theme of place and sense of belonging in Heaven on Earth is mainly developed through an old woman, Mrs. Grimma. The place where she finds a sense of belonging is the family. Werner, her son, and Irma, her daughter-in-law invite her to live with them in their three-bedroom house on the other side of the city. Initially, she resisted the idea but she finally agreed to abandon a life she had grown fond of to be with her family (Brüning 214). This is what she had to sacrifice for her to belong to another life with her son. While living with his son, Mrs. Grimma engages in various productive activities, which in a way indicates that she is seeking to fit in more even though she has already been accepted. For instance, she helps in taking care of the child, Wolf-Dieter when Irma becomes occupied with the family’s business.
As for, Eleven, the sense of belonging theme unfolds through the speaker, a young girl named Rachel. Being her eleventh birthday, she is still saddened since some of her behaviors when she was younger is still in her. She wishes she was older as she would possess attributes that would make her comfortable in the situation she is currently in (Cisneros 1). In class, Sylvia Salvidar says that the old sweater belongs to the storyteller but being eleven she does not have the courage to tell the teacher that it is not hers. As a result, it ends up being put on her desk and Mrs. Price even insists that she once saw her wearing it. Rachel is struggling with her inner self to belong to a class where she feels she is being victimized. But due to her age, she does not have the characteristics that would allow her to fit in.
On the other hand, the author has developed the theme of place and sense of belonging in Hallo, Gramma’s Fine, an’ Y’all, through the speaker an old French woman and her family. The place of belonging is in America. She says that she is saddened by the fact that her children think that they too are Americans (Guidry 2). To be accepted in the American world, the narrator says that her daughter Emma, for instance, dresses like a teenager yet she is in her fifties. Additionally, Emma and her husband are often working just like the Americans do. The narrator can barely communicate with her grandchildren since she does not speak English and they do not understand French. The speaker recalls how they were forced to take Emma to school when they came to America, and it is where she learned the American ways. In general, this story depicts the theme of place and sense of belonging in the sense that Emma and her children found acceptance in America after adopting its culture.
In conclusion, the three stories, Hallo, Gramma’s Fine, an’ Y’all?, Heaven on Earth, and Eleven demonstrate the theme of place and sense of belonging. This is visible as the various characters strive to or have found acceptance in their surroundings. Mrs. Grimma has found a sense of belonging in her son’s family and the narrator’s daughter and grandchildren in Hallo, Gramma’s Fine, an’ Y’all? have fitted in the American society. As for Rachel in Eleven, she struggles to belong to her class members, an experience which saddens her.
Bambara, Toni. “The Hammer Man.” 35-43.
Brüning, Elfriede. “Heaven on Earth.” 214-222.
Cisneros, Sandra. “Eleven”. ProQuest LLC, 2002. 1-3.
Giardinelli, Mempo. “Jeannie Miller.” 94-96.
Guidry, Richard. “Hello dear, Gramma’s ﬁne, an’ y’all?” 1-3.
Holmes, Linda Janet. A joyous revolt: Toni cade bambara, writer and activist. ABC-CLIO, (2014): 1.
Jackson, Stevi. “Love, social change, and everyday heterosexuality.” Love. Routledge, 2013. 47-61.
Lambert, Nathaniel M., et al. “To belong is to matter: Sense of belonging enhances meaning in life.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 39.11 (2013): 1418-1427.
Sklar, Howard. “Narrative Structuring of Sympathetic Response: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches to Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Hammer Man”.” Poetics Today 30.3 (2009): 561-607.
Ulibarri, Sabine. “My Grandmother Smoked Cigars.” 207-213.