Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer is going to be discussed in the following article. It is very important to know some information about the author and her life in order to understand the message of the book. ZZ Packer is a talented and well-educated writer from Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from Yale University. In the young age, she managed to realize her natural talent and gain education in literature top of the class. Nowadays, she is considered to be among the best fiction writers in the country. She has already written a lot of works. However, her collection Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is probably the most famous.
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a collection of stories about different people on the periphery of the country. There are male and female characters, black and white people, the old and the young, American citizens and Lithuanian immigrants. All character have their own location, storyline, and surrounding conditions. Also, all the stories in the book are set in a range of locations. Each story has its own independent idea and theme. Different place settings and relationships of characters with them affect this theme and explain it. It is going to be the main subject of this essay.
Every story in the book is not a simple description of some situations and people. Usually, such situations are quite prosy with typical people, for instance, our friends or neighbors. On the other hand, there is a deep idea hidden under external characteristics of all stories. This idea is disclosed via conversations of characters, their behavior, settings, and even attitudes of characters to these settings. For example, discussion between an American citizen and Lithuanian immigrant is not a simple conversation, but rather a description of the role of American dream in society.
That is why it is important to look deeper in such situations. It is essential to pay significant attention to the settings that surround characters in a particular scene and their attitude to these settings. These settings can be the following: place, weather, buildings, background environment, geographical location, etc. It is typical for ZZ Packer to hide some meanings in background environment.
Analysis of this statement is going to be made on the story “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” from the book. It takes place at Yale University. From the very beginning, it can be noticed that surrounding settings are going to occupy a significant role in the narrative. Yale is an intellectual place. It means that intellectual games play a significant part in the story.
For example, the author claims that even during the travel to Yale such intellectual games were played by characters of the story. The writer says that such intellectual games were worse than Russian roulette. Such statement describes the whole scope of tension of the situation.
During one of the mentioned games, each member of the group associated himself or herself with a particular object. For instance, the author associated herself with a revolver. Comparing each character with an object from a real life is also a kind of game with the surrounding settings. Each object should reflect a character and features of every person. It only proves the previous opinion that paying attention to the environment and metaphors may help a reader understand characters and their motives.
Secondly, the author pays a lot of attention to the color of skin of the characters. It is not done to strengthen some racist values. On the contrary, it is done to ruin these stereotypes. The writer tries to show that all people are equal and have the same rights. There is no color of skin in such intellectual games.
When the author comes to Yale, she is really impressed by the architecture. This architecture creates appropriate background for the further evolution of the story. Once again, it strengthens intellectual aura of the story.
On my ride from the bus station to the campus, I'd barely glimpsed New Haven—a flash of crumpled building here, a trio of straggly kids there. A lot like Baltimore. But everything had changed when we reached those streets hooded by the gothic buildings.
During this story and the whole book, the author pays a lot of attention to the external look of characters. She believes that the appearance of a hero is able to present his character and features of personality. This statement is really topical in real life. People tend to judge persons according to their clothes and accessories. The author tries to convince readers that it is not a right approach. People should be judged by their actions and behavior. It is one more stereotype which should be ruined after reading the book.
In fact, all the stories described in the book are the experiences from a daily life of a simple person. Moreover, they are models of different types of relations in life. It is not surprising that the book is called Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. What can be more simple and earthbound than drinking a cup of coffee? That is why this book is not a typical set of novels. It is a collection of models and frameworks for people on how to build different relations in real life. Thus, the book does not only have a value in literature but also can be considered as a set of recommendations on how to behave in different life situations.
It has been mentioned above that a person should not be judged by the clothes but rather by the actions. However, the author also tries to convince us that a person’s character and potential cannot be evaluated against a job that an individual has. Job is also an external setting of a story and a person. That is why it has a direct relation with the object of this research. Generally, this problem is really sensual for the modern society. People tend to evaluate others’ success according to the working place occupied and money earned. People believe that a person is more successful if an individual has a great career and a lot of money. Moreover, according to common view, the more money a person has, the happier he/she is. Therefore, happiness is equal to financial success.
It is the other stereotype that is ruined by the book. The author claims that a person can be happy even having the simplest job. Moreover, some individuals look for simple jobs because it is more likely to give knowledge about people and the world. This thesis is proved by the situation when the author worked as a dishwasher on campus. She says that despite the hard character of the job, she has managed to know so many new facts about people around. She states that no book can teach it. In order to prove this opinion, the following quote can be used.
Heidi and I signed on to work at the Saybrook Dining Hall as dishwashers. The job consisted of dumping food from plates and trays into a vat of rushing water. It seemed straightforward, but then I learned better. You wouldn't believe what people could do with food until you worked in a dish room.
The last problem that explores the role of surrounding settings in the stories is the problem of current system of education. As it has been mention at the beginning of the essay, the author comes to Yale, which implies that one of the problems to be considered is the issue of education and intellectual development of a person.
The writer pays a lot of attention to the problem of effective education. She studied in a prestigious Yale University. Naturally, this university probably provides a student with the best education in the country. However, this type of education has an academic and conservative character. Students are forced to study traditional courses via traditional books, which are present in local libraries. Reading some other materials and having opposite opinions is considered as an inappropriate practice.
Many people may agree that such practice is typical even for the modern days. The existing educational system tends to raise an ideal member of society. Character and features of this ideal citizen are developed on the highest layers of society. However, the goal should be to raise an independent and thinking personality. Such creative personality is able to bring more benefits for the country.
The biggest advantage of the book under consideration is that it describes the stories that are typical of a common person in a simple life. That is why they can be used as frameworks for behavior in daily life. The book teaches us to pay attention to the surrounding settings such as location, look, and even nationality of a person. Knowing these settings, one can better understand the surrounding world.
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