Please, write your thoughts on chapter 16, “The Crimea.”
In this chapter, the protagonist’s visit to Crimea, on the Black Sea, reveals her yearn to free herself from the Soviet Union. The protagonist clearly distinguishes Crimea as more free through the etymological idea that “ ‘Crimea’ sounds like ‘cream’—sumptuous, hedonistic, melting on my tongue, with a sweet aftertaste of decadence and longing. It is the opposite of everything I know,” which is the dominant and restraining Soviet Union (and her mother). The protagonist finds the landscape resembles “the new world,” a popular phrase that was used to refer to the Americas hundreds of years ago in Western Europe. The protagonist also perceives the Gulf of Finland as “always gray,” similar to the lake near her “dacha,” as opposed to the Black Sea that is beautiful and gives her a sense of ownership, “I take off my sweaty shoes, wade in, and let the sea ripple around my ankles, the blue-green sea, refreshing and entirely mine.”
This chapter I enjoyed most since I read it this summer when I took quite a few excursions down to the beaches of Lake Superior; however, rather than eating oysters, I would lunch on a tomato sandwich and chips. It is interesting how the protagonist alludes to the fact that “Northern people” of the Soviet Union would never see oysters, since it is an item readily available in many supermarkets here in the US. This type of comparison reminds me of how lucky I am to live in the United States, a place that only limits the amount of shellfish I can purchase by the amount of cash I am willing to spend.
The Crimea – External Conflict
In this chapter Elena struggles against outside forces. Those forces being sex and her mother. When she is out on the bech and the two camps merge she notices Boris not long after. She obviously has feelings for him and is attracted to him. On page 226 she says, “Of course, I asaid nothing about Boris. It was shocking enough for my mother to find out I was living on a beach; I couldn’t possible say I was living on a beach with a man. Sex is a deep shameful secret not meant to be discussed,” in her postcard to her mother. Her mother looks down upon sex and love. She has been brought up to believe sex is bad and evil and people in Soviet Russia don’t do it, but eventually she says she does and she found no evils in it or wrongs. I feel Elenas external conflict with sex ended right there but not with her mother, as she still does not know.
Throughout the entire novel, Elena deals with internal and external conflict. In chapter 16, The Crimea, Elena has a lot of external and internal conflict that needs to be addressed. She even says, “I don’t know how to react to blue-green water. The biggest body of water I’ve ever seen, the Gulf of Finland, is always gray…All the water I’ve known is monochromatic, the colors you find in the sepia photographs of our family album.” Here there is definite internal conflict. She doesn’t know what to think because of the different color of the water. It’s like a whole new world to her. In the novel she deals with many new concepts that she doesn’t understand; this being one of them. Also, Elena deals with outsides forces in the novel. One of those forces being her mother, and the other being sex. Her mother doesn’t approve of love, sex, or attraction of any kind. This causes Elena external and internal conflict. On page 228 it says, “Still I could’ve been partially honest in my postcard sent home and said I had a crush on a guy from Kiev. But I didn’t. I’d never admit to such an emotional weakness as falling in love.” Here she has to decide if she wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps, or make her own trail. I believe she’s doing a little bit of both.
Facilitator of Acquisition- Tone
Elena was talking about how she was in line to read this book her professor had smuggled in and she would get in in 4 weeks. Not only that but she also made an interesting comment “and I’ve never seen a live American”. This contributes to the tone in an excited-and-full-of-wonderment kind of way. Almost like a kid excited to go see the lions at the zoo. It is almost like she reveres the thought and concept of an “American” and is growing out of the shadows.
The Crimea – Setting
“And then we see it. The road twists again and there is the sea, emerald and still, several hundred meters below.” This passage brought me back to the time I had first seen the Gulf of Mexico. I was mesmerized by the aqua color of the water, and the whitest sand I had ever seen. I could feel Elena’s excitement as she described the sights, sounds, and scents of her first time seeing a large body of water, with such beautiful blue-green color. I love reading a passage that can make you relive a time in your life.
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