Please, write your thoughts on chapter 7, “Simple Past.”
I always knew that there were differences between how eastern and western Europe developed with different foods, beliefs, and traditions. But then I read a segment in Chapter 7 on page 78 that really threw me off. In the book, the author is over at her friend Masha’s apartment, which is very westernized. “What amazes me most about Masha’s apartment is that it contains a room not serving a basic function, a room not used for cooking or sleeping, a room where we can simply sit and talk and gawk at exotic magazines. The word “living room” sounds as strange as “coffee table”, evoking frilled ladies in chestnut curls and whiskered gentlemen puffing on cigars.” I was just shocked that a place like Russia, who had went through a part of the Industrial Revolution, didn’t even have the concept of a living room implanted into their lifestyle. She looked at this place as if it were alien. It makes me think of something that we take as simple as the living room can be mind-blowing and completely indescribable to a different person. It makes me wonder about what else I take for granted in this society. Freedom, flat screens, cell phones are all things that I may take for granted, but I am thinking deeper. Even something as miniscule as an ice cube, for what would a poor village in Africa think if suddenly an ice maker was delivered to their village? Just some food for thought I guess.
I think one of the most important parts in chapter 7 was when Elena’s dad died, especially because she was the one who had to hear it on the phone. I think the end of the chapter really wraps up the whole chapter and summarizes the mood of the chapter as well. On page 93 it says, “I cry because my notebook glares with the past tense, the tense that now contains not only my father but everything my father and I have done. There is a part of me trapped in the past along with him, and I don’t know what that means…What I do know is that I won’t smell tobacco on his hands or feel his stubble or be “Brother Rabbit” ever again.” Her mom also mentions “Vsyo ponimaet,” which means she’s grown up and understands everything. I think this is important because this is a point where her whole life has changed, and sometimes it takes a huge event in someone’s life for them to grow up, and for her that was her father’s death. This last part of the chapter also foreshadows her attitude for the rest of the book by mentioning that she has grown up.
I found Chapter 7 very interesting. I was really intrigued by the concept of their ignorance of privacy. As in
there was no translation for “privacy” in Russian that they knew of. In the novel it says, “…finally shrugs her shoulders
and says that we don’t have the word “privacy” in Russian. It simply doesn’t exist.” I found it difficult to begin not
knowing of privacy. It’s always been a part of my life, especially living in America. We have the right to a certain amount
of privacy here in America, but the Russians didn’t know of that. This part of the chapter reminded me of the novel 1984 and
the movie “The Truman Show”. When the novel says, “Does that mean that the English people know something we don’t? Is this
mysterious “privacy” an invention of the capitalist West, something that we, the only people destined to inherit a bright future, lack?”
reminded me of the Cold War. Another part of the chapter that I enjoyed reading was the part about her “interest” in music.
She said that she wasn’t a very musical person, but I’m the exact opposite. She didn’t like playing the piano, and I really
love it. Elena says, “I don’t have an ear for music”, as where I’m the exact opposite. I have a great ear for music and I can
create harmonies and express them through music I create. A part that I felt sad reading was about Elena’s father.
I empathized with Elena when her father passed away. If my father/parent would’ve passed away, I would not have been able
to handle it the way that she did.
I found that i can relate to Elena in chapter 7 when she goes to her dacha i the fall and she goes mushroom hunting with her sister and here mother. When I was little and we used to go vacationing in Indiana my mother, my sister and myself would always go blueberry picking. “I parade my family of perfect belye-the eight trench warriors- in front of her face, and she squeezes out a smile.” Just like the competition between Elena and here sister there was competition between my sister and I on who could get the most blueberries before we had to leave at the end of the week. On day I showed up with a five gallon bucket full of blueberries while my sister only had a bowl. I made her look and i bragged about it to my whole family. I found this chapter interesting because I felt like I could relate to Elena more in this than i any other chapter so far.
I never realized how we American’s have it so good compared to foreign countries. In chapter 7 it finally occurred to me that I have been taking a lot in life for granted. Elena said she had a simple life and she compared herself to her friend Masha. She always praised her friend for being able to speak English and being able to take a city bus, while she had to stay at the public school and struggled to better her life. Another way she described how she would entertain herself, and probably the happiest days of her life, was when she would go fishing with her dad. She described it as a tranquil and exciting event every time she went out on the water. Now kids and teens only find fun on things such as their TV’s or Computers, no one goes out and enjoys the simple pleasures in life. After reading about how she wanted to better herself with her English so she could move on to bigger and better things, it made me think to myself that we American’s have so much and we forget how easy we have it. Every day we ignore the simple pleasures we have, running water, electricity, food, medical care, etc. This young girl had to stand by her father as she watched him slowly pass on, knowing there was nothing she could do for him. Something like that would never happen here in America, someone gets a cold or gets sick you take them to get medicine and they get treated, out there it’s a matter of survival. Even compared to her friend Masha who was considered higher class, she had nothing compared to what American’s had during that time. So in this chapter about her simple past, I came to realize that I need to start being happy for what I got and stop worrying about materialistic items.
This was a very interesting chapter. It was clear that English was beginning to become a very important language and that English was spoken by the “intellectuals.” I thought that it was very interesting that the characters were unable to define privacy and looked at private land as a bad thing. This concept is much different than our beliefs in the United States. The treatment in the hospital is also much different than the United States. The fact that hospital employees were eating the food, rather than feeding patients is shocking.
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