Amy Monticello’s “Shame” tells the story of Amy, the narrator, and her struggles through college-life and adulthood. She describes all the “shameful” things she’s done: having sex with her roommate’s boyfriend, eventually moving in with said boyfriend, doing cocaine, etc. As all this is going on, the one constant thing that remains with her is her ex-roommate’s kitchen table. The kitchen table follows her through her difficulties as well as her marriage and her soon-to-be born child’s life.
I personally found the piece very compelling, in that we, the readers, are able to read through her struggles without all the BS. The author did a wonderful job not “sugarcoating” anything. She was straight to the point (“this happened then this then that)”, which I rather enjoyed. I feel that because she was so blunt, I was able to capture the purpose of the piece more clearly. The purpose was, as she stated, “what do we do with the things we know of ourselves, but cannot change?”; meaning, in her case, what would she do with all the shame she felt, knowing there was nothing she could do to change it? More literally, what would she do would the table, a symbol that further amplified her shame?
I found the irony in the piece absolutely fascinating and unfortunate. The fact that she would have to use the table, that had witnessed so many awful things, as an essential everyday item. Furthermore, this table would be around her child–a sweet, innocent human–and could even be given to her as a hand-me-down. This parallelled her experience with her father in which she still kept the paperwork from a court case he was in. She also brought up twice the idea of choking. Her anxiety caused her to “choke up,” both literally and figuratively. Figuratively as in not being able to move past certain memories, whether that be of her ex-boyfriend or her shameful experiences. These two cases of parallelism added the anxious feeling the author continually felt, and feels, throughout this time.
I also tracked the symbolism of the table. As I’ve mentioned, the table has gone around with her everywhere, witnessing all the trouble she’s gotten into. The table represents her shame, and the shame she feels she may one day pass down to her daughter. Although it wasn’t brought up heavily, the table is significant and makes the reader (or at least me) think about the objects they themselves feel connected to.
I hope that from her writing I can take away the need for brevity (how ironic). The short, straightforwardness of the piece made it that much more thought provoking. She summed up maybe a decade or so into a single page pulling in symbols, rhetoric, and a personal experience along the way. I can only hope I can move the reader as much as she did me.