Summary Part 1: Liv
This story, titled, Gondwana, by Steve Almond, begins with the narrator, Myristica, riding the bus to her father’s house while absorbing the dreadfulness and misery of the people around her. Once she reaches her destination, she begins to recite to her father how living with him wasn’t working and she wanted to release herself from the father-daughter bonds that she was currently in. Her father, a television pundit, responded to Myristica’s statement by calling in one of his servants, whom Myristica named Niblet because of her perfect niblets for teeth, and began to discuss with her on whether or not she loved her father. Naturally, Niblet says that she does love her father but after she exits to go fetch a Diet Pepsi for Myristica father, he fires her. After Niblet was fired, Myristica begins to explain that she wants to move into her friend Twig’s basement, also providing her father with the legal documents to prove her desire to divorce him but her father is resistant, even though Myristica has provided a argument that has got her father stuck in a corner. As her father is thinking through the complications of the divorce, Myristica flashes back to previous conversations that she had had with her friend Twig about her father and their relationship.
Summary Part 2: Carson
Pages 6 – 9 starts out with meg and her dad continuing to argue. The dad insults twig and says he has never met her when he has many many times. Meg doesnt correct him noting that you cant correct her dad and says that whatever is his record becomes the record. Meg makes it clear she will not hurt his political career and ambitions. She then reveals that her dad is an orphan too. His parents killed each other but he covered it up with a story they slid on ice while driving to a civil rights protest. The only way she knows this is because she caught him crying after a gossip site was going to expose the truth. Her dads assistant tells her everything and then makes her sign a nondisclosure form. She apologizes but is cut off when her dad keeps getting business phone calls. The dad calls a new, terrified assistant in the room and tells her he needs to be downstairs and proceeds to rename her. Meg tells her what he means and then thinks about gondwana where you didnt have a name but a song people sang to call you. She then thinks of when her dad would come home when she was going to school after drinking and he would start singing classic rock to her.
Summary Part 3: Elise
The father’s new assistant, Janice, greets Meg before getting an order from the father. Meg wonders about what her name might have been had she lived in Gondwana, and what life would be like there. Her reminiscing turns to her father, who she remembers used to sing to her back in his “boozing days.”
She snaps back to reality when the assistant leaves, and her father asks her to not divorce him. Meg is reminded of the time her father took her to New Guinea on her thirteenth birthday, during which she attempted to jump out of his helicopter. They had found out that the orphanage that was her first home was destroyed, and the only person they could find to speak to was an ancient woman who hissed and spat and eventually left when they tried to talk to her.
Meg found out later that night that the woman had said that she did not belong to them, that she was not a slave. And Meg agreed with that, returning to reality with the thought that maybe that was the problem after all. She then notices that her dad has forgotten she is there, and is now focused on his phone, lamenting to himself.
Analysis Part 1: Liv
The two craft elements that I pinpointed within the story, Gondwana, by Steve Almond, are conflict and point of view. The conflict of this story is Myristica’s struggle in her relationship with her father and this can bee seen very clearly whenever she states that she no longer wants to be in his custody. The point of view of this story is from the first person and through the eyes of Myristica, the narrator. Because the point of view is in the first person we are able to see not only how she views herself, but also how she views her father and the life he lives.
Starting with conflict, we first see the relationship first ignites whenever Myristica climbs over out of the bus she had ridden to her father’s house and tells him that she doesn’t think their relationship was working.
And then I was standing there in front of him saying (just like I’d rehearsed), I’m really sorry to interrupt your busy day and all, Dad, but its not working for me.
Here we can see that Myristica not only does not think that their relationship is falling apart, but she has thought that for enough of a while to be able to recite those lines for memory. In this story, Myristica was an orphan from Papua New Guinea who had been adopted almost as a publicity stunt for her father who is a television pundit. Because of her adoption and her doubt that her father truly loves her, Myristica begins to question whether or not she should remain in her father’s custody.
‘[Brought] her home to Laurel fucking Canyon and [tucked] her in each night-’
‘You didn’t tuck me in,’ I said.
‘I did too, Dad said.
‘You had staff do it.’
‘Hand-picked staff,’ Dad roared.
In the quote above, we see Myristica’s doubt of her father’s love and also the tension that arises whenever her father tries to prove his worth. Another instance wherever conflict appears is whenever Myristica claims that she wants to live with her friend Twig instead of living with her father.
‘Do you know what Yasser Arafat once told me?’ he said.
I told him that I didn’t care and that… I just wanted to move into my friend Twig’s basement and lead a normal life.
‘He said to me,’ Dad said, meaning Yasser Arafat, ‘that God gives us daughters to toughen our hearts.’
In this quote, we see that the conflict comes not only from the father’s stubborn personality but also from the carelessness/rudeness of Myristica. The father was intentionally ignoring his daughter’s confession of what she wanted to do with her life, and whenever she had finished he made a comment to try to fire her up and get a reaction out of her. Although the father seems reasonably annoying, Myristica was responding to her father in ways that many children should not: she not only said she no longer wanted to live with him, but with a friend, but whenever he began speaking to her, she seemed to ignore what he had to say as well. The conflict in this story seems very one-sided to both characters, but to the reader, both the father and Myristica are in the wrong.
The conflict throughout this story travels back and forth from the father being rude and Myristica getting upset because of his actions to Myristica’s internal insults and anger bubbling with only a fraction of it showing. Whenever Myristica first announces to her father that she wants to leave him, he questions one of his servants on whether or not she loves her father. This small act on the father’s part, comparing the servant’s love of her father to his daughter’s love of him, was especially petty and rude and starts the story out with the knowledge that this father-daughter relationship was going down hill.
‘Do you have a father?’ Dad said to Niblet. She nodded.
‘Do you love him?’ Dad said…
‘Of course I love him,’ she said. Dad glanced at me.
Within the story, there are many types of conflict, Myristica’s internal conflict of not fitting in, the father’s conflict of trying to keep his daughter home without ruining his campaign, and finally both of their conflicts of living with each other and rubbing against one another’s skins.
The second craft element that I will cover is point of view. The point of view is in the first person, through Myristica’s eyes, and because of this, we are able to see how she views the world and the people around her. We first see that the story is in the first person whenever Myristica addresses her self as I, letting us know that it will be from her point of view. One of the people that she thinks most about is her father, and as she tries to divorce him, a lot of thoughts flood her mind, giving us a taste of how she views him.
I wanted dad to have a long and happy life, while also wanting him to die instantly.
In the quote above, Myristica’s thoughts clearly show us that she wants her dad to be happy, but also wants him to die as well. Because this story is in the first person, we get all of our information of the father through the eyes of Myristica, providing a slightly distorted view of the father: we know that he can be annoying, but with Myristica’s thoughts, we see him as much worse than that, hence the way she thinks about her desire for her father’s death. Another way Myristica sees her father is with longing.
Where is that Dad, I wonder, who was bad but meant good? Who sang off-key but at least sang?
The father becomes very distant as his political life overwhelms his family life and even though Myristica becomes very annoyed and angry at her father, she longs for the family man he used to be. Through Myristica’s eyes, we get not only the negative sides to characters, but also the positive sides, making a realistic three dimensional setting, but with this, there also other points throughout the story whenever Myristica’s thoughts about her father are neither negative or positive, they just are.
[My father had] already stared into the camera with the bulging grief-stricken eyes of a saint and implored The Almighty to tell him what had gone wrong in America.
In this quote, the way she thinks of how her father stares into the camera is not a positive description, but it doesn’t seem to be negative either, giving Myristica some undecided thoughts about her father.
With first person, we are able to see how Myristica views herself as someone who does not fit in or belong in the world she lives in and also how she can have a bit of low self esteem.
I stood there, as I so often do, feeling misplaced.
In this quote, we are able to see the isolation that Myristica finds herself in wherever she is in her father’s wealthy white world and how that provides tension within her whenever she feels like she does not belong. The second instance mentioned above was whenever Myristica sees herself with low self esteem.
At night, [my dad] would steal into my room and leave lavish gifts. In the mourning, he would lurk behind the door and wait for me to express astonishment. It was like being courted by a vampire Santa Claus. Oh, God, [I thought], I’m probably making myself sound like a poor little rich girl.
In the last sentence, Myristica thinks poorly of herself for thinking it awkward for her father to behave in such a way, in a sense blaming herself and her emotions for the strange choices her father make. The point of view in this story proved to be a useful a tool in depicting an image of the world and the people in it through the eyes of Myristica.
- How would have the story differed if Steve Almond showed Myristica succeed in divorcing her father?
- Why was Twig a necessary character in this story?
Anaysis Part 2: Carson
Setting: the setting in this story is revealed through small details that are easy to miss. We know that theyre talking in Megs dads huge, luxury apartment-possible-penthouse but we dont know where until it is revealed in page 5 as being in los angeles. This is important because megs dad works as a part time dentist (i believe) and los angeles is a very cosmetic driven city. He also has a presidential campaign going and being from such a huge city could definitely benefit him. Not to mention how expensive it is to live in california especially los angeles. This adds to just how wealthy megs dad is. Another large setting in the story is Gondwana, Megs home country that she was “rescued” from by her Dad. From what we gather Gondwana is a very war stricken place which is the original reason Meg was taken away. Gondwana is described as being just how they describe in movies: hot, humid, no technology, simpler life, and remote. However, do not be mistaken to think the habiting people are less intelligent as the old woman they spoke to saw right through their shallow intentions and rightfully disregarded them. Another small setting is Twigs basement where Meg is planning to move to. This is important because it shows how adament meg is about getting away from her father, willing to leave her luxurious, comfortable life to live in a basement.
Plot: the plot in this story is pretty unusual where it doesnt really have a climax or resolution because we never actually see Meg leaving or the court. Instead, we get a lot of rising action and tension that slowly morphs into a conclusion of sorts. The small details and stories of Megs neglect and emotional abuse pile on top of eachother until the reader has no choice but to side with Meg on moving out. It almost sounds like a persuasive essay for the jury told in narrative format than a story. I feel as though if Meg shared this story with the court itd be a solid argument to have her legally cut ties with her adopted father.
Do you think you that Meg was justified in leaving her dad or was she just being bratty?
Does Megs dad have any redeemable qualities or is he just a one noted awful person?
Analysis Part 3: Elise
Gondwana depends on flashbacks to tell its story- without them, you wouldn’t know why Meg wants to divorce her father. These flashbacks help us to know the dad’s true intentions- that, really, Meg was just a publicity stunt. After mentioning her father’s campaign, Meg says that
..it was going to be worse for me because a decade ago, as a mere regional cable curiosity, Dad had given an interview to a small radio station in Winston-Salem, on the occasion of Martin Luther Kings birthday. As some of you know; he’d said, I have a daughter. A little five-year-old. She is a pure-blooded Papua New Guinean and I love her for that. I m proud she’s racially pure, that she’ll grow up knowing who she is…
Meg provides the reader with a mere glimpse into the past, within which deeper meaning can be found. The fact that is talking this way about his five-year-old daughter on a radio show says a lot about his motives. He is using the child to make a political statement. And he contradicts himself in another flashback.
One night after dinner, I asked Dad whether he was going to take me back to Gondwana, which I understood to be the place of my birth.
To where, he said, God-what-ah?
Gondwana, I said.
You come from Los Angeles, he said quietly. Eat your sundae.
He said that she would grow up knowing who she was. And yet, here he is, telling her that she comes from Los Angeles. While she did grow up there, the father doesn’t even know where she came from- how was she supposed to?
The father’s actions aren’t commented on by Meg- she’s just stating what happened. It’s up to us, the readers, to characterize the father through what he does. It’s judging someone based on what somebody’s told you- we may not have the full story, but we like to think that we don’t need it. From these beginning flashbacks, we get the image of a bad man, an evil man, who cares more about publicity than his own child. And, even when he shows vulnerability, it’s due to a threat to his publicity,
The only reason I know the truth is because I caught Dad weeping in his Media Strategy Room a few years ago. A Web site devoted to humiliating the famous had obtained his mother’s court records; the story was about to break.
The inclusion of this indicates that he isn’t found weeping often- a fact that wouldn’t be hard to believe given his stardom. But the reason that he is crying adds to the image of a publicity-crazed person- he’s crying because a website found out that his parents killed each other, and that would absolutely ruin his career if somebody found out. Meg admits that he wasn’t always like this.
Dad himself used to sing to me, back in his boozing days. He’d come home right around the time I was getting up for school and stumble into my room and bellow classic rock staples, while Elba, the German… I guess you’d call her a governess… attempted to shoo him away. He looked awful, a dark wing of hair pasted to his brow, a ghostly halo of pancake makeup rimming his jowls…
She reminisces of the old dad, the one who “was bad but meant good” and who was happy to find her in the house. Here, now, is a hint at some sort of good in the father- at least in the past. Although he is selfish and terrible now, Meg has seen him in another light before. But that dad is gone, and that’s why she wants to divorce the one she has now.
Near the end of the story is the longest flashback, that of her trip to Papua New Guinea when she was thirteen.
I know why my father hired you, I said.
Moss smiled. I’m not sure what you mean.
That old woman was supposed to recognize me or hug me or whatever. I’m not dumb, you know.”
This is the point that Meg referenced in the beginning of the text, when she mentioned to Twig that her dad was going to take her to Papua New Guinea again. The first time was a publicity stunt- unsurprising, given the character of the father- that went wrong, and Meg is fully aware that he is going to try again if she doesn’t divorce him. The fact that he’d take her again despite the failure of the first trip emphasizes the lack of concern the father has for Meg’s feelings and well-being.
Why do you think Almond included the action of the father firing “Niblet?” How does this contribute to the characterization of the father?
How might the story have been affected if the flashback of the trip to Papua New Guinea wasn’t included?