Prejudice in ‘Panache’ and ‘The Baker’s Story’
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Kinsella and Naipaul deal with prejudice in remarkably different ways in their two stories “Panache” and “The Baker’s Story”. Through the use of setting, character, and tone, these authors try to convey their views on the ways that preconceptions can be proved wrong. “Panache” and “The Backer’s Story” show how prejudice can be overcome in an idealistic and a realistic manner.
In “Panache”, Kinsella used a variety of contrasting settings, by comparison, in “The Baker’s Story” Naipaul used a handful of similar settings. The first setting in “Panache” is the classroom at the end of the school year. This is a very important place, for it is where the group of young men have been taking a course on mechanics and it is where they learn the definition of the word panache. “His lecture was all about a French word called panache, which he says is, and I write down real carefully: the ability to exude the effect of a plume on a helmet” (Kinsella, p. 32). In the thoughts of the narrator as he contemplates about the word there is an element of foreshadowing. “I make sure I remember what he tells us but I figure I don’t have a chance to use it for maybe a long time.” (Kinsella, p. 32). The next setting is the boarding house where the men live while they work at the mine.
The house is owned by an old white couple and the young men are not sure what to expect since they “…have ever been in a white people’s house before – they even got three goldfish in a big glass jar” (Kinsella, p. 33). The group is pleasantly surprised of the way the couple treats them and is optimistic about starting work at the mine. “Boy, this is sure nice people, and things look good for us…” (Kinsella, p. 33). The third setting is the mine in which the young men are to work all summer and at first it has a large impression on the them “I never even dream there are places like this mine” (Kinsella, p. 33). They end up doing “odd jobs” until the day of Gunderson’s accident.
That night, they all gather at the bar in a hotel and collect money to buy Tom a memorial stone. All the miners try to be friendly towards Silas and Frank and constantly buy them beer as if they think that “if they buy [them] enough beer it gonna bring Tom Pony to life” (Kinsella, p. 36). The last setting is the tombstone store where Silas got to use the word panache sooner then he thought.
By contrast, in “The Baker’s Story”, Naipaul used fewer settings to make his statement. The story takes place in Trinidad, where the narrator’s mother brought him from Grenada when he was little. The first setting is the Chinese bakery in Laventille.
This place is of great importance, for this is where the narrator learned how to bake bread. After the Chinese woman dies, and her husband gambles away the business, the narrator is left jobless. He walks through town, the second setting, but finding a job proves fruitless and at the time he never thought of owning his own business. “I cruise around town a little, looking for work. But nobody want bakers…You know it never cross my mind in those days that I could open a shop of my own” (Naipaul, p. 63).
Feeling lost, the narrator prayed to God who told him “Young man, take your money and open a bakery. You could make good bread.” (Naipaul, p. 63). The narrator took God’s message to heart and bought a “breakdown old place near Arouca” to start his own business, the third setting. It is not an extravagant place, just a simple bakery that the narrator fixed himself. “I just put in a few second – hand glass case and things like that. I write up my name on a board, and look, I in business” (Naipaul, p. 64). On a walk through the town, the narrator meets an old friend of his, and they decide to go into a restaurant, the fourth setting. This setting is also of great importance, for here the narrator finds out why his business is unsuccessful. His friend Percy mentions that he does not like black “meddling” with his food. “I ask Percy why he didn’t like black people meddling with his food. … He stop and think and say, “It don’t look nice” ” (Naipaul, p.
67). Then the narrator remembers the Chinese bakery he worked for, and how the owners never let him serve bread, and knows what he has to do. He renames his shop “Yung Man”, hires Chinese teller and “never shows [his] face in the front of the shop again”.
The development of the main character is done in contrasting ways. In “Panache” the persona of Tom is developed indirectly through the narrator – his friend Silas. Tom says little so it is often difficult to get his opinion, but when he does talk he says highly intellectual things. When then young men are discussing the possibility of hiding their Native background, Tom points out that “With names like Silas Ermineskin, Donald Bobtail and Rufus Firestrider, it not going to be so hard for them to guess.” (Kinsella, p.
32). While on the way to the mine, some of the miners look funny at them, Tom exchanges thoughts with Frank.
“”Maybe they don’t have no Indians in this part of the country,” whispers Frank.
“Maybe they do,” say Tom Pony.”” (Kinsella, p. 33).
Most of the time, however, he keeps his thoughts to himself, and lets his actions speak for him.
When comparing Tom to the narrator from “The Baker’s Story”, a number of differences can be seen. The baker tells his own story, so his feelings are always made clear “I make my dough from dough” (Naipual, p. 59). The baker is a survivor. He did not have a happy childhood. He has no idea about who his father is “…I don’t even know who was the feller who hit my mother” (Naipual, p. 59). He has little respect for his mother “mammy bring me alone over to Trinidad…Somehow she get another man, a real Trinidad ‘rangoutang, and somehow, I don’t know how, she get somebody else to look after me while she was living with this man…”(Naipual, p. 59). The baker uses every opportunity to learn and is a very hard – working individual “We Grenadians understand hard work…” (Naipual, p. 60).. The baker is a product of his environment, and he accepts all of the prejudices in his city and eventually learned how to use them to his benefit “Then the thing hit me, man.…You ever see anybody buying their bread of a black man? “(Naipual, p. 67).
“Panache” and “The Baker’s Story” also have contrasting tones. On is didactic and is intended to teach the reader a lesson, while the other is ironic. “Panache” is very subtle in presenting its message of being the better man and rising above prejudice. Tom could have let Gunderson fall to his death, but in rescuing him, Tom showed his respect for life, and did not let the petty and ignorant views of the miners interfere with his decision, thus proving to being the bigger man. “Afterward, everyone say how Tom is a hero and all and what a good Indian he is because he save Gunderson’s life even though he was trying to get Tom fired.” (Kinsella, p. 35). The tone of the story changes from unsure and insecure about their heritage, to being proud of their names and who they are.
“”His name?” said the man “Tom Pony.” “Thomas…” “No. Just Tom.”” (Kinsella, p. 37).
“The Baker’s Story”, however, presents its ideas and message of using prejudice for ones advantage much more bluntly. In the story, certain people are viewed as only being able to do certain things. The Chinese baked bread, the Indians were coconut sellers and so forth “And then I see that though Trinidad have every race and colour, every race have to do special things” (Naipual, p. 67). The baker thinks that black people “get so used to working for other people they get to believe that because they black they can’t do nothing else but work for other people” (Naipual, p. 63).
Two people with different backgrounds, having no education, found their own ways of dealing with prejudice through understanding their uniqueness. Kinsella presented an idealist vision of how prejudice can be overcome, whereas Naipaul showed an ironic but realistic way of making prejudice work to ones advantage.