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“Wing’s Chips” by Mavis Gallant

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“Wing’s Chips” is a short story by Mavis Gallant with a powerful message. The theme of this story is that even though many people have different backgrounds and dissimilar views on what is right and wrong, they want to be respected and accepted for who they are. “Wing’s Chips” focuses on three separate cultures, who in the end, learned to respect each other in a subtle way.

A French-Canadian town is the setting for this short story. A river divides this town, with an English community on the opposite side. The town is geographically and psychologically split at the start. The father has much more in common with the English than he does with French. First of all, because he is from England and the other parents had lived there as well. Since he made the decision to live on the opposite side of the river from them, he lost his social standing. The other Englishmen ask the daughter about why her father was socializing with the “frogs”. This demonstrates their racism and strong dislike towards the French-Canadians. The father is a painter, and because of this does not have the respect of his daughter. She wants him to have a respectful job that pays well like the other men in the village. The father is considered to be of a lower social status than the others because of the way he earned his living.

The relationships between the father, daughter, and community continue to evolve throughout the story. The daughter wants her father to be more like the others, and go down to the bar to have a good time. He, on the other hand, has some ideas of his own on how she should be raised. His intention is to put her in music lessons as well as learning French, even though she is English. The daughter has a fairy-tale vision of how her father should act, and the only thing he wants is to be independent with a free will. An Englishman asked the daughter if her and her father were Catholic. Her answer, no matter what it was, imprinted a permanent view of the daughter and father to the man. The daughter is allowed to go see Notre Dame, which none of the other English children are allowed to see. She is most likely allowed to see it because her father wants her to have a better understanding of the French and their history. Even though the relationships in the story are not very positive ones, they will all change with the creation of one simple work of art.

During the story the father is labeled as being just a painter, but he is more than that. He is a caring father and respectable citizen. This is known by him willing to paint in styles that are unusual to him. An example of this is when he is asked to paint the portrait of a girl. The mother, Madame Gravelle, watches him paint and tries to “help him”. She insists that he is not focusing enough on certain features of her daughter. Given that he is not a portrait painter, he painted what he saw and what he believed to be significant. Madame Gravelle wants to show off her daughter, but he is going to paint her how he sees fit. When he is asked to paint a sign for the Wings’ store, he puts aside his artistic difference by stating that a painter is a painter.

They desire the sign to be in English, even though the majority of the village is French. The English citizens are powerful and would put lots of money into the family business. As the Wings’ are interested in money, it is a perfect opportunity. The father paints the sign the way the Wings’ want it done as does not charge them for it. After the sign is hung above the store it is highly praised. The daughter is proud of her father for once and finally respected him. The French-Canadians agree that the sign is not that bad and the English adults are impressed and believe that he was paid well for his service. Out of so many objects in the world, it is a sign that brought two very diverse cultures and a father and daughter together, at least for the time being.

“Wings’ Chips” is a story that will change the perception of life for at least some people. It shows how diverse nationalities can be intentionally separated, but with a very simple item, can become more unified. Throughout the whole story, the Englishmen frown upon the father for being so involved with the French-Canadians. When the sign is revealed, they accept his differences because it is an attractive work of art. Once he paints the sign, he is giving something back to the community and the Englishmen respect him for his simple creation that pleased them all.

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