Caroline, or Change
P. 11, Caroline: “cause they ain‟t no under ground in Louisiana. There is only under
P. 21, Caroline: “God sometimes eat people, like a wolf. He make this whole world as a
test. Cancer was your momma‟s test,...
P. 31. Dotty: “Honorin the brave Confed‟rate Soldier, The South‟s Defender, the Civil
War…ain‟t there no more, it ain‟t th...
P. 39, Grandma and Grandpa Gellman: “JFK, JFK, beat the Russions, saved the day,
stopped the Jew-haters and their bomb, st...
slightly ironic because for somebody who is so against change, JFK was probably not
Caroline‟s favorite.
P. 46, Noah: “My ...
The change Noah is leaving in his pocket is slowly going up and up from pennies to
nickels to dimes. This incremental chan...
P. 69, Caroline: “Money don‟t buy happiness.” The Washing Machine: “Pocket change
for.” The Washing Machine and the Radio:...
what sixteen feet beneath the sea looks like for Caroline. The image helps you understand
why Caroline is drowning. She ca...
The statue is a physical reminder of the civil war and continuing marginalization of
African Americans. It shows that even...
of the older generations something other than being a maid. This illustrates, once again,
he resistance to change.
P. 93, ...
he and I will live here, in this house, all alone, and I‟ll say to him, „Noah, the moon shone
so bright when she played he...
affects Noah, he revolts. It changed his attitude, just as it changed Caroline‟s and made
her take the money.
P. 104, Caro...
stuck in the mindset of the older generation when the world around her is changing so
rapidly and the mindset of the newer...
P. 116, Caroline: “That money…That money…That money reach in and spin me about,
my hate rise up, rip my insides out.”
P. 124, Caroline: “That sorrow deep inside you, it‟s inside me too, and it never go away.
You be OK. You‟ll learn how to l...
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Annotations for Caroline, or Change


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Annotations for Caroline, or Change

  1. 1. Annotations Caroline, or Change P. 11, Caroline: “cause they ain‟t no under ground in Louisiana. There is only under water.” Although this book was written in 1999, this opening line almost foreshadows Hurricane Katrina. The separation of underground from underwater is also interesting. Underground, you can escape (e.g. underground railroad), but underwater provokes an image of drowning, or no escape. P. 12, Caroline: “Sixteen feet below sea level!” This is an metaphor alluding to the fact that Caroline feels like she‟s drowning. P. 14, Noah: “Every day she stands between the radio and the washing machine.” This is symbolic of where Caroline is in the order of the world – right in between the radio and washing machine – not in between people, but objects. P. 16, The Radio: “well it ain‟t no mystery, she took a wrong step, took a wrong step, took a wrong step, slip and fell! Downward bound, under ground, found her sinful self in hell, found her sinful self in hell.” The basement is symbolic of Caroline‟s hell. She is stuck there and can‟t escape. But why? P. 17, The Dryer: “purgatory” Purgatory is a place of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before heaven. So the basement is Caroline‟s hell. P. 17, Caroline: “Been twenty-two years of cleaning. For all them years I worked and prayed. Every day I doing laundry, thirty-nine and still a maid, in Nineteen Sixty-Three.” 1963 was at the heart of the American Civil Rights Movement. During this time period, there was a lot of faith in a brighter future, but still lingering doubts. Caroline is still a slave (in a way). P. 20, Rose: “Cabbage boiled, iron beets, it makes them strong, children should be strong, and BIG! Big strong children” Rose uses the words “big” and “strong”, which is interesting given how “small” Caroline is relative to the world. Cabbage symbolizes the white way to Caroline, which she refuses to accept. P. 21, Grandpa Gellman: “Pack after pack of cigarettes, we warned her they‟d harm her, she wouldn‟t listen. They killed her, she‟s dead, they killed her she died” Wasn‟t it not until much later that the world truly began to understand the terribleness of cigarettes? Cigarettes are stark contrast to cabbage. It‟s almost as if Rose is to cabbage as Noah‟s real mother is to a cigarette.
  2. 2. P. 21, Caroline: “God sometimes eat people, like a wolf. He make this whole world as a test. Cancer was your momma‟s test, and her death is your test, you been tested to.” If everything is a test, what is Caroline‟s? Is it: can Caroline persevere through all of the changes ahead? P. 22, Stuart: “There is no God, Noah, we don‟t believe in God. In all that corny stuff. We‟re scientific people! Space is infinite and empty and cold, people are descended from apes, actually and usually act worst than apes, and a boy your age should sleep without a light on, and your mother is dead and there is no God.” The death of Stuart‟s wife (Noah‟s mother) sparked a complete loss in faith and abandonment of religion. Even though he is remarried and Rose is the “perfect” housewife, maybe what is supposed to be “perfect” isn‟t and it leaves him being unhappy. Is Caroline‟s loss of faith in society really any different from Stuart‟s? P. 22, Stuart: “Wonderful things come to an end. Marry a friend. Make a new start.” Stuart makes it sound easy. Persevering through loss is much more difficult than this, and Stuart knows this. But he is trying to talk himself into what he thinks is good for him. P. 25, Rose: “Magnolia, camellia, azalea, y‟all.” Magnolia, camellia, and azalea are all types of garden flowers and flowering plants. P. 25, Rose: “goyim” Goyim is a Yiddish word for non-Jews, usually used in a somewhat derogatory sense. P. 26, Rose: “I bought a new dress…Wecan’t give her a raise! Pa! We aren‟t rich, we‟re just plain folk, we‟ve only got bupkes ourselves – we‟re broke.” When it comes to Rose, or her family, they don‟t seem to be poor, but when it comes to Caroline, they are? It‟s pure selfishness. Rose‟s compassion toward Caroline is completely superficial. P. 27, Rose: “I miss the Upper West Side.” The Upper West Side is an area of New York filled and associated with wealthy white people. It is a very haughty environment there, which is polar opposite to Caroline‟s and might explain the artificialness in their relationship. P. 28, Dotty: “Mrs. Griffin lettin me off early these days, on account of night school. She likehavin a maid goin to college. Make her feel sort of fancy.” Dotty is following the white way. She is letting Mrs. Griffin decide what is good for her, and not acting autonomously. P. 30, Dotty: “Everyone down to the college, everyone wear these shoes, and I don‟t see that you got call to – you the one that change! You change!” 1963 is right in the heart of change and the Civil Rights Movement. It‟s ironic that Dotty thinks Caroline has changed, when in reality, Dotty is the one changing along with the times, while Caroline is resisting that change.
  3. 3. P. 31. Dotty: “Honorin the brave Confed‟rate Soldier, The South‟s Defender, the Civil War…ain‟t there no more, it ain‟t there no more.” The solider symbolizes the war, and serves as a physical reminder. It also is important to keep in mind that it honors the south, who fought to keep slavery, and so taking it down is a symbol of change and progress. P. 32, The Moon: “Change come fast and change come slow but change come, Caroline, Thibodeaux.” Kushner uses repetition to really emphasize this theme that change comes in many forms, but change is unavoidable. I wonder why Caroline is afraid of such a positive form of change? P. 33, Dotty: “now it seem you come to some confusion, you losin courage, you losin light, lost your old shine, lost Caroline.” I do not think Caroline has lost touch with herself. In fact, she is more in touch with herself than any of the other characters. But she has lost touch with the times. Dotty cannot fully understand this as somebody who has given into the changing times. P. 33, The Moon: “spotless white” White symbolizes innocence and perfection. It‟s the “white way” that African American‟s like Dotty are following because it is “good” for them. P. 33, Dotty: “frogs” Why do frogs keep coming up? Frogs are ugly in nature, so maybe, from the viewpoint of 1963 society, frogs symbolize African Americans? This is like the third time frogs have come up. P. 34, Caroline: “Nothing ever changes under ground in Louisiana.” The under ground symbolizes the older generation, so of course if Caroline stays “under ground” for the rest of her life, she can avoid change. P. 34, The Bus: “The earth, the earth has bled. The president oh blight November winter night the president is dead.” This alludes to the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. P. 35, The Bus: “Step on board; time for departing”, Rose: “Noah please come here”, The Bus: “Into the nighttime toward what lies ahead.” Kushner‟s writing style creates a flow that makes it difficult to recognize that different characters are speaking. He makes it difficult to differentiate the inanimate objects from the living, breathing characters, which might be his way of making an argument that all are equal. P. 37, Noah: “Caroline is king and Caroline is queen and Caroline is stronger than my dad; it isn‟t true, she doesn‟t hate it, she‟s a lot stronger, stronger than you.” Caroline‟s strength is a symbol of her perseverance, but why does Noah think she is so strong? She has not persevered at all? Or has she?
  4. 4. P. 39, Grandma and Grandpa Gellman: “JFK, JFK, beat the Russions, saved the day, stopped the Jew-haters and their bomb, stopped their nuclear pogrom. Dedicated to undo American anti-Semites too! Friend to the colored, friend to the Jew. „Ask not what your country can do for you!‟” Noah‟s Grandparents are making historical references to the JFK administration‟s policies. For this, he earned 70% of the African American vote when he was elected. P. 39, Dotty: “JFK, JFK, swore to help black folk some day. Sure he was a little slow, getting round to doing so, but he swore it and I know he was set to help our cause, meant to pass some proper laws.” Dotty is alluding to the historical fact that when JFK was elected, he led the African American population to believe he would do great things for them while in office (which he did intend to do). However, when he took office, he had to do it in small baby steps because he did not want to lose the support of the southerners. This might be what Caroline means when she says “change come fast and change come slow”. P. 41, Caroline: “Don‟t give yourself options. Most folks lives without em.” There are no options in the basement, and Caroline is stuck in the basement. P. 42, Emmie and the Radio: “I know, the radio play music anyway! Just some old white man sent Larry off to Vietnam. Sorry he dead I ain‟t killed him.” There‟s this notion that music makes everything alright. Somebody might have died, but the radio played music anyway. Music illustrates people‟s ignorance in a way. P. 43, Caroline: “Emmie Thibodeaux! Since when you say “black man”? Say colored or Negro, like you was raised up to.” The terms colored and negro symbolize the older generation, while black man is, in this period, more politically correct and thus symbolizes the newer generation. Caroline is trying to push her resistance to change on her children. P. 43, Emmie and the Radio: “Say he do stuff for us, get our vote, he just ignore us, same old story, Mama, same tired old lie. If you got to do it Mama go ahead and cry. I ain‟t got no tears to shed for no dead white guy.” This is a historical reference again to JFK‟s slow-moving approach to passing civil rights laws. But JFK had little choice if he wanted to keep enough support to stay in office. This is the first time we see Emmie following in Caroline‟s footsteps by losing faith. P. 44, Noah: “President Caroline! President Caroline Thibodeaux!” Noah looks up to Caroline as a role model, which is ironic because Caroline is as far from what a role model “should” look like in this time period. P. 45, Caroline: “Gonna pass me a law say Nat King Cole gotta come over my house come over my house come over every night and stroke my soul.” Nat King Cole was a wildly famous African American singer/songwriter during the 1950‟s and 60‟s. He was also a big supporter of John F. Kennedy, which makes this
  5. 5. slightly ironic because for somebody who is so against change, JFK was probably not Caroline‟s favorite. P. 46, Noah: “My mama liked you! I do too! You‟re implacable, indestructible, Mama said. I‟m always sad. I like it that you‟re always mad. And I can tell you like me too. At least I think you do.” Noah has developed a very one-sided, fantasy sort of relationship with Caroline. Caroline is Noah‟s last remaining link to his mother, and so he looks up to Caroline as a motherly figure. But Caroline does not care much for Noah. P. 47, Caroline: “And I want the night to stay nighttime forever so I can sit smoking here, so I never have to get up, go to work, be polite.” Night symbolizes the same idea as the basement – it‟s an escape. It‟s also interesting because at night, you can‟t see or differentiate skin color, so I wonder if her love for the night is really a cry for equality that she doesn‟t want to articulate. P. 48, Rose: “maybe it‟s change, he has learned to hate change! I bet that‟s it, just call me Sigmund Freud, don‟t you think I‟m right Caroline? Noah hates change” Noah‟s fear of change might be similar to Caroline‟s. Noah fears change because he does not want to lose more than he already has (his mother). Caroline has also lost so much and can barely provide for her family on her $30/week salary, so she can‟t afford to lose more. P. 51, Stuart: “Eight? Only eight? But you‟re in fourth grade now. Really, you‟re sure? Isn‟t that weird. It‟s like a whole year, just…I don‟t know, just disappeared. I have to get back to the clarinet. Practice the cello.” Music almost stands in for emotion in Stuart‟s world. Maybe this alludes to why Kushner wrote Caroline, or Change as a musical rather than straight dialogue. Noah‟s poor relationship with his father might also be the root of Noah‟s desire for a relationship with Caroline. P. 52, Stuart: “I hope you‟ll save it till you‟re older buy yourself a chemistry set.” Stuart tells Noah to save his money, whereas Caroline cannot afford to save any money. Everything is immediate. This gives some insight into the hardships faced by Caroline. P. 52, Caroline: “My kids could go down to the dime store and get the shiny junk they make to catch a kid‟s eye. And what they sees and what they wants they could buy. Stuff I can‟t buy em now, always in the lurch. Some weeks I could even tithe at Church.” Kushner places this passage directly after Noah‟s wish list, creating a contrast between the two. Noah‟s wish list is a list of items for himself, whereas Caroline does not list a single thing for herself, she only wants to give to others. P. 53, Noah: “That night I leave a dime and a nickel in my pants pocket to see what will happen; Caroline finds them.”
  6. 6. The change Noah is leaving in his pocket is slowly going up and up from pennies to nickels to dimes. This incremental change reflects the underlying theme that keeps coming up of “change comes fast and change come slow”. P. 53, Caroline: “A grown woman got no business taking pennies from a baby.” Taking change from Noah would be dehumanizing to Caroline. P. 55, Caroline: “Take your dollar, get upstairs! Out my basement!” The basement is a symbol for Caroline‟s safe haven – a place in which she can separate herself from the world that is full of big, scary change. But in the very beginning of the book, she said there weren‟t any basements in Louisiana, which might mean that there‟s really no place to hide, change will find you and change is coming! P. 57, Caroline: “Open sesame! Tell me what you see! Somethin silver shiny all your own now, all your own.” Caroline possesses such great love for her family that her extra money goes to her kids instead of herself; this might explain why she does not want to care for Noah as he cares for her. She doesn‟t have the room in her life for more responsibility. She is “sixteen feet below water” as she said in the beginning, and Noah would push her even further down. P. 60, Noah: “Stoopnagle” A stoopnagle is a slow-witted, dumb person. P. 63, Noah: “They talk about how my mama died they talk about my tragedy they wish they could take me in and I could live with Caroline and Emmie Jackie Larry Joe, Emmie Jackie Larry Joe. Each evening I could up and go home to be a Thibodeaux. Emmie Jackie Larry Joe and Noah Noah Thibodeaux.” Noah continues to live in this fantasy world in which he believes Caroline is his saving grace. I think this fantasy is Noah‟s cry for help. Although on the surface he has everything a kid can dream of, he wants nothing more than to have his mother and family back. It might all seem perfect (like cabbage, or Rose), but it isn‟t. The reality is far from his fantasy. And plus, Caroline and her family have much more to worry about than Noah (e.g. food, shelter, clothing, etc.). Noah is too ignorant to understand this. P. 63, Jackie: But Roosevelt is sitting longside of the moon, and he says, „Miss Moon, will you be my Mrs.?‟” Roosevelt was president during World War II, which is the war in which Caroline‟s ex- husband fought. The moon might symbolize healing and peace? P. 69, Caroline: “Can‟t afford embarrassment.” Embarrassment is at the heart of Caroline‟s actions and motives for everything – not taking the money, resisting change. I can‟t imagine what it would be like to balance basic, human needs with shame.
  7. 7. P. 69, Caroline: “Money don‟t buy happiness.” The Washing Machine: “Pocket change for.” The Washing Machine and the Radio: “Sayin Yes!” The Washing Machine: “Little blessings, gone unless you take em home.” Caroline: “Little bit of grace…” The general principal of “money don‟t buy happiness” is how the world should work. But the world doesn‟t work in the way it should. Everything is not cabbage. Caroline faces such great hardships that a “little blessing” or a “little bit of grace” would go a very long way. P. 70, The Washing Machine: “Nineteen-Forty-Five the navy send you home your handsome man.” This alludes to a historical reference. 1945 was the end of World War II with Japan. P. 70, Caroline: Thank you Jesus, thank you navy! He is home now, every limb is beauty, lovely like a tree. Falling deep in love with him.” Did Caroline love him for him or his beauty? P. 71, The Washing Machine and the Radio: “Back in Nineteen-Forty-Seven”, Caroline: “Ain‟t no work for Negro man.” Caroline is alluding to the historical fact that after World War II, African Americans had trouble finding work. There was a great deal of anger because African Americans were good enough to risk their lives for their country, but not good enough to have a job when they returned. P. 72, The Radio: “Pain is white, remember pain? Pain is white, that is its color, bright as sunshine.” There is an ongoing theme of whiteness. It is a white world where everything is white. And white is the bright, happy color. Everything else is not. P. 73, Caroline: “Please give me a mop and bucket. Please, a white folks‟ house to tend. Please some money, feed the babies, choke his throat when he drink liquor, make my sis help with my babies, let him see he mess with me after I have spent the day putting white folks‟ clothes away, tell him God, if he ever everever hit me again…” Caroline is describing a desire for the life that was lived by the older generation (and that she currently lives). She has this unbreakable resistance to change in part because life is already heard enough. She has so much to worry about that she can‟t take on any more worry. So she wants everything to stay as it is with a “white folks‟ house to tend” and her “mop and bucket”. P. 73, The Radio: “Change come fast and change come slow” This phrase keeps appearing. Kushner uses repetition to emphasize what I believe to be his argument – change comes in baby steps, but those baby steps can add up to big changes over time. P. 75, Caroline: “Sixteen feet beneath the sea” Sixteen feet beneath the sea is symbolic of Caroline‟s hell. This came up in the very beginning of the book, so Kushner is using repetition to paint this powerful picture of
  8. 8. what sixteen feet beneath the sea looks like for Caroline. The image helps you understand why Caroline is drowning. She can‟t get to the surface. P. 75, Rose: “You must‟ve ironed over it! Look! It‟s the head of the Father of our Country! Mr. George Washington, seared into the fabric like the face of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin!” The Shroud of Turin is a centuries old linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man. Many believe this crucified man is Jesus. P. 78, Rose: “Some people, honestly! There‟s oppression and misery, and then there are people who‟re just plain nasty.” Maybe it is the oppression and misery that make people nasty? Even so, I don‟t think Rose is correct. Caroline isn‟t nasty. She‟s just scared, and rightfully so. P. 81, The Gellmans and Mr. Stopnick: “colloquies” Colloquies are a gathering for discussion of theological questions. P. 81, The Gellmans and Mr. Stopnick: “we celebrate it anyway!” There is a very prevalent element of superficiality here in celebrating something just to celebrate it. They are doing it because it is what they‟re supposed to do – it‟s good for them. This is exactly what Caroline is resisting giving in to – accepting what others say is good for them. P. 82, The Gellmans and Mr. Stopnick: “Mikamochaba-eilimAdonai? Mikamocha ne-e- darba-ko-desh?” The mi kamocha prayer is a Jewish prayer that essentially says: you, God, are the one and only God, and there is no one like you. It‟s ironic because at one point, Stuart said there is no God, only science. This might explain why they end every line of the prayer with a question mark. They are saying it just to say it, and because of that, the prayer loses its substance and meaning. P. 85, Grandma and Grandpa Gellman: “Let‟s not dwell on the ugly things! Let‟s thank God for the joys He brings! Watch the colored candles melt! Spin the dreidel for Chanukah Gelt! Let‟s be merry, let‟s be funny!” Kushner‟s writing style almost accentuates the absurdity of this attitude. There is almost a tradeoff – your happiness or another person‟s happiness, similar to the idea of “where did this change come from?” P. 86, Grandma Gellman: “Stuart! Play your clarinet!” Music is used as a way to forget almost. It‟s a distracting, yet emotional force that grounds the play in a sort of subconscious emotion. P. 87, Dotty: “Ugly thing. Ugly thing! The South‟s Defender. Hey! Cracker Joe, LEE SURRENDERED! The thing is over, baby! Dead! Don‟t cry! And kiss that huge ugly head good-bye.”
  9. 9. The statue is a physical reminder of the civil war and continuing marginalization of African Americans. It shows that even after the war was over, the war was never really over. P. 88, Emmie: “We ain‟t got a TV set, not yet. We only got a radio.” The TV set is symbolic of African American civil rights and big change. The radio is small. This relates back to the theme, “change come fast and change come slow.” P. 89, Grandma and Grandpa Gellman: “Such a shonde such a tsimmes!” Shonde is a Yiddish word meaning shame, or scandal. Tsimmes is a traditional Jewish sweet stey. P. 89, Grandma and Grandpa Gellman: “Here come the latkes!” Latkes are a Jewish potato pancake traditionally eaten during Chanukah. P. 89, “Papa, look we saved the pupick just for you! The pupick, Papa!” The pupick is a Yidish word for belly button. P. 90, Emmie: “I think it‟s a Negro thing, a southern thing, a Christian thing. Mister, you don‟t understand how Dr. King has got things planned.” Mr. Stopnick: “Oh Jews can be nonviolent too. There‟s nothing meeker than a Jew! Listen girlie, we have learned: nonviolence will get you burned.” The dialogue between Emmie and Mr. Stopnick draws a parallel between the hardships of African Americans in the South and Jews in the South during this time period. But it‟s almost ironic that Mr. Stopnick is advocating against non-violence given that the Jews are such a peaceful people. P. 91, Emmie: “I‟d like to know how some guy just off a plane marchin in to explain, guess you seen it all plain from the air? It our affair. Now our resistance start to make a difference here come your „assistance.‟” She is essentially asking, why is it right for a white guy who doesn‟t understand the struggles of the African Americans to suddenly lend a helping hand and fix all of their problems? And I think she‟s right – it isn‟t. He doesn‟t understand. Nobody does others than those affected by it. P. 92, Caroline: “We‟ll start cleaning, in the kitchen, then go home.” Cleaning is symbolic of Caroline‟s resistance to change and retreat to the older generation. She keeps going back to it, like a magnet. P. 92, Caroline: “Lord I raised a spoiled brat. They your boss! You ain‟t a queen!” This is ironic because Emmie is the farthest thing from a spoiled brat. She has nothing, and was only standing up for herself – which is a characteristic of the newer generation. Caroline pulling her back is an attempt to force Emmie back into her mindset, the older generation. The idea of the queen comes up earlier too when Noah calls Caroline a queen, saying “Queen Caroline!” But Caroline knows that a queen represents something outside
  10. 10. of the older generations something other than being a maid. This illustrates, once again, he resistance to change. P. 93, Dotty: “You watch your pride ain‟t just conceit. Think bein a maid what she prefer? Go on, make things like they were. Apologize to her.” There are two themes going on here – pride and resistance to change. Pride is what keeps Caroline from taking the change from the bleach cup, and interacting as Rose‟s friend instead of as her maid. And the “make things like they were” is symbolic of the idea of retreating to Caroline‟s mindset – go back to the mindset of the older generation and resist the change going on in society today. P. 94, Mr. Stopnick: “Think of someone who is poor: and know you stole this gold from them. Especially here in the Devil‟s South! You rip your gold from a starving man‟s mouth.” This parallels the idea of a tradeoff between happiness (brought up in an earlier annotation). It is symbolic of the tradeoff between your riches and others – if you have money, somebody else doesn‟t. And it‟s easy to forget about that other person when you‟re the one with money, but the second that you become that other person without money, you sure as heck don‟t forget about the person with money. P. 95, Dotty: “It‟s cold tonight; my feet are numb; I‟m tired waiting for a bus that won‟t come.” The bus is symbolic of change and the ongoing theme of “change comes fast and change comes slow.” The bus might be coming slow, but eventually Dotty won‟t have to wait because the bus will arrive. P. 96, Emmie: “The day come soon, I‟ll pack up the nothin I own. And I‟ll live in my house, and I‟ll make it OK, by myself, all alone.” This parallels the theme of being sixteen feet beneath water brought up in the beginning. She paints a picture of her future in which she is completely isolated. And while it might seem like a beautiful thing to be sixteen feet beneath water staring down at all of the beauty in the ocean, you‟re still alone and drowning. P. 97, Stuart: “To him I have grown as remote as Tibet.” Tibet is a region in Asia. P. 97, Stuart: “The bigger he grows, the stranger we get. Gone are the days of our simple duet: his piccolo piping, my bass clarinet. All gone, nothing left but a note of regret. Never oh never oh never forget her, never forget her of never forget.” Music almost stands in for emotion, but I think it does so in an artificial way. There is no way that anything can replace Noah‟s mother (Stuart‟s wife). Not Rose. Not cabbage. Not money. Not a happy Chanukah dinner. And because there is this artificial stand-in for emotion, it is growing Mr. Gellman and Noah farther and farther apart. P. 97, Stuart: “I‟ll stand here eight days till the last candle‟s burned, and the guests and the maid and poor Rose have returned to wherever they came from. Till Noah has grown,
  11. 11. he and I will live here, in this house, all alone, and I‟ll say to him, „Noah, the moon shone so bright when she played her bassoon that last Chanukah night.‟” Maybe music is not a stand-in for emotion (as I suggested earlier), but it is Stuart‟s last connection to his wife. It is his one last memory that he can carry on by playing his own music. Kushner might be trying to argue that no matter how perfect or important everything seems, when all is set in done (when everybody goes home to “wherever they came from”), all that matters is love and family. P. 98, Stuart: “Oh do you remember? The way it shone? On the house, on the three of us here, all alone…All alone…” Is the moon symbolic of Noah‟s mother? Is it Noah‟s mother looking down on them? P. 100, Noah: “Drawing doodles, Maccabees, bumblebees, Christmas trees and all the toys I plan to buy with…” Noah‟s wish list revolves around Noah and nobody else. There seems to be a slight hint at the theme of materialism. P. 101, Noah: “Anyhow she can‟t – it‟s MINE! She can‟t have my money! I‟ll sue! Aw come on clock!” “Change come fast and change come slow” is represented here in that the physical change Noah leaves in his pocket is slowly growing bigger and bigger – from pennies, to dimes, to quarters, to dollar bills to a twenty dollar bill. But once it becomes a twenty, the stakes are raised and Noah is ready to revolt. This is symbolic of small change leading to big change literally and figuratively. P. 103, Noah: “No she didn‟t! Pocket change! She never said you could have my present!” When it‟s pocket change (small change), it doesn‟t seem to matter, but when that small change adds up to a twenty-dollar bill (big, fast change), it‟s suddenly a big debacle (change come fast and change come slow). P. 103, Noah: “Don‟t leave your money all over the place. Now I can take my boy to the dentist! Now I can buy real presents for Christmas. The twenty‟s mine, now go away, ain‟t nothing but money, you gots plenty, rules are rules!” What makes Caroline take the twenty-dollar bill after she refused to take the money in the bleach cup? Could it be that the pocket change doesn‟t really do much (small change can only help you make baby steps), but it isn‟t until the change becomes big that reality sets in and she realizes that she can make a difference in her own life and more importantly the life of her family. P. 104, Noah: “There‟s a bomb! President Johnson has built a bomb special made to kill all Negroes! I hate you, hate you, kill all Negroes! Really! For true! I hope he drops his bomb on you!” This is the first serious conflict between Noah and Caroline in the entire play. It‟s interesting that the moment change (both the money version and figuratively, the verb)
  12. 12. affects Noah, he revolts. It changed his attitude, just as it changed Caroline‟s and made her take the money. P. 104, Caroline: “Noah, hell is like this basement, only hotter than this, hotter than August, with the washer and the dryer and the boiler full blast, hell‟s hotter than goose fat, much hotter than that. Hell‟s so hot it makes flesh fry.” The analogy is flipped. In the beginning, the basement is like hell. Now, hell is like the basement. It paints a picture and is symbolic of Caroline‟s misery and internal struggle. P. 104, Caroline: “And hell‟s where Jews go when they die. Take your twenty dollars baby. So long, Noah, good-bye.” This is the first time Kushner makes Caroline out to be a strong, powerful woman. She is finally refusing to be meek, and marginalized. Giving the twenty dollars back to Noah and leaving is symbolic of her unwillingness to continue to resist change. It is her transition from the mindset of the older generation to the new. P. 107, Rose: “And look, in the bleach cup: a twenty dollar bill.” The twenty-dollar bill being in the bleach cup is symbolic of white money. When Caroline left the twenty dollars in that cup, she symbolically refused to subscribe to whiteness. P. 108, Mr. Stopnick: “No, Rose, I think the twenty is mine. I thought I‟d lost it.” The twenty-dollar bill goes back to its original owner, the white man. But it should be Caroline‟s twenty dollar bill. It was in the bleach cup. So he stole it from her. This goes back to the theme of a tradeoff – if you have money, somebody else doesn‟t. You‟re money is somebody else‟s lack thereof. P. 108, Rose: “and things around here have been sort of tough” Really? You‟re going to tell Dotty things have been tough? Rose wouldn‟t know tough if it hit her smack dab in the face. P. 109, Rose: “to just up and vanish without an adieu” That would be the white way of leaving or quitting. It is what Caroline “should” do. But Caroline refuses the white way. P. 109, Rose: “I worry a lot. Thank, Dotty. You‟re swell. (She hangs up. Imitating Dotty:) You can all go to hell! I‟m not the enemy!” There is obviously a stark contrast between Rose‟s tone and words and Dotty‟s. This contrast illustrates Rose‟s artificialness and ignorance toward the non-perfect. The moment things start to go wrong in her perfect world, she doesn‟t understand why Dotty is yelling at her and essentially suppresses it. P. 110, Mr. Stopnick: “Then you marry his father but you don‟t belong.” This draws an interesting parallel between Rose and Caroline. They both live in worlds to which they don‟t belong. Rose moved from the predominantly Jewish, haughty-taughty Upper West Side to the ultra-Christian South in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Caroline is
  13. 13. stuck in the mindset of the older generation when the world around her is changing so rapidly and the mindset of the newer generation is the polar opposite. P. 110, Rose: “And while you were giving me this third degree perhaps you neglected to notice that he still won‟t let me near him – so I‟ve failed.” Mr. Stopnick: “…Wait and see.” Mr. Stopnick is saying, “change come fast and change come slow.” It has to do with the idea that sometimes things take time, but if you give it that time and are patient, that thing might finally surface. P. 111, Rose: “I‟m not the boss. Her loss. Leave it be and let it end. It‟s just no way to treat a friend.” Rose is the boss. She does not understand that Caroline does not see her as a friend. Black people are not friends with white in Caroline‟s world. Caroline is stuck in the old generation and Rose is in the new. The two generations metaphorically speaking do not talk to one another – they speak different languages. Rose can‟t understand Caroline and Caroline can‟t understand Rose. This is kind of similar to Emmie‟s point that no white man can fix the black man‟s problem. Only a black man can do it. P. 113, Chapter Title: “Lot‟s Wife” Lot‟s Wife refers to a passage from the Book of Genesis that describes the story of how the wife of Lot became a pillar of salt after she looked back at Sodom. P. 114, Dotty: “Change yourself, Caroline, learn something new! Show her your fire, show her your grit, show her your new face.” Dotty is encouraging Caroline to drop her old ways and join the wave of change happening in 1963 society. But Caroline still demonstrates a strong resistance to this change. P. 115, Dotty: “I know it hurt to change. It actually hurts, learning something new, and when you full-grown, it‟s harder, that‟s true – it feel like you got to break yourself apart, it feel like you got to break your own heart, but folk do it. They do. Every day, all the time, alone, afraid, folks like you. You got to let go of where you been. You got to move on from the place you‟re in. Don‟t drown in that basement. Change or sink.” Dotty identifies the heart and soul of Caroline‟s internal struggle with change. When Dotty says, “change or sink,” it alludes to Caroline‟s position – sixteen feet below water. She is far enough down that she could stay there and drown, or she could save herself and swim up. But she doesn‟t know what‟s above the surface. It could be anything. This is Caroline‟s fear. This is what drives her to resist change. P. 116, Caroline: “Sixteen feet below sea level. Caught tween the Devil and the muddy brown sea…” It‟s almost a lose-lose situation for Caroline no matter what she decides. But which one is the Devil and which is the muddy brown sea? Which is better?
  14. 14. P. 116, Caroline: “That money…That money…That money reach in and spin me about, my hate rise up, rip my insides out.” What do you do when you have to choose between your own pride and the possibility of a brighter future? P. 116, Caroline: “Pocket change change me, pocket change change me, can‟t afford loose change, can‟t afford change, changin‟s a danger for a woman like me.” It‟s ironic that the pocket change symbolizes change (the verb) because they are both the same word. Kushner wants his reader to mix the two up because they are in this analogy two of the same. Caroline also brings up the theme of temptation. She is tempted to accept change, but it‟s dangerous if you don‟t know what that change will bring. P. 117, Caroline: “hope‟s fine hope‟s fine hope‟s fine – till it turn to mud.” Caroline knows “change come fast and change come slow,” but it‟s really difficult to accept it when it continues to come slow – it would almost be less stressful for change to not come at all. Maybe this alludes to a theme of patience? P. 117, Caroline: “I‟m gonna slam that iron down on my heart gonna slam that iron down on my throat gonna slam that iron down on my sex gonna slam it slam it slam it down until I drown the fire out till there ain‟t no air left anywhere.” Kushner uses imagery to paint a clear picture of the level of emotion built up inside Caroline. Slamming an iron down is Caroline‟s resistance to change. She will always revert to the iron (being a maid). She will continue to be marginalized and live sixteen feet below water, because that‟s the only life she knows. P. 118, Caroline: “Murder me God down in that basement, murder my dreams so I stop wantin, murder my hope of him returnin, strangle the pride that make me crazy.” This is Caroline‟s tipping point. She can‟t take any more. She wants to stay sixteen feet below water because she is too scared. There is too much anxiety on the other side. P. 118, Caroline: “Tear out my heart strangle my soul turn me to sale a pillar of salt a broken stone and then…” This is a historical reference alluding to the story of Lot‟s wife. God told Lot and his wife they could leave, but if they looked back, he would turn Lot‟s wife into a pillar of salt. And she did. Caroline so desperately wants to look back. She doesn‟t mind continuing to fall apart into grains of salt if it means not having to worry about the impact of the changes ahead. P. 122, Noah: “If there‟s only water under ground, is my mother buried under water.” This draws a parallel between Noah‟s mother and Caroline. While Caroline might be living, she, on the inside, is dead. P. 123, Caroline: “Someday we‟ll talk again. Just gotta wait.” Patience is key in accepting the underlying idea of “change come fast and change come slow.” Baby steps can lead to big leaps.
  15. 15. P. 124, Caroline: “That sorrow deep inside you, it‟s inside me too, and it never go away. You be OK. You‟ll learn how to lose things…” Caroline and Noah‟s sorrow, similar to the idea of sharing a cigarette, draws a parallel between the two and makes them more of equals and less of the boss‟s son interacting with an employee. P. 124, Noah: “And sharing cigarettes? Do you miss sharing a cigarette?” Caroline: “You bet I do, Noah, you bet, you bet.” What is the significance of the cigarette? I think the idea that they share a cigarette again discounts the fact that he is the boss‟s son interacting with an employee and makes them equals. It‟s both of them doing what isn‟t necessarily “good” for them or what they “should” do, but what they want to do. It‟s the same idea as Caroline refusing the white way. There shouldn‟t be one way, everybody should have their own. P. 126, Emmie: “‟I‟m the daughter of a maid, in her uniform, crisp and clean! Nothing can ever make me afraid! You can‟t hold on, you Nightmare Men, your time is past now on your way get gone and never come again! For change come fast and change come slow but everything changes! And you got to go!‟” This is a huge transition for Emmie because for the first time she really understands her mother‟s struggles and accepts her mother, despite their mindsets and ideas of society being polar opposites. It‟s that same idea (mentioned earlier) of there not being one way, but everybody having their own way.