Grandmother

“Grandmother” written by American- Indian poet Ray Young Bear is a recollection of poet’s unfathomable love for his grandmother. The poet draws the picture of his grandmother – all loving, all inspiring- through the use of images.

As a grandson, the poet’s heart is very close to his grandmother. This poem presents the poet's deep sense of intimacy and closeness to his grandmother even after her death. He can not forget her. Her images come into his mind as fresh as before. He could recognize her by all senses except taste. If the poet would see her from a long distance, he could easily recognize her. Her warm and damp hands with the smell of roots on his head would make him guess that those were her caressing hands. Even the voice coming out of her tombstone would flow inside him like a light coming from a sleeping fire at night. Her words would inspire him and enlighten his spirit.

Important Questions :

1. What are the four things that Ray Young Bear remembers about his grandmother?
Ans. The things that Ray Young Bear remembers about his grandmother are her shape, her purple scarf, warm and damp hands, and her inspiring voice.

2. What images do you find in this poem written by a member of the Sauk and Fox (Mesquakie) Indian tribe of North America? To what senses do these images appeal?
Ans. The poet has used images to discover two intertwined themes – recollection of his grandmother at one level and search for identity at another level. The images like ‘purple scarf’, ‘plastic shopping bag’, ‘the light … at night ‘ appeal to our sense of sight. These images also have a symbolic link to the Indian culture. ‘Plastic shopping bag’ indicates the poverty of the Indian tribe. ‘The light …. at night’ associates that the spirituality of Indian culture guides him in the modern corrupt American society. The images like ‘smell of root’ appeal to our sense of smell. It indicates the work ethic of the Indian tribe and his grandmother. They are near to nature and are good farmers. ‘Warm and damp hands’ appeal to our sense of touch. It also shows how his grandmother and Indian tribes work in fields with pleasure and sense of duty. ‘ A voice’ and ‘her words’ appeal to our sense of hearing. This indicates how the teachings and philosophy of Indian culture enlighten his spirits. Thus by the use of images, the poet has symbolically linked his grandmother to the lost culture of the Indian tribe.

Question for Practice :

  1. What are the four things that Ray Young Bear remembers about his grandmother?
  2. What is the main idea of the poem?
  3. What impression of grandmother does the speaker give in the poem ‘Grandmother’?

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