Guide to interpretation
Excerpt from Thematic Unit 2 ( Part I; Chapters 2-4 )
Introductory Information and Interpretation
Reid Pierson a favourite of the American Dream
. . . However, today´s version of this dream is that of overnight personal success, fortune and fame built on the culture of Hollywood.
There is no doubt that, according to the contemporary version of the American Dream, Reid Pierson´s career, too, is the implementation of this American ideal. As the son of poor people in Moose Lake, Washington, Reid grew up "in circumstances of hunger" (19/19). Later he became an athlete, a professional football star and finally a successful and famous sportscaster. His extraordinary rapid personal success and fame as a reporter "for sports on TV" (11/27) have enabled him an "elegant lifestyle" (16/30). Thus the Piersons built a new house in a classy, posh part of Seattle overlooking Lake Washington and the Evergreen Floating Bridge, a postmodernist house "designed by a famous Japanese American Seattle architect". (35/11f) It is so extravagant that it even featured in magazines like Seattle Life and Architectural Digest. However, a consequence of this exclusiveness is a loss of interpersonal and social contacts that Francesca regrets: "We´d been living in an older, smaller house closer to downtown Seattle, in what was called an ethnically diverse neighborhood. I had lots of friends there and hated to move". (36/31ff) . . .
Father / mother relationship
. . . As a great celebrity, however, he is invited to take part in "gigantic banquets and cocktail receptions, fund-raisers that were always honoring Reid Pierson …" (28/15f). Of course he likes these events when he is in the limelight, but not without his wife for "it would look peculiar if Reid Pierson came by himself". (29/5f) But his wife, Krista, does not like to be his showpiece or arm-candy, for on these occations she is not regarded as a person but ignored by everybody "looking through [her] as if she didn´t exist". (28/19f) Here Krista, who had once been a TV announcer herself, feels not only disrespected but also bored, for there are always the same people "saying the same kinds of things." (28/35). Although she sometimes would like to stay at home on such occasions, her husband insists on her company, for he . . .
Fifteen-year old Franky Pierson has to undergo an important period in her life, puberty. It is the time when children begin to mature biologically, psychologically, socially and cognitively and it leads to adolescence, the transitional period between childhood and adulthood. This is quite a difficult time for her, as she is no longer a child, but not an adult yet either. Her overwhelming concern is her personal orientation, finding her own personality. Thus she wavers in her decisions and is uncertain how to react or behave. A first help to cope with this state of vacillation is the discovery of "Freaky Green Eyes", her pugnacious alter ego, or her inner voice. Soon Franky recognizes that Freaky, her second-self, is "aggressive by nature. But hesitant sometimes to show it". (21/5f) However, Freaky enables her . . .
Father / daughter relationship
As a general rule a father´s demeanour has a large impact on the way a daughter will mature in her later life, for thanks to his life experiences he can provide her valuable guidance and advice. From a child, he is his daughter´s advisor, model, and prop when she starts to mature into adolescence. This is also true of the relationship between Reid Pierson and his daughter, Franky, for Reid helps her to nurture her talents and to achieve her goals. Like her dad, who used to be an athlete, she is fond of sports and practices "swimming and diving sometimes to the point of exhaustion, because [she] wanted Dad to be proud of [her] someday." (21/30f) Thus she tries to live up to her father´s expectations. Although she adores and sometime idolizes him and craves for his approval, she also fears him knowing that you had better not provoke him. As far as her position in the conflict between mom and dad is concerned, she is in a quandary. Though she often finds fault with her mother, she is neither willing to laugh at Reid´s mockery and thus betray her, nor does she frown and express disapproval of his sneer but keeps her "face stony neutral." (18/29) . . .
Mother / daughter relationship
This relationship is the one that is most strongly troubled with problems of adolescence. The first strong bonding in infancy is with the mother, for she is the person to whom a child is most closely attached. But experience shows that, as a rule, boys break away at an early age so as to identify with their fathers, whereas daughters struggle all their lives to separate from their mothers. However, it is during the years of adolescence that the close emotional ties to their mother begin to break and their relationship undergoes severe conflicts and strain. The reason is that adolescent daughters try to discover and understand themselves and to establish their own identity. The confusion of self-discovery and the mental and emotional suffering of separation are usually characterized by the daughter's rebellion against her mother's opinion and lifestyle.
Taking sides with her famous dad, Francesca Pierson blames her mother accusing her of provoking him, (cf. 28/8, 39/25, 40/5f and 40/14) while she excuses Reid´s eruptions as a part of his " ′personality ′". (40/15) . . .
1. Comprehension check: questions and quotes
1.1 Answer the following questions:
- The good news on April 18th was that Reid Pierson had signed a new contract with the
network. What was the "less-than-good news"? (cf. 15/15f)
- Franky still remembers her 10th birthday. Why? (cf. 15/30ff)
- Why does Franky´s mother leave for Santa Barbara, California? (cf. 16/20f) . . .
1.2 Put the following quotes into the context showing their significance in the novel:
- "The scarfs Mom began wearing. Beautiful bright-colored silky scarfs. And shawls. And
long-sleeved shirts, pullovers". (30/3f)
- "Mom wasn´t Todd´s actual?biological?mother. ... His mother (Dad´s first wife) had died ...." (31/15f)
? "For God´s sake, Krista. You look like a field worker. " (32/19) . . .
2. Reid Pierson
2.1 A favourite of the American Dream?
In order to make sure that the students understand the notion of the American Dream, they should be handed out Copy Master 5 . . . To offer further information and a deeper insight into this matter the additional text The USA, a country where everything is possible? (StB. p. 150) may be dealt with already at this stage.
Basing your view on Copy Master 5 to what extent can Reid Pierson´s career be regarded as the realization of this American ideal? Find typical quotations.
These quotes are presented on the blackboard . . .