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A Trip to Grand Rapids

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Submitted By Matulde
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A trip to Grand Rapids

Every parent seems to have a difficult time when seeing their innocent children grow up. Roger Hedlund is a good example in this particular short story: “A trip to Grand Rapids” written by Garrison Keillor in 1987.
The short story has a 3rd person narrator who is omniscient and the main setting is at their family farm. The short story starts in medias res because it begins without letting us know anything about the characters or the setting. The protagonist is Roger Hedlund who also is the father. The title symbolises a trip that changes Roger´s point of view of life and all of his concerns. It isn’t just a trip they go on but he learns to let go which is why this specific trip is so important. The message is also the importance of letting go and that it may be tough to begin with but in the end it is best for everyone even the parents that are letting go.

The short story is about an American family who lives in a farm with their cat and dog. The father is a farmer and is easily stressed because of his living. Especially with his corn because it is what provides for the family. He is also very strict. “Roger had laid down the law that a cat stays outdoors, even when it´s cold: That´s what it has fur for, put it outside, it´ll take care of itself. She looked up at him, pleading. He said, “Now. Just do it”. She put the kitten out. On her way upstairs she whispered, “Murderer”(Line 2-6). On the other hand he is very emotional because he feels sympathy for the cat later on. He is very protective of his family and his two daughters. Therefore he has specific and strict rules and makes sure that his daughters don´t get into trouble. However his wife, Cindy, has already accepted that their daughters aren’t babies anymore “They´re old enough, she said” (Line 40). Cindy can see how her husbands is stressed and how it´s driving everyone crazy so she decides to go away for the weekend even though Roger refuses at first. However Roger gets concerned when he sees a lot of cars heading towards their farm and because he is a strict parent with many concerns he turns around. He stops at a crossroad, which could symbolise that he has two options. They could either let go and trust their daughters or investigate their daughter´s whereabouts. They get very curious and decide to walk over the muddy field and investigate. Roger soon discovers something that shocks him. He spots his daughter, Martha, smoking a cigarette “And there was his own little girl, Martha ­ reaching for a cigarette. No! No! He thought. Don´t. She put it in her mouth, his sweet little daughter” (Line 80-81). His concern is very clear and he can´t understand how his little innocent daughter could ever do that. At this point he is very disappointed of Martha´s behaviour yet he can relate to the other kids smoking. This is a big turning point for Roger because it reminds him of when he was young. Cindy even reminds him of how they met each other, which also was at a party. Roger is now aware that he doesn´t want to be a “cop” or a parent anymore. By this time Cindy and Roger goes back to their car. The next morning Martha seems to have realised what happened the night before and she and the other partygoers help Roger and Cindy because their car is stuck. Now the tables are turned and it is now Martha helping her parents out of trouble, which shows them that she is an adult and responsible. The last few lines indicate Roger´s reflections of his daughters. He realises that he shouldn´t worry and he therefore lets go of his daughters. He isn’t concerned of his daughters’ wellbeing, his corn or the weather anymore but is blessed that he and his family have good healthy life.

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