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"My Little Bit of Country" by Susan Cheever

In: English and Literature

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"My Little Bit of Country" by Susan Cheever What would you prefer; The relaxing life of the suburbs or the wild diversity of the urban life? Some would prefer one while the other would feel inexplicably horrible in choosing the other. “My Little Bit of Country” is an essay by Susan Cheever, this essay starts from when she was a little girl and ends in 2012 which is when she wrote the essay. In the beginning little Susan Cheever was living in New York and was pretty happy with her life there, but that wasn’t enough for the family, they wanted the American Dream with the white picket fence and a place in the “real” country, as Susan Cheever puts it. This did not please her and she really disliked the suburbs, that when she got older she would go to New York as much as possible. In the end she moves to New York again and is happy and forever satisfied with the urban life. The story is basically written with contrasts, contrasts and more contrasts. The most obvious one is the suburb life vs. the urban life; country vs. city. She very much dislikes the country life, it being a step down from the city: “Why would I want to scrape around the rough, dangerous ice of a country lake when I could glide around the smooth ice at the Wollman Ring and pause for a hot chocolate when my toes and fingers get too cold? ” here she compares the natural procedure of the lake turning to ice with a man­made ice rink specifically made to be the most safe way to skate. Some would say that the country would have something special about it, a sense of authenticity , which romanticizes the country but here Susan Cheever does the opposite, she romanticizes the “safe” city life. Another contrast is the quote from Andy Warhol that says that “It is better to live in the city than the country because in the city he could find a little bit of country, but in the country there was no little bit of city.” In the essay “the little bit of country in the city” is Central Park, comparing the controlled nature of Central Park with the harsh reality of real nature. She also regularly compares the two with the safe cite vs. unsafe country, the beautiful vs. the ugly and I think this essentially boils down to what for her is the good vs. the bad. One of the last things I have noticed is the contrast to how she was raised and how she raised her kids. For her parents the urban life wasn’t enough, but for Susan Cheever the city life will always be more than enough. Which leads me to one of the interestings things I’ve noticed; Susan Cheever, seems to be a person of habit from this essay. We can see this several places in the essay; one of the first being the traditions she had as a child, in the summer her family would go to the Bethesda fountain and in the winter they would slide down a hill with their homemade skis. Later in her life, she would also have traditions with her kids, twice a year in Central Park. After she moved to the county of Westchester she would go to New York at every opportunity. Then later in the essay, she writes about her life and stresses that Central Park continued to “ be my refuge for long walks and my weekend house (...) ” and the list goes on, but she also mentions“
Every morning for years, in the heat of the summer and the ice of the winter, I headed for the running track around the Reservoir.” but what really makes me think she is a person of habit is the fact that she stays in New York. She starts out her life in New York and after she moves she continues to want to be there, when she finally can move, Susan Cheever, stays in New York City. Never longing or trying to live anywhere else. Growing up and then making your own choices is one theme in this essay, but so is feeling at home and feeling like you belong somewhere. Feeling at home is what she starts the essay with (though we have yet to know what it is what about). She illustrates her feelings with a story at the Zoo, writing about an ancient yak, which is a perfect analogy for how she felt at the time ­ out of a different country, some exotic place elsewhere, as everyone wanted to go to the country whereas she would want to stay in New York City. Another obvious theme is the urban life, here represented by New York and Central Park. She romanticizes the city life but fails to mention that in the city people get murdered every day, mugged, and other such crimes. But yet Susan Cheever is frightened of the petty animals noises in the complete dark of the country nights: “The nights are impossibly dark, and the animal noises from the deep woods, where coyotes chase rabbits and owls pick off their prey ”, this could also be said about the murderers of New York City. Although I don’t agree with everything she states in her essay, me living in the city my whole life, makes me relate to what Susan Cheever says. But especially when she writes “Why would I want to swim in someone’s muddy pond crawling with leeches when I can perch myself on a marble basin and cool myself with splashing clear water (...)”. Specifically this quote I relate to because when I was younger, I would rather go to a swimming pool, than go swimming in the ocean. This feeling still lingers a bit with me till this day. Why should I go stepping on stones that hurt and get algae in my hair or algae touching my arm uncomfortably. Though I relate to a certain degree, I also love the wild nature. I have respect for untamed animals and mother­nature, I think it’s undeniably and indescribably beautiful at times.
Now you know my opinion and most definitely Susan Cheever’s. The urban or suburban life what would you prefer?

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