Of White Hairs and Cricket

Report
Of White Hairs and Cricket
Rohinton Mistry
Class Tasks
 In groups teach the rest of the
class about ONE aspect of the
text.
 ASPECTS:
1. Plot
2. Structure
3. Narrative point of view
4. Setting
5. Character/s
6. Language techniques
7. Symbolism and Motifs
8. Themes
 Describe and explain the
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


aspect you are studying.
Explain the significance of
this aspect in the story.
Provide plenty of evidence in
form of quotes / page
numbers / references to the
text
Discuss what the author’s
message / themes are.
How does your aspect relate
to the others?
Symbolism / Motifs
 White hairs symbolise time
/ plucking of them relates
to desperate attempt to
hold back time.
 Re-occurence of cricket –
longing to be a child again
 Terminal illness of Viraf’s
father / death
Themes
 Aging
 Death
 Old world / new world
 Disappointment
 Nostalgia
Plot
 Recalling all the events in




the story…
So, what?
What is the relevance of
these episodes?
They relate to many
readers, typical day to day
experiences of childhood?
Atypical – what is unusual
here – closely bonded
family.. Etc?
 What does the plot allow
readers to understand?
 Family relationships
 Friendship
 Aging / decay / death
Structure
 Process of growing up and
realisation of time / death
is unstoppable
 Structure gives readers
idea that narrator wanted
to initially be able to stop
time but can’t in the end.
 Begins with white hairs
being picked out /
concludes with death of
Viraf’s father.
 So, what?
 What does this structure
allow readers to get about
the story?
 Themes become apparent
to readers as they become
apparent to the narrator.
Narrative pov
 Perspective of narrator, a
young boy, first-person
 After his epiphany he
realises and learns to
appreciate his family
 Relationship with Mamaji –
looks to her for guidance,
but later realises the value
in his parents, they too are
aging and won’t be around
forever
 So, what?
 Allows readers to see into
narrator’s character and
this reflects on ourselves.
Setting
 India, house – well passed
 So, what?
their time… decay – live in
an apartment.
 Sunday – he used to play
cricket but now he pluck’s
the white hairs out of his
father’s head.
 Bed – he eats rice – luxury,
but then he goes to his bed
to be sorrowful.
 The luxuries of youth are
ephemeral.
 Happiness can be found
even in a poor setting
Character
 Narrator – first person pov,
 Mamaji’s generation has
reader’s identify with him
and his realisations in the
story.
 Father – growing older,
strong minded / defiant
person, constantly looking
for something better,
determined, dreams big –
(resembles the author’s
own emigration to Canada
different ideas
 Viraf’s life contrasts
narrator’s somewhat – the
repulsive act of plucking
out hairs becomes a nice
act in light of his friend’s
father’s death.
Biography
 Rohinton Mistry was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India in
1952. He graduated with a degree in Mathematics from the
University of Bombay in 1974, and emigrated to Canada with his
wife the following year, settling in Toronto, where he worked as a
bank clerk, studying English and Philosophy part-time at the
University of Toronto and completing his second degree in 1982.
Mistry wrote his first short story, 'One Sunday', in 1983, winning
First Prize in the Canadian Hart House Literary Contest (an award
he also won the following year for his short story 'Auspicious
Occasion'). It was followed in 1985 by the Annual Contributors'
Award from the Canadian Fiction Magazine, and afterwards, with
the aid of a Canada Council grant, he left his job to become a fulltime writer.
Biography continued
 His early stories were published in a number of Canadian magazines, and his
short-story collection, Tales from Firozsha Baag, was first published in
Canada in 1987 (later published in the UK in 1992). He is the author of three
novels: Such a Long Journey (1991), the story of a Bombay bank clerk who
unwittingly becomes involved in a fraud committed by the government, which
won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book), A Fine
Balance (1996), set during the State of Emergency in India in the 1970s, and
Family Matters (2002), which tells the story of an elderly Parsi widower
living in Bombay with his step-children. Such a Long Journey and A Fine Balance
were both shortlisted in previous years for the Booker Prize for Fiction, and
Family Matters was shortlisted for the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

 His latest book is a story, The Scream, illustrated by Tony Urquhart (2008).
Overview
 This story’s concern with age and mortality is reflected in the structure, beginning
with the removal of the narrator’s father’s white hairs and moving to his friend’s
father’s terminal illness.
 In the space of the story the narrator has his own recognition of mortality and
emerges from boyhood into the adult world. He moves from considering distasteful
his task of removing his father’s white hairs to a full awareness of the process of
ageing which he ‘is powerless to stop’. He begs to keep pulling the white hairs in a
desperate attempt to hold time back: p358 last paragraph. He also senses the
inevitability of his life following his parents’. The dream of going to America
p353/354 will not happen. He will see his life’s dreams extinguish and the pattern
of life continue see p359.
 There are several signs of this awareness of growing up and death throughout the
story: the loss of the childhood cricket matches, p355 “One by one, the things I
held dear were leaving my life.”; the increasing frailty of Mamaiji, the father’s vain
hope of a new job p353. It is the encounter with his friend Viraf and Dr Sidhwa
p356 and the glimpse of Viraf’s father p357 which gives the narrator his epiphanic
moment ( epiphany: the moment in time when a life-changing knowledge or
understanding is gained) of the inevitability of adulthood, routines in life and death.
PLOT
Make a flow diagram of the main events of the plot.
1. He picks hairs off his Dad’s head.
2. Child remembers playing cricket.
3. Grandma spinning the thread.
4. His Nan buys him dodgy food.
5. Argument between Dad and Grandma.
6. Talk of getting money / a new job.
7. Thoughts of poverty.
8. Best friend was Viraf.
9. Scene of sick father and reaction to this.
Imagery
Language Techniques
 Personification – “sleeping streets” add drama, mood, interest
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and helps readers relate to the object. “white hair was trapped in
the tweezers”, reader imagines white hair as a symbol of aging, and
being trapped reveals we do not have any control over this process.
“guilty conscience …uncontrollably”
Onomatopoeia “rattle” “rumble” creates a harsh tone, caused by a
disturbance, foreshadows the aging process and death of Viraf’s
father. “OO ooo OO ooo’ like an animal call.
Alliteration – “spindle spin descended”… “In a thin shaft of sunlight
which had suddenly shrunk” … “wanted to weep” (reveals his urge
to cry)
EG – “sleeping streets” – what is the effect?
“the compound was too cramped for cricket” –what is the effect?
“her silence was surprising” – what is the effect?
‘time after time’ ‘week after week’ ‘Sunday after Sunday’
Narrative Style
• Who is the narrator?
 14 year old boy – perhaps the author? Perhaps inspired by a boyhood
memory?
• What is the narrative style? 1st person point of view, through a child’s
eyes – how does this affect the perspective of the story? And perspective
of aging and mortality?
• What tense is the story written in?
• Past tense – a memory – is the narrator himself old now? Aging process is inevitable
as is death.
• Why is it written like this and what effect does this have? Emotive,
factual, strong sense of being in India – Indian identity, personal. Readers looking in
on someone else’s memory – sense of isolation from the narrators experience.
Characters
 Describe the characters of..
Boy
b) Dad
c) Mum
d) Mamaji
a)
 This story’s concern with age and mortality is reflected in the structure,
beginning with the removal of the narrator’s father’s white hairs and moving
to his friend’s father’s terminal illness.
 In the space of the story the narrator has his own recognition of mortality
and emerges from boyhood into the adult world. He moves from
considering distasteful his task of removing his father’s white hairs to a full
awareness of the process of ageing which he ‘is powerless to stop’. He begs
to keep pulling the white hairs in a desperate attempt to hold time back:
p358 last paragraph. He also senses the inevitability of his life following his
parents’. The dream of going to America p353/354 will not happen. He
will see his life’s dreams extinguish and the pattern of life continue see
p359.
 There are several signs of this awareness of growing up and death
throughout the story: the loss of the childhood cricket matches, p355 “One
by one, the things I held dear were leaving my life.”; the increasing frailty of
Mamaiji, the father’s vain hope of a new job p353. It is the encounter with
his friend Viraf and Dr Sidhwa p356 and the glimpse of Viraf’s father p357
which gives the narrator his epiphanic moment ( epiphany: the moment in
time when a life-changing knowledge or understanding is gained) of the
inevitability of adulthood, routines in life and death.
SUMMARY
This story’s concern with age and mortality is reflected in the
structure, beginning with the removal of the narrator’s father’s
white hairs and moving to what seems to be his friend’s father’s
terminal illness. In the space of the story the narrator has his own
recognition of mortality and emerges from boyhood into the adult
world. He moves from considering distasteful his task of removing
his father’s white hairs to a full awareness of the process of ageing
which he ‘is powerless to stop’. There are other signs of this
process throughout the story: the loss of the childhood cricket
matches, the increasing frailty of Mamaiji, the father’s vain hope of
a new job. It is the encounter with the friend Viraf, Dr Sidhwa and
the glimpse of Viraf’s father which gives the narrator his epiphanic
moment.
EXTENSION
Wider reading
 This story is taken from the collection Swimming Lessons and Other Stories.You could
also try the novel Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry.
 Malgudi Days by RK Narayan
 The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Compare with
 A Horse and Two Goats by RK Narayan
 To Da-duh, In Memoriam by Paule Marshall
 The Enemy by VS Naipaul
 Games at Twilight by Anita Desai
Online
 Biographical material is available at:
 http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth73

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