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Going To The Moon

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amanda conrad

on 3 March 2014

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Transcript of Going To The Moon

Plot and Characters
Setting, Atmosphere and Theme
Symbols and Motifs
"Going to the Moon"
by Nino Ricci

Plot Summary
• Story follows a young boy from an Italian family growing up in Windsor.
• He goes to school and he feels like he doesn’t belong.
• His classroom ignites a hope that life could be different.
• He is drawn to his teacher Miss Johnson.
• He dreams of going to the moon and spends much time imagining the journey.
• Along with his class he follows the Apollo I mission.
• The astronauts die in a preflight test fire.
• His excitement over the moon journey fades and he realizes he will never go to the moon.
• In the summer his cousin Benny dies in the war in Vietnam.
• There are riots in Detroit; the people of Windsor appear unaffected.

Young Boy (Narrator)
• From a poor Italian immigrant family
• Hopeful for a better future
• This hope is slowly crushed, mirrored by the failed moon mission

Uncle Bert
• Smuggled self into Canada
• Lived in poverty for 20 years

• Works extra job
• Builds extra kitchen in home
• Does his best to improve his family’s position

Miss Johnson
• The boy’s teacher, also a mother figure
• Burst of colour in his monotone life
• Introduces him to astronomy and space travel
• Beacon of hope

• Struggling to raise her child in poverty
• Hides her grief over her nephew’s death from her son
• When the young boy catches his mother crying he understands that reality is much harsher than the world he has imagined for himself

Setting and Atmosphere
- takes place in Windsor, Ontario near the Detroit River
- the narrator lives with his Italian-Canadian family in a small house
- large portion of the story takes place at Assumption Separate, the boy’s school
- hope, excitement (looking forward to the launch)
- “... we could watch the lift-off together; and in a lower corner of the blackboard we kept a running countdown of the days remaining, all of us competing every day to change the number, anxious to show our excitement…” (p.214-215 )
- sad, disappointed (rocket crash during tests)

Loss of Innocence
- the narrator experiences the tragedy of death, through the astronauts in the fire and his cousin being killed in the war
- after the astronauts die and therefore make the launch impossible, he feels upset and let down
- these events lead a change in his perception on the world, he is more aware of the world around him
- “ Miss Johnson wheeling the school television into our classroom finally to watch not a lift-off but a long funeral procession; and for a few days we wore our sorrow for the astronauts...wanting to be true to the grown-up sense of tragedy, of loss…” (p. 215)
“I felt cheated somehow, felt that I had touched for a moment some larger world that had receded again, that had remained as elusive finally as the promise of the tall buildings across the river or of the golden pendulum clock that sat in my mother's dining room.”(p. 215)
- “But when the news came that Benny had been killed there were no arguments, only an awkward, oppressive silence that seemed to carry some unexplained burden of guilt."
(p. 216)
“In winter that skyline’s tall buildings stood unnaturally still and crisp in the cold air, on the verge, it seemed, of singing; in summer they shimmered and burned in the heat and smog.” [pg. 210]
Uncle Bert’s old shoe repair shop is described as “a room as grey and bare and gloomy as a prison cell.” (simile) [pg. 211]
Antonia, the narrator’s mother, “guarded the dining room like an avenging angel…” (simile) [pg. 212]
“We had to hide ourselves within like animals changing the colour of their fur to fit into a landscape.” (simile) [pg. 212] The narrator and his older brother Joe felt like they could never fit in with their peers, they were always pointed out and ridiculed for being different.
“Miss Johnson… stood out from the stiff formality of the priests and nuns like a burst of colour in a grey landscape…” (simile) [pg. 212]
Ms. Johnson left behind a fragrance of herself that “lingered like a spirit…” (simile) [pg. 213]
“Every day she {Ms. Johnson} set some new vision before us like a brightly wrapped gift…” (smile) [pg. 213]

(The narrator and his classmates pretending) “…we stepped out into space finally, our bodies moving weirdly because of the lack of gravity, and set off like tiny gods across the watercolour strangeness of the moon.” (simile) [pg. 214]
(After the astronauts had died in the pre-flight test and the narrator’s class participated in the Centennial songs with the others) “…I felt cheated somehow, felt that I had touched for a moment some larger world that had receded again, that had remained as elusive finally as the promise of the tall buildings across the river or of the golden pendulum clock that sat in my mother’s dining room.” (simile) [pg. 215] The narrator compares his experiences and memories of going to the moon to the indescribable promise that the buildings of the skyline, mentioned at the beginning of the story, had displayed, or the pendulum clock he wasn’t allowed to touch.
“…the afterglow of sunset still held the sky in unearthly blue, great clouds of dark smoke had formed, and were leaning against the taller buildings as if to topple them into the river…” [pg. 217]

When the narrator was describing his mother’s dining room he concluded with “but the room’s gloomy elegance made it seem sad somehow, as if it knew that it didn’t belong to the rest of the house, its only purpose to remind us of the things that were forbidden to us.” [pg. 212] In a sense this reflects how the narrator knew he didn’t belong with his peers or in society in general. Their family was poor and this room was used to make their guests believe they were well off. The dining room evokes the theme of appearance versus reality since everything in it, including the china cabinet and silverware, and the golden pendulum clock, were things they couldn’t afford to use every day.
The narrator’s first grade teacher, Ms. Johnson, is significant to the story as she was both a mother-figure as well as a sign of hope. The narrator says “I felt the small bright of hope that my life could be different, that the things which marked me out could be erased, a hope made urgent, desperate, by the love that I felt for our teacher Miss Johnson”. [pg. 212] She cared deeply for the narrator and his classmates, making him feel a love for her he didn’t feel towards his actual mother. When the young boy starts crying because he feels humiliated for wearing his winter coat that is badly repaired, Ms. Johnson comforts him. Miss Johnson is a sign of hope for the narrator as she is the single connection between the young boy and his peers. She provides them all with a sense of security and the acceptance the narrator longs for. He says, “I felt protected in that common love (for Ms. Johnson) …as if I’d been included in a game that could have no losers, no chance for ridicule or shame.” [pg. 213] Miss Johnson provided her students with imagination and ambition through the activities involved with going to the moon.

Going to the moon is a metaphor symbolizing the ideal place in which the narrator wants to escape to where he can feel accepted. The idea of going to the moon displays irony as it was so real for the narrator, while the true reality of his life seemed fictional. He was so sure of the stray comets and satellites, but described the tangible buildings along the river as “elusive”.

The death of the three astronauts contributes to the narrator’s loss of innocence since it makes him recognize the dangers of space travel and how it is not as simple as he imagined. Their death gave the narrator a sense of reality. He realized at this point that it’s ok to feel grief and sorrow. He said “we [wanted] to be true to the grown-up sense of tragedy, of loss, which Miss Johnson tried to impart to us.” [pg.215]

When the zipper of the narrator’s winter coat split and his mother repaired it by cutting holes and sewing buttons, the young boy decided to freeze in the cold and not wear it to avoid being ridiculed for how poor they are. When Ms. Johnson took him inside and comforted him, he realized that his humiliation and shame weren’t caused by other people, he says, “but something I carried inside me like a sin, that was there even if other people did not see it.” [pg. 216] Ms. Johnson didn’t care about how rich or poor her students were. In the end, the young boy suffered from the cold because of his own embarrassment.

Foreshadowing, Allusion, and Conflict

Ms. Johnson pinned photos of the three astronauts who would be flying in Apollo I on the largest bulletin board with the caption ‘Bon Voyage’ in black cut-out letters. The colour black is usually associated with evil or death, therefore this foreshadows their death.
The story begins with an allusion or reference to the narrator’s uncle’s immigration story. This is effective as it helps readers understand the narrator’s background as well as why he may feel isolated from society. It explains their living condition and personal struggles.
(1) The narrator vs, his peers –The young boy was fighting to feel accepted
(2) The narrator and his Italian family vs. Canadian (North American) society –tension between cultures as displayed by the narrator’s mother, contrasting norms…
-The narrator vs. himself
-The young boy’s humiliation and shame is caused by his own thoughts and judgments. Through the narrator we learn that you cannot be accepted by others if you do not accept yourself first.
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