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The Water is Wide Book Review

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Airyn Nash

on 8 May 2013

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Transcript of The Water is Wide Book Review

The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy Setting For the most part, the setting of this story takes place in 1972 in South Carolina in the Beaufort County area and on the fictional Yamacraw Island, which is also known as Daufuskie Island. The Yamacraw island has dirt roads, little to no electricity, and no bridges connecting it to the rest of America. Characters Pat Conroy Ms. Brown Dr. Piedmont Ezra Bennington The Children The Parents Main character The principal The superintendent Former superintendent The children of Yamacraw knew next to nothing when Conroy first arrived. Many could not read or write, and all didn't know what country they were living in. They're parents were mostly drunkards from whom they got their violent tendencies. Though surround by water, none of them could swim; they had an irrational fear of large bodies of water. They were very superstitious and hated Ms. Brown who belittled them. By the time Conroy got fired, they'd learned a little but not enough to significantly change their lives. Summary Major Events Conroy decides to stop hating blacks and comes to teach on Yamacraw island where he realizes the children have been overlooked and neglected. Conroy marries Barbara, a widow with one child. This causes Conroy, who was previously living on the island, to become a commuter, which starts the process of his problems with the administrators The Children go to the mainland for the first time to celebrate Halloween for the first time. They're given a warm welcome from the school, and the kids can have their first appreciation for the life outside of Yamacraw island. Conroy gets fired. After Conroy sends a self-righteous letter to Piedmont of the neglect and poor conditions of the students' intellect on the island, Piedmont is starting not to approve of Conroy's conduct of manner. Later Conroy goes against Piedmont's wishes to not fund the gas bill, and though Conroy has a substitute, Piedmont doesn't appreciate Conroy's decision to take leave to work at the Desegregation Center. Piedmont also uses the excuse that Conroy is late to class too many times. Conflict Conroy vs Weather- External Conflict

Black vs White

Conroy vs Ms. Brown- Intrapersoanl Conflict

Conroy vs Administration

Conroy vs Parents

Conroy vs Himself- Interpersonal Conflict Important Quotes "We've got problems here, but we've got problems in all the schools." (222). "And in that single moment I realized something very important. Piedmont could not scare me" (227). "You've got a teacher who sends the authorized substitute with lesson plans and you fire him" (250). "I don't think I changed the quality of their lives significantly or altered the inexorable fact that they were prisoned by the very circumstance of their birth" (258). Pat Conroy is the new teacher on Yamacraw Island. At first, he used to hate blacks, but he realized the error of his ways and tries to make up for his previous hatred. As a teacher of illiterate and innumerate students, Conroy has to create creative, easy ways to teach the students. Most of his ways cause him to get in trouble with the Principal Ms. Brown. After his marriage, Conroy becomes a commuter to the island which creates problems with the administrators. He is fired at the end of the book. Ms. Brown wants to be white extremely bad. She believes that whites are better, yet is is mistreated by them. She stresses her Cherokee indian heritage to show she is not fully black. As principal and teacher, she believes the only way to handle the black students so that they'll learn is by whipping them. She has a special belt named Dr. Medicine. The children and the parents don't like her, but the she follows the rules of the administrators. Dr. Henry Piedmont is the superintendent of the Beaufort County school system. He is religious and has the tendency to stick to the old southern ways. Most people fear Piedmont, and Piedmont uses this fear to control the system. He doesn't like the Conroy questions his authority or that Conroy is making the county pay for gas bill of the boat to commute. Though Piedmont fires Conroy, Conroy still grudgingly likes him. Ezra Bennington used to be the superintendent until he was replaced by Dr. Piedmont. Ezra claimed to care for the island and children island and has occaisonaly stepped on the island (unlike Piedmont who set foot on the island only once). However, Bennington hasn't actually done anything personally for the children's education but give them books and supplies that they don't know how to use. The parents of the Yamacraw children are often described as drunks who party all night at the club. They are violent towards there spouses and make death threats towards them. They're protective of their children and many have problems with them visiting the mainland. Pat Conroy heard of the remote island of Yamacraw and the poor children living there, and decides he wants to share some light and intelligence on the children. On his first day, he asks a series of basic common questions and discovers the kids don't know anything. Realizing this. he then tries to create new, riveting lesson plans to keep the kids attention. Along the way, he finds that the principal, Ms. Brown, has problems with his teaching method; she feels it is too relaxed and not disciplined enough. On the several occasions that he tries to take the children to the mainland (to Washington D.C, Halloween, his house etc.) he faces opposition from the parents, who are reluctant to let their children cross waters that could drown them, but finally let them go after Edna approves. After marrying Barbara, Conroy wants to spend more time with his family, so he becomes a commuter to the island, borrowing a boat and traveling back and forth across the river. Problems arise when Dr. Piedmont tells Conroy that the County won't be paying the gas bill for Conroy's commuting travels. In a righteous rage, Conroy says that he doesn't have the money to pay for the gas and that he can't help having to cross a river to teach. In the second year of school on Yamacraw, Conroy wants to make a trip to Emory University in Atlanta. In order to do so, he must take leave from school and work at the Desegregation Center to earn enough money. However, once Piedmont finds out Conroy did this, he gets extremely upset and fires Conroy the next day. A long process goes as Conroy unsuccessfully tries to defend himself. He is supposedly getting fired for being late to school a couple of times, due to weather such as fog and for ignoring the "chain of command". At his trial the judge thinks the punishmet is too harsh, but he says that the Board of Education is allowed to fire anyone they see as unfit. So Conroy ends the story rejected and with no job, he is not allowed to teach on Yamacraw island, and the children's future situation remains the same since none have gained the intellect to get far in life. "Conrack" Conroy battles weather such as fog and blinding rain to try and reach the children to teach. Segregation is still a slight problem at this time though it is supposed to be outlawed. Ms. Brown and Conroy argue over the different teaching methods. Ms. Brown says to use corporal punishment, only the belt will teach them to listen. Conroy says use love or find some other way than pain. Conroy must argue with the parents to allow the children to visit the mainland. This happens on several occasions. At some points Conroy starts to question himself and whether he is doing the right thing and teaching the students the right way. He's frustrated that they're not having an educational enlightenment. This is stated by Ezra Bennington at the graduation for the 8th graders. This sums up how the administrators shrug off the lack of the school's ability to read or write. Conroy and the administration conflicted on who should pay for the gas bill for the boat. They viewed differently on the administrations, efficiency, effectiveness, and care towards the island. Piedmont usually exudes this power that brings out fear in others but not in Conroy. This means Conroy speaks his mind to Piedmont and skips the chain of commands to do so. He's not submissive and as humble as Ms. Brown, and perhaps if he were, he wouldn't have been fired. This basically sums up the absurdity of Conroy's case of being fired. Ms. Brown went off for 10 days without informing anyone of her whereabouts while Conroy does the right thing yet they fire Conroy. This was stated by Conroy's lawyer George Trask When it's all said and done, Conroy doesn't think he's changed the future that the children have to live with because of the very fact that they live on a neglected island with a neglected educational system. That's not to say he didn't impact their life, but the children won't go very far with their educational level.
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