How can two people who experience the same event have a completely different perception of that same incident? The general theme between the two short stories “There Was A Man, There Was A Woman” and “Bread” are of people having drastically different perceptions of the same situation based on past experiences which can be related back to the novel “1984”. We will explore this claim by diving into the deeper meaning of these texts.
First of all, in the short story “There Was a Man, There Was a Woman”, it can be seen that the two nameless characters were both stuck in the same cycle week after week. On every second and fourth Friday of the month, the man would go deposit his paycheck and head straight to the bar to drink with his friends “…and believed if he drank and drank, the words for what he was feeling would slip out more rapidly…”(Cisneros 133). The man always ended up not saying what was truly on his mind. The woman would would also head to the bar every time she got paid, which was every first and third Friday of the month. Just like the man, the woman would drink and drink in hopes that her words too would also then slip out of her mouth faster, but just like the man, she usually just drank and said nothing. As seen in the quote, “At home when the night came down and the moon appeared, the woman raised her pale eyes to the moon and cried.”(Cisneros 133), the woman in the story seems to be depressed about something we do not know about. The man, who goes to the same bar as the woman, looks up at that same moon, only the man does not weep. Instead the man looks at the moon with a different, complex perception than that of the woman. Instead of the moon bringing him tears, the moon brings the man a feeling of being content with his life. The quote, “The man had contemplated the millions who had looked at the same moon before him, those who had worshiped or loved or died before the same moon, mute and lovely.”(Cisneros 133), shows that the man finds peace when looking at the moon, unlike the woman who only sees sadness. Their perceptions of the same object in the sky seem to be polar opposites when compared to one another.
Furthermore, n the short story “Bread”, the man and the woman appear to be having sex. The word bread in the story is a metaphor for having sex. After the two “eat bread”, or have sex, they cruise the city in the pearl blue car. The man is driving through the city and remembering and admiring the beauty of the city. On the other hand, the woman is riding in the car with the man driving through the same city, yet she only gets reminded of her cousin’s baby that had died from eating rat poison at a beautiful building like the one they just past by as seen in the quote, “And me remembering when I was little, a cousin’s baby who died from swallowing rat poison in a building like these.”(Cisneros 84). The perceptions of the man and woman of the buildings they are passing by vary drastically based on the past memories they have both experienced. The man only remembers the city and it’s buildings because of how charming the city had been. The woman, however, only remembers the city based on the past experience of her cousin’s baby dying by eating rat poison in a building similar to the ones they were both seeing once again. Another key difference between the man and the woman was the perception of the sex that they were having. The man has a wife and kids, but did not feel bad that he was cheating on his wife with this woman. The man seemed happier than ever when he was having sex with the woman who was not his wife. The woman, on the other hand, was the one to feel horrible about having sex with the man. She was the one who felt bad about having sex because she knows what it is like to lose someone in her life based on her past experiences. The woman knows what loss and pain feel like because of the traumatic memory of the death of her cousin’s baby. And we know that the loss of this baby causes negative feelings because the woman was a little girl when the baby died and she still remembers the event based on the way buildings look. It can be inferred that the man has not lost someone important in his life based on the fact that he is willing to ruin his marriage with his wife and family by having sex with the woman. Based on both of their past experiences, their feelings about adultery are radically different from one another as well as how the sight of beautiful buildings make them both feel.
In addition, the idea of perception based on past events can also be seen in the novel “1984”. In the novel, the main character, Winston, works for a totalitarian government called “The Party”. The goal of The Party is to take over the whole world and in order to do they, they need to control the citizens by any means possible. Every citizen, including Winston, cannot have their own thoughts and are monitored 24/7 by a figure called Big Brother. The Party goes so far to control political rebellion and keep oppression by coming up with a new language which eliminates all words related to rebellion. Another huge thing The Party takes away is sexual intercourse. The Party sees sex as a disgusting act so they take away all pleasure from the act and use it only as a means of reproduction for new party members. Winston then meets a woman named Julia and falls in love. Julia convinces Winston to sneak out of the city to this grove area where they can talk freely without worry of anybody listening. When Winston gets to this area outside of the city and meets Julia, they have sex. This is where both of their perceptions of the act of sex differ vastly from each other. Winston has not been in love or had sex for pleasure in decades. So Winston is having sex with Julia because he is in love with her. Julia, on the other hand, has been having sex with other men as an act of political rebellion and reintroduce the feeling of the human spirit in men. This is the same case for having sex with Winston. Julia has sex with Winston to set his spirit free, while Winston has sex with her because he is in love with her.
All in all, it can be seen that past occurrences undoubtedly cause dramatically different perceptions of the same current events. These events can be seen in the examples stated above such as in the short story “There Was a Man, There Was a Woman”, the man and the woman having different feelings when they look at the moon as well as seen in the short story “Bread” when the man and the woman have different feelings about having sex with each other based on their past events. Therefore, these examples demonstrate the theme of past memories causing different perceptions of the same events.
Cisneros, Sandra. “Bread.” Woman Hollering Creek, Random House, Inc., 1991, pp. 84.
Cisneros, Sandra. “There Was a Man, There Was a Woman.” Woman Hollering Creek, Random House, Inc., 1991, pp. 133-134.Orwell, George. 1984. New American Library, 1955.