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Help with anaylsis of short story titled "Bread"

Old 08-29-05, 03:45 PM
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Help with anaylsis of short story titled "Bread"

Has anyone read the short story called "Bread" by Margaret Atwood. I'm having a tough time understading what the story is about. Any one who has read it, and knows some kind of meaning to it would be helpful to me.

Here is the short story if anyone wants to read it and help me out.

Imagine a piece of bread. You donít have to imagine it, itís right here in the kitchen, on the breadboard, in its plastic bag, lying beside the bread knife. The bread knife is an old one you picked up at an auction; it has the word BREAD carved into the wooden handle. You open the bag, pull back the wrapper, cut yourself a slice. You put butter on it, then peanut butter, then honey, and you fold it over. Some of the honey runs out onto your fingers and you lick it off. It takes you about a minute to eat the bread. This bread happens to be brown, but there is also white bread, in the refrigerator, and a heel of rye you got last week, round as a full stomach then, now going moldy. Occasionally you make bread. You think of it as something relaxing to do with your hands.

Imagine a famine. Now imagine a piece of bread. Both of these things are real but you happen to be in the same room with only one of them. Put yourself into a different room, thatís what the mind is for. You are now lying on a thin mattress in a hot room. T he walls are made of dried earth, and your sister, who is younger than you, is in the room with you. She is starving, her belly is bloated, flies land on her eyes; you brush them off with your hand. You have a cloth too, filthy but damp, and you press it to her lips and forehead. The piece of bread is the bread youíve been saving, for days it seems. You are as hungry as she is, but not yet as weak. How long does this take? When will someone come with more bread? You think of going out to see if you might find something that could be eaten, but outside the streets are infested with scavengers and the stink of corpses is everywhere.
Should you share the bread or give the whole piece to your sister? Should you eat the piece of bread yourself? After all, you have a better chance of living, youíre stronger. How long does it take to decide?

Imagine a prison. There is something you know that you have not yet told. Those in control of the prison know that you know. So do those not in control. If you tell, thirty or forty or a hundred of your friends, your comrades, will be caught and will die. If you refuse to tell, tonight will be like last night. They always choose the night. You donít think about the night however, but about the piece of bread they offered you. How long does it take? The piece of bread was brown and fresh and reminded you of sunlight falling across a wooden floor. It reminded you of a bowl, a yellow bowl that was once in your home. It held apples and pears; it stood on a table you can also remember. Itís not the hunger or the pain that is killing you but the absence of the yellow bowl. If you could only hold the bowl in your hands, right here, you could withstand anything, you tell yourself. The bread they offered you is subversive, itís treacherous, it does not mean life.

There were once two sisters. One was rich and had no children, the other had five children and was a widow, so poor that she no longer had any food left. She went to her sister and asked her for a mouthful of bread. ďMy children are dying,Ē she said. The rich sister said, ďI do not have enough for myself,Ē and drove her away from the door. Then the husband of the rich sister came home and wanted to cut himself a piece of bread, but when he made the first cut, out flowed red blood.
Everyone knew what that meant.
This is a traditional German fairy tale.

The loaf of bread I have conjured for you floats about a foot above your kitchen table. The table is normal, there are no trap doors in it. A blue tea towel floats beneath the bread, and there are no strings attaching the cloth to the bread or the bread to the ceiling or the table to the cloth, youíve proved it by passing your hand above and below. You didnít touch the bread though. What stopped you? You donít want to know whether the bread is real or whether itís just a hallucination Iíve somehow duped you into seeing. Thereís no doubt that you can see the bread, you can even smell it, it smells like yeast, and it looks solid enough, solid as your own arm. But can you trust it? Can you eat it? You donít want to know, imagine that.
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Old 08-29-05, 06:53 PM
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Personally I don't like bread, but I found this.

http://www-atdp.berkeley.edu/9931/mshen/bread.htm
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Old 08-29-05, 07:17 PM
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I read that also, but are there any other interpretations of the story?
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Old 08-30-05, 02:26 PM
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I felt like it was saying that context can play as large of a role in the definition of an object as the object's actual characteristics. I also felt like it was a crappy story trying to pass off pretty basic musings on life as some sort of deep, insightful wisdom. The kind of thing a somewhat gifted high schooler might write. To each their own though.
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Old 08-30-05, 02:30 PM
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It means that an object can have both properties and actions.
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Old 09-05-05, 03:53 AM
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Originally Posted by maxfisher
I felt like it was saying that context can play as large of a role in the definition of an object as the object's actual characteristics. I also felt like it was a crappy story trying to pass off pretty basic musings on life as some sort of deep, insightful wisdom. The kind of thing a somewhat gifted high schooler might write. To each their own though.

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Old 09-05-05, 01:45 PM
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Contemplate the everyday things we take for granted. Ordinary props of our daily life can carry great import.

Do you want the bread the author has offered? Along with it comes the responsibility of certain knowledge. Is it nourishing, or is it poison? If you eat it, your life may change forever. Or not. There is only one way to know.
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