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Miriam By Truman Capote


Historical Criticism

The story, “Miriam,” by Truman Capote (1924-1984), depicts a nineteenth century way of life and is based on the life on an old woman by the name, Mrs. H. T. Miller. She is an old widow who is living a simple life in the comfort of the home that her late husband had left her. Mrs. Miller is a smoker and she loves the little pleasures of life, for instance a night picture being aired in a movie theater near her area of residence. “Mrs. Miller had finished drying the supper dishes and was thumbing through an afternoon paper when she saw an advertisement of a picture playing at a neighborhood theater. The title sounded good, so she struggled into her beaver coat, laced her galoshes, and left the apartment, leaving one light burning in the foyer: she found nothing more disturbing than a sensation of darkness.” Therefore, the historical fiction in this story is candidly reflected by the behaviour of Mrs. Miller, through her love for the theater arts.
In the story, we realize the reserved nature of the people at that point in time. Their dress code is highly restricted by certain standards which depict the female gender as a weak gender that is highly naïve and of high moral standing. Mrs. H. T. Miller is shocked at the flimsy and inappropriate dress worn by Miriam. She inwardly reproaches Miriam’s parents for allowing her to wear the white silk dre0ss in February, yet it was snowing. Mrs. Miller also complains of the fact that Miriam’s mother allows her to leave the house at odd dangerous hours of the night. “Your mother must be insane to let a child like you wander around at all hours of the night—and in such ridiculous clothes. She must be out of her mind.” Despite the fact that Miriam is not Mrs. Miller’s child, she shows concern and contempt for her negligent parents. She is worried at the well-being of the young child. Miriam also shows a lack of respect for Mrs. H. T. Miller and this raises her concern about Miriam’s upbringing.
The story is based on the way of life of people living in the olden times. This is due to the kind of technology present at the time as well as the behaviour of the characters present.

Cultural Criticism
In this community, the virtue of care and love for others is highly appreciated and practiced. It is con5sidered common courtesy to help other people in need, despite there being non-acquaintance. Mrs. H. T. Miller accepted to get the ticket for Miriam because they would not allow her to get in without it. “Would you care to do me a favor?” “I’d be glad to, if I can,” said Mrs. Miller. “Oh, it’s quite easy. I merely want you to buy a ticket for me; they won’t let me in otherwise. Here, I have the money.” And gracefully she handed Mrs. Miller two dimes and a nickel.” According to Mrs. Miller, Miriam is a child in need and she is willing to help her out in whatever way she is able to, or she requires. Consequently, she depicts kindness and a humanitarian nature. This is clearly a character built and refrained in her over a period of time and therefore justified to be termed as her culture.
Crime, and more so theft and harassment of the elderly is frowned upon in this community. Causing pain and sorrow to the helpless and vulnerable person’s is considered to be an act of evil. Miriam is seen to be explosive and heartless as she takes the cameo brooch given as a gift to Mrs. Miller by her late husband. “There’s nothing good here,” she said. “But I like this.” Her hand held a cameo brooch. “It’s charming.” “Suppose—perhaps you’d better put it back,” said Mrs. Miller, feeling suddenly the need of some support. She leaned against the door frame; her head was unbearably heavy; a pressure weighted the rhythm of her heartbeat. The light seemed to flutter defectively. “Please, child—a gift from my husband . . .” “But it’s beautiful and I want it,” said Miriam. “Give it to me.” Miriam takes away the only valuable item belonging to Mrs. Miller, yet it has sentimental value to her. This sort of behaviour is chivalrous and unfair in this context.
Pegging our inference on the few points discussed herein we can say that the aforesaid community in this story has firm and applicable historical and cultural values that we should employ in order to improve our overall well-being and protect the weak and unfortunate in the society.

By: Allwrite Solutions, KE.

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