Free «“The Next Move” by Jennine Capo Crucet» Essay
Human relations in a variety of shades is a theme that not every writer is able to present in a genuine way. In her writing “The Next Move”, Jennine Capo Crucet copes with this task perfectly by creating a story that is extremely intimate and sincere. The author writes in a compassionate tone that evokes compassion with the readers too. The main character, Louis, an old Cuban man who lives in the USA, tries to cope with daily routine without his wife. In the process, the vulnerability of the hero and his deep feelings to his wife are revealed, although he is not always able to express them directly. This personal story is narrated at the background of historical events that changed lives of many Cuban people.
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The narrator of the story is an old man who emigrated from Cuba about forty years ago with his wife Nilda. This decision was a forced one and resulted in a family tragedy when close people appeared to be torn apart. The old man tells this in a casual way but the author constructs the narration in the way that the reader can see the implied meanings between the lines. It is easy to see the tragedy of the whole nation who suffered because of dictatorship regime settled in Cuba. The old man is very derogatory about this regime and curses it every time he mentions it in his narration. “It was true that she hadn’t seen her sisters in twenty-eight years, but I hadn’t seen my mother in the same amount of time” (Crucet 42). Only when his wife’s mother dies in Cuba, he lets her go there and remains alone in his usual existence.
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When Louis stays on his own, he starts facing the ideas of how his wife is meaningful in his life. Although he is constantly grumbling and making fun of her, he seems to be extremely attached to her. Thus, for instance, he demonstrates his rebellious nature all the time when Nilda suggests doing something and rejects her ideas. This is surely related to the concept of Latin American masculinity, which presupposed that a man should be demonstratively strong and rude: “In Latin America, discussions of masculinity have long been dominated by the notion of machismo, a manliness that overpowers and in fact seems to spill over, an excess of masculinity”( Riofrio 23) .In fact, however, this is Nilda who takes most decisions, though the man does not want to accept this. Thus, he tells her that he hates the Tai Chi classes to which she has signed up both of them. In fact, however, he enjoys these classes and wants to go there when Nilda is away, though he always claims that she forces him to go.
The man has a daughter and grandchildren, but it is obvious that they cannot replace Nilda while she is away. Ceilia, his daughter, has her own family which takes all her efforts. The hero is used to his wife giving him all attention, which his daughter is unable to do so. This is why he becomes anxious and sad, and his emotions go up. It is obvious that he cannot cope with the world in which he leaves, as this world is so different from what he expects it to be; besides, he is attached to the way how things used to be in the past, so innovation is not welcome by him. Thus, he feels anxiety and realizes that nobody can eliminate it: “But without Nildaaround, there was no one to make me feel better about this”(44) .
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When Louis stays alone, he realizes that it is hard for him to cope with his age, not only in terms of physical age but the very awareness of it. Thus, when he is in Tai Chi class, he is irritated by the surrounding people who are younger. “That mirror always made me look crooked while we practiced the warm-up Qigong moves. I felt straight, like my bones
were aligned with the universe and everything, but all through Crane Breathing, Cloud Hands, even during Stand Like a Pine,the mirror would show a hunched-over old man” (49). This realization makes the man vulnerable and explains the reason of his usual rebellious behavior. He just cannot cope with his life without his wife being around who soothes his emotions and makes his life meaningful.
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At class, Louis contemplates if he has treated his wife the way she deserves. When he hears the story about a crane and a snake who were using each other’s energy, the old man thinks to himself: “When I think about that story now, I worry that maybe I killed Nilda, being who I was—how I was—with her. That I stole from her our whole life without giving her enough for any more moves. But that day in class, when Teacher said what he said, I thought about it the other way around”( 53). At this class, Louis realizes how tightly he is connected to his wife and how energy exchange goes between them. Thus, while she was in Cuba in his place, she starts doing whatever she did usually, trying to be in her shoes. He cooks meals, tells a story to his grandson, and although he is clumsy in being so, this is an enlightening experience for him. In other words, he moves from extreme masculinity to empathy, which is per Rofrio’s words, a sign of femininity ( Rofrio 31). So, in fact, he symbolically exchanges energy with his wife.
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When Nilda gets ill and dies, he is just sorry that he does not die a short time after his wife but has to live years after her with all his memories. However, he is changed after her visit to Cuba and feels that his connection is deeper to the whole family. Thus, the story reveals how human affection has to face the tragedy of getting old and losing a beloved person, and the author succeeded in demonstrating this in a genuine and touching way.