The First Day Edward P. Jones Analysis


“The First Day” is a short story by Edward P. Jones. The story follows a young African American girl, Claudia, on her first day of school. Claudia is excited to be starting school, but she quickly realizes that she is the only black student in her class. The other students stare at her and make fun of her skin color. Claudia feels out of place and uncomfortable.

Despite the challenges she faces, Claudia perseveres. She makes friends with some of the other students and starts to enjoy her time at school. By the end of the day, she is proud of herself for overcoming the obstacles she faced.

This story is an inspiring tale of perseverance in the face of adversity. It is a reminder that even when we feel alone and lost, we can always find a way to succeed.

Things don’t always go as planned for a family of three young sisters and their mother who reside in suburban Washington, D. C. Their father has abandoned the family, and their mother can’t read or write, yet she fights against the norm when she sends her oldest daughter to school so that she may receive an education that she was never given.

Edward P. Jones employs literary techniques such as vivid imagery, symbols, and a lesson about uneducated individuals valuing education more than educated people to illustrate that the girls and their mother are working hard.

The first day of school is a big deal for most kids. It’s a chance to start fresh, make new friends, and learn new things. But for the girls in “The First Day,” it’s just another day. They’ve been to school before, but they always end up back at home because their mother can’t afford to keep them there. The girls don’t seem to mind though. They’re content with playing outside and helping their mother around the house.

But when their father leaves them, their mother realizes that she needs to do something to provide for her daughters. She decides to send her eldest daughter, Christine, to school. Christine is excited to go, but she’s also nervous about what her classmates will think of her. The other girls are happy for their sister, but they’re also a little jealous. They know that once Christine starts school, she’ll be different.

As Christine starts attending school, she quickly realizes that she’s different from her classmates. She can’t read or write, and she doesn’t know the answers to the questions that the teacher is asking. But she doesn’t give up. She continues to go to school and learn as much as she can.

The girls and their mother are proud of Christine for getting an education. They know that it’s not easy, but they also know that it’s worth it. Education is a symbol of hope for the girls and their mother. It’s something that they can use to better their lives.

The theme of The First Day is that uneducated people value education more than educated people. The girls and their mother are excited about Christine going to school because they know that it will help her in the future. They see education as a way to improve their lives. On the other hand, Christine’s classmates see her as different and strange. They don’t understand why she’s trying so hard to get an education.

In a number of instances, the narrator, who is the oldest girl in the tale, has flashbacks to events that she had as a kid and understands them as an adult as a result of vivid imagery being present throughout the story. The descriptive details of her environment begin in the first paragraph when she explains that her scalp tingles because her hair has been braided so many times, and that she can smell “Dixie Peach hair grease” on her braid.

The tingling and smell of her hair becomes a reoccurring image in the story as she begins to think about her mother, who would often braid her hair. The narrator then goes on to describe how her mother used to take “three strands of my hair, moisten them with spit, and then twirl them around her forefinger until they twisted into a tight little rope” which created the three-strand braids that were so painful for the young girl. The images of her mother’s hands and the smell of Dixie Peach hair grease become almost hypnotic for the narrator as she continues to reflect on other memories of her mother.

One particular instance where Jones utilizes very effective imagery is when the narrator begins to think about the first time she got her period. The young girl in the story is very embarrassed by this event, and is reluctant to tell her mother, which leads to her staining her clothing. The image of the “rusty-looking spot” on her dress becomes almost like a symbol for the shame and humiliation that she feels at that moment, and Jones does an excellent job of conveying these emotions through the use of descriptive language.

The final instance of vivid imagery in the story comes towards the end, when the narrator remembers playing with fire as a child and accidentally setting herself ablaze. The image of the flames “licking at my skin” is one that is sure to stay with readers long after they have finished the story, and it effectively conveys the terror that the young girl felt in that moment.

Edward P. Jones’s short story “The First Day” is a coming-of-age tale that follows the narrator as she reflects on her childhood and adolescence. The story is told from a first-person perspective, which allows readers to see the events through the eyes of the protagonist.

The use of flashbacks allows Jones to explore the theme of memory, and how our past experiences can shape our present selves. The story also addresses themes of family, identity, and growing up. The protagonist is an African American girl who is struggling to find her place in the world.

She is torn between her desire to conform to the expectations of her family and community, and her own wants and needs. The story follows her as she tries to make sense of her place in the world, and ultimately comes to the realization that she is her own person and can choose what path she wants to take in life.

The narrator’s favorite smell has a calming effect on her: “the stingiest bit of her gardenia perfume,” which her mother anointed her with for her first day of school. This is significant because it evokes memories in both the narrator and her mother, as the scent was a present from her father, who “disappeared into memory,” implying that he abandoned their family, making their lives even more difficult yet they still wear the fragrance and remember him by it. The author also employs symbols to represent metainterpret metaphors about how the narrator actually felt about events.

The gardenia perfume can be perceived as a symbol of hope because even though her father is no longer with them, she still has the memories of him and he is still a part of her life. The color red is also used as a symbol in this story. The first instance where it appears is when the narrator describes her mother’s hair as “red-tinged,” which could represent the anger and frustration that her mother feels due to her difficult life circumstances.

The second time red appears is when the narrator says that she wished she could have worn her red dress on the first day of school, but she had to wear her “good clothes” instead. The red dress represents the freedom and fun that she wants to have in her life, but she is forced to repress those desires due to the poverty that she lives in.

Overall, The First Day is a story about a young girl’s struggles with growing up in poverty and feeling out of place at school. However, it is also a story about hope and perseverance. The narrator may not have had the best start in life, but she has the strength to keep going despite the challenges she faces. The author uses powerful imagery and symbols to convey the narrator’s emotions and experiences in a way that is both moving and relatable.


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