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The Split Paths

weilla yuan's picture

    People change when they are under different environment, and they vary even when they are growing under similar environment. In Ruth Ozeki’s novel All Over Creation, she describes how two little girls Yumi and Cass become so different growing up in the similar environment, and ultimately going onto the completely opposite track.

      Yumi and Cass were born in Idaho, the potato kingdom. They are neighbors, schoolmates, best friends, and both got abused by their father. However, at last one of them chooses to run away and the other chooses to stay. From there, the little girl’s lives have gone on to two paths. What causes them to make decisions like that? The answer is their father. As the book describes, Cass’s father often abuses her physically, and when he does, no body can prevent it (36,37). Yumi’s father Lloyd. On the other hand, has never abused her physically, but mentally. Lloyd forces Yumi to obey him when she was young, and the tone he uses is always very commanding. “Don’t wipe that hard! Now look at what you’ve done!”, “I’m cold, shut that window and come finish what you started.”(153). Also, Yumi confessed towards the end of the book that she loved Lloyd so much, but he stopped because he felt like he could not control her any more (242). An old saying says that “Spare the rod spoil the child.” Some people believe that the child can only be obedient if you give them physical punishments. Cass’s physical actions have been limited by her father, so she was forced or pushed to stay because there is a subconscious tells her if she tries to run away, she will get beaten. In the contrast, Yumi’s body never is controlled by Lloyd, but psychologically. So when mind got tired, body ran away.

       The decisions become the turning point in Cass’s and Yumi’s lives. Twenty-five years later, they have two totally various lives. Yumi has three kids with different skin colors, whereas Cass has none; Yumi got into college, got to see the world, whereas Cass stayed in the small town her whole life; Yumi tends to take things in an easy and lose way, whereas Cass tends to take things in a serious and blaming way. When Cass picks up Yumi at the airport, she got so nervous that she starts smoking again. Yumi on the other hand, act like they are still close friends(60). Then Cass tries so hard to tell Yumi that she and her husband bought Lloyd’s land, and blames Yumi for “knowing shit about potatos” before Yumi even talks. Yumi taks it easy and laughed, but Cass goes on to say that “I envied you, I was always the potato.” Later on when Cass tells Yumi she cannot get pregnant, Yumi tells her to stop using the pesticide for the potatos, Cass got angry and says it is not that easy. When the girls sit down and talked about the night Yumi ran away, Cass blames Yumi for the miscarries of her babies, and blames her for everything bad luck that Cass has(78,79). This is a ridiculous thing to say. How can somebody bring away all the gook luck?

From this we can see that after twenty-five years, Yumi turns out to be a woman who is realistic and optimistic, but Cass on the other hand turns out to be idealistic and passive. However, these are all not their fault. These are depending on the environment that they lived and still living in. twenty-five years experiences without parents makes Yumi become practical and tend to take things easy. Cass on the other hand, never got out of the physical control of her father, becomes idealistic and tend to blame everything bad luck she has on others (Yumi).

Sometimes people can vary even when they are living under similar environments, they can be diverse just because of the only difference in their lives. Just like Yumi and Cass, even though they lived under the same place, had the same education, their personalities turned out to be entirely different. Yumi is the one who ran away, has three kids and realistic to life, whereas Cass stayed, has no kid and tend to blame others for her hard life. However, they are not the ones to blame, it is their environments they should blame. That is what changes and influences them.


Work Cited

Ozeki, Ruth. Parts I-III. All Over Creation. Penguin, 2004



Anne Dalke's picture

I think the comparison of Yumi and Cass is a very interesting one, which we started to explore in class, using Cass as a “foil” who shows us, by contrast, what is distinctive about Yumi (cf. what Virushi and Nayanthi are doing in their drafts…) As you show, Cass and Yumi are raised in the same environment, but turn out quite differently: the first “realistic and optimistic,” the second “idealistic and passive.” What I’m not understanding yet from this version of your paper is the causes for those differences. (I’m also quite interested in this pairing—why is realism linked optimism, and idealism to passivity? Couldn’t they as easily have been paired oppositely?)

You attribute the different life choices of the girls to a single factor: Cass was beaten physically by her father (and so chose to stay?), while Yumi was “only” abused psychologically by hers (and so felt free to go?). I’m not sure I’m convinced by that one difference. What about all the other distinctions between them, from Cass playing the “side dish” to Yumi’s being the Indian princess?

Wherefrom do personality differences arise? How multiple are the causes? How  exactly does Yumi herself answer the question of why she left, when Cass asks her (on p. 241)? I’m suspecting that there’s a much more complicated story to tell here than the one you’ve sketched out so far, which reduces a fiction full of “latitude” to a single cause…