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“Yesterday’s Whales”

I pictured a mother whale, exhausted from labor, pushing her calf up to the skin of the water.  The miracle of breath in the face of predation, life in the wake of whaling ships.

 

Bergman’s piece “Yesterday’s Whales” reaches right to the heart of the reader, by placing them in as difficult of a situation as the narrator.  When you adore someone, anything they say, you take in to be the truth.  With Malachi, the narrator is stuck choosing between love and biological instinct. Up until this point in her life, she was not searching for something to believe in, because Malachi has chosen that for her.  He had set up a belief system for the narrator, and expected her to follow him and believe whatever he may say to her.  For years, this worked for him.  For years, the narrator did not have a voice of her own.  When she realized she was pregnant, she found a belief system of her own.  In choosing to decide for herself what to do with the baby, she had already defeated Malachi.  He had to be in control of her, or there was no relationship.  Bergman brought us into the story with great detail and a flowing, unbroken voice.  We are taken through not only the readers situation, but her thoughts as well.  We know her because of the way Bergman has set up the story: the settings, the motif, the character, the time.  Through these elements, we can follow along as the narrator makes the most difficult decision of her life, and does so by the advice and raising of a loving mother, who was also raised by an equally as loving mother.  The last passage describes how mother whales help their calf to take their first breath.  The most compelling part of this story lies at this point, because it has a deeper meaning than just “helping the calf breathe.”  The underlying meaning here, is that the calf takes its first breath where it also may take its last, on the surface where whaling ships may prey on the mammal.  The narrator makes a choice in the face of a man whom she’s known to love and believe.  By doing this, she’s also taking a breath, beginning a life, in the face of letting her old life be preyed upon by her heart’s true desire.  She is able to move on.

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