In Grace Paley’s The Collected Stories, Paley takes us through a series of short stories and narratives, each one completely different and unique from the rest. All of the stories are told from the perspective of different people who are completely different in many ways (different ages, genders, races, etc) which is a literary style that is presumably hard for many authors to achieve. The audience finds themselves wrapped up in one story only to find a quick ending, immediately followed by the start of a new story.
In her short story, A Woman, Young and Old, Paley tells the story of Lizzy, a young girl who falls in love with a corporal. From the beginning of the story, we get a feel of the family dynamic within this certain family: it is run by several uptight women who are very traditional in their thinking. It is important to note that the only male figure that is part of this story is the corporal. We never learn his real name but we do know him by his nickname: Browny. Lizzy, who is under the age of fourteen for most of the story, instantly falls in love with Browny and has convinced herself that they are to be married. By the end of the story, they are engaged.
It is important to note that the only male figure in A Woman, Young and Old is Browny. Paley is proving to the audience that women can have power and authority over the decisions that happen in her household. Though her stories are timeless, the audience is to imagine this story to take place in a time where women were not offered the same rights and liberties they are offered today. As a liberal female author, it is very important to Paley that the message of feminism be spread.
Paley writes, “’Women,’ said Grandma in appreciation, ‘have been the pleasure and consolation of my entire life. From the beginning I cherished all the little girls with their clean faces and their listening ears…’” Throughout A Woman, Young and Old, we feel a sense of community among the females in this story. From Lizzy, to her sister, to her grandmother, there is a connection that bonds these women. Lizzy’s grandmother is a very strong, independent, and wise woman. The story flows beautifully from the beginning as we glimpse into the dynamics of this strong family. The story ends beautifully as well, with the females sticking up for what they believe in.
Grace Paley does a wonderful job of conveying her message of feminism and female power and leadership. It is a very important message to be portrayed and she does it in a flawless and artistic way. Along with her other collected works in this book, Grace Paley tells beautiful simple stories with elegant images that makes it easy to want to read her works. Our imaginations flow picturing the scenes of such beautiful works coming alive in our heads, coupled with strong messages of hope and leadership.