Unit 7 Literature (2)
East of Eden(1)
By John Steinbeck
The Salinas Valley is in Northern California. It is a long narrow swale betwwen two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay.
I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the irds awaken in the summer—and what trees and seasons smelled like—how people looked and walked and smelled even. The memory of odors is very rich.
I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother. They were beckoning mountains with a brown grass love. The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding—unfriendly and dangerous. I always found in myself a dread of west and a love of east. Where I ever got such an idea I cannot say, unless it could be that the morning came over the peaks of the Gabilans and the night drifted back from the ridges of the Santa Lucias. It may be that the birth and death of the day had some part in my feeling about the two ranges of mountains.
From both sides of the valley little streams slpipped out of the hill canyons and fell into the bed of the Salinas River. In the winte of wet years the streams ran full-freshet, and they swelled the river until sometimes it raged and boiled, bank full, and then it was a destroyer. The river tore the edges of the farm lands and washed whole acres down; it toppled barns and houses into itself, to go floating and bobbing away. It trapped cows and pigs and sheep and drowned them in its muddy brown water and carried them to the sea. Then when the late spring came, the river drew in from its edges and the sand banks appeared. And in the summer the river didn’t run at all above ground. Some pools would be left in the deep swirl places under a high bank. The tules and grasses grew back, and willows straightened up with the flood debris in their upper branches. The Salinas was only a part-time river. The summer sun drove it underground. It was not a fine river at all, but it was the only one we had and so we boasted about it—how dangerous it was in a wet winter and how dry it was in a dry summer. You can boast about anything if it’s all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast.
(from John Steinbeck, East of Eden, Chapter1)
Lesson 20 (E—C)
The Sund of Music(Ecerpt 1)
By Maria Augusta Trapp
Suddenly I heard quick footsteps behind me, and a full, resonant voice exchaimed: “I see you are looking at my flag.”
There he was—the Captain!
The tall, well-dressed gentleman standing before me was certainly a far cay from the old sea wolf of my imagination. His air of complete self-assurance and somewhat lordly bearing would have frightened me, had it not been for his warm and hearty hadndshake.
“I am so glad you have come, Fraulein…”
I filled in, “maria.”
He took me in from topp to toe with a quick glance. All of a sudden I became very conscious of my funny dress, and sure enough, there I was diving under my helmet again. But the Captain’s eyes rested on my shoes.
We were still standing in the hall when he said: “I want you to meet the children first of all.”
Out of his pocket he took an odd-shaped, ornamented brass whistle, on which he piped a series of complicated trills.
I must have looked highly amazed, because he said, a little apologeticall: “You see it taks so long to call so many children by name, that I’ve given them each a different whistle.”
Of course, I now expected to hear a loud banging of doors and a chorus of giggles and shouts, the scampering feet of youngsters jumping down the steps and sliding down the banister. In stead, led by a sober-faced young girl in her arly teens, an almost solemn little procession descended step by step in well-mannered silence—four girls and two boys, all dressed in sailor suits. For and instant we stared at each other in utter amazement. I had never seen such perfect little ladies and gentlemen, and they had never seen such a helmet.
“Here is our new teacher, Fraulein Maria.”
“Gruss Gott, Fraulein Maria,” six voices echoed in unison. Six perfect bows followed.
That wasn’t real. That couldn’t be true. I had to shove back that ridiculosu hat again. This push, bowerer, was the last. Down came the ugly brown thing, rolled on the shiny parquet floor,
and landed at the tiny feet of a very pretty, plump little girl of about five. A delingted giggle cut through the severe silence. The ice was broken. We all laughed.
(from Maria Augusta Trapp, The Sound of Music)
Looking for Work
By Xin Fengxia
In the old society, pingju players seldom made enough to live on, and as most were saddled with big families their life was hard. Apart from acting they had to find other work. Often they pulled handcarts, sold junk or cigarettes, hired themselves out as coolies, or collected cigarette stubs.
If a performance was cancelled because of bad wether, the rule in those days was: No show, no pay. On the twenty-third of the twelfth lanar moth, when theatres closed and the patron sint of actors was invited to the fromt stage, leaving the backstage deserted, actors were even worse off, unable to earn any more until the reopening on New Year’s Day.
My family was hard up, with Father a pddler, Mother a housewife, and so many children to feed. At thirteen, as the eldest child, I acted to help support the family. Each single copper had to be eked out, and I kept racking my brains for ways to improve our difficult conditions. Each morning when I went out to practise singing in the open air, I took a little basket to scrounge for cinders for our stove. Even when scrounging for cinders you had to have your wits about you and shift from place to place to avoid those mischievouos boys who banded together to collect cinders too. Being all on my own and afraid of being bullied by them, I shifted around to dodge them. Because when they found me scavenging they made trouble, pulling my plait or throwing insects at me, so that the sight of them frightened me away.
On the twenty-third of the twelfth lunar month the Kitchen God wnt up to heaven, and the theatre shut down until New Year’s Day. When that happened, actors’pay stopped and they were
hard put to it. Each had to fend for himself, and we young actresses did whatever work we could pick up, I went with some other girls to the East Asia Woollen Mill to do odd jobs like unraveling strands of wool or sweeping the floor. We had to queue up before dawn when there were still stars in the sky. A long queue formed before the mill’s gate opened. The foreman came out with a whip, as if herding cattle, and chalked a number on our backs, one by one. That number showed that we were taken on. But such small jobs were really hard to come by . Often, when we’d queued up for hours before the gate opened, after chalking a few numbers the foreman would say, “That’s all! No more hands needed!”At that we felt too disappointed for words! One summer a spell of bad weather closed down our theatre, and I went to queue up. I was lucky. Because I went early, before long I had a number chalked on my back. By the time we knocked off it was pouring with rain. As I ran home I didn’t mind being soaked. I was only worried that if the rain washed off the nubmer on my back I wouldn’t be able to go to work the next day. I frantically took off my gown, while it rained cats and dogs. Clutching my gown to my heart I flew home, and there, unfolding it, I was overjoyed to find that the number wasn’t washed out, though I was drenchd from head to foot like a drowned rat.
*This was said to be the Tang emperor Minghuang, who founded the Pear Garden Company of actors. An altar for him was kept backstage, but moved to the front stage when the theatre closed.
(Translated by Gladys Yang)