Dear Alexandros

Published: 2021-08-07 07:35:07
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In this short tale, Updike conveys the difference between lifestyles in the western and northern hemispheres, as well as the innocence of youth, the strain of adulthood, and the therapeutical effect the act of simply writing a letter can have on a man during a point of difficult transition in his life. The first letter is written to Mr and Mrs Bentley by Alexandros, a Greek boy residing with his Grandmother and sister. In his letter, Alexandros expresses his gratitude and adoration towards the Bentleys, as well as his concern for them, given the span of time between each letter. I was looking forward again this month to receiving a letter from you, but unfortunately I have again not received one. So I am worried about you, for I am longing to hear about you, dear American Parents. You show such a great interest in me, and every month I receive your help. ” (Updike, 55. ) Alexandros lives a happy, simple life, mentioning to his American Parents that he is on school vacation, and that he is spending his time at the beach with his friends. The letter is short and sweet, expresses his gratitude and urges his American Parents to continue their correspondence.
Mr Kenneth Bentley, American Parent #10,638, sends the second letter – a reply to Alexandros – from New York City. After a brief greeting and reply to the boy, Kenneth promptly confesses, “Mrs Bentley and I no longer live together. I had not intended to tell you this but now the sentence is typed and I see no harm in it. ” (56). The man attempts to move on from the topic numerous times throughout his letter, however he continues to return to the concern of his separation, setting the tone for the remainder of his message.
He shows a great deal of respect for the boy and describes his surroundings in a simple, but sweet regard “The sad little trees along the somewhat sad little street where I live now are turning yellow … The pretty girls that walk along the main streets are putting on hats again … [the] streets run north and south so that there is usually a sunny side and a shady side and now people cross the street to be on the sunny side because the sun is no longer too warm. ” (55) which, given the nature of the boy, one can only assume is met with great excitement and wonder.
Although Kenneth seems to maintain an amicable relationship with his family, he returns to the topic more than once in this letter. This appears to be a way for the American Parent to ensure that Alexandros knows that although his adoptive parents are no longer together, he is still a big part of their lives and their involvement in his will by no means diminish. He delivers this affirmation with ease; as if it is a statement he is well versed in, given the age and inevitable confusion of his two children. … Mrs Bentley and Amanda and Richard and I were very happy and to a degree are yet … We will continue to send you the money for which you say you are grateful … I know that [Mrs Bentley] loves you very much …” (56). He speaks fondly of his children at home, regaling that “Amanda now is starting kindergarten and was very excited and will never wear dungarees or overalls anymore because she insists on wearing dresses because that is what makes girls look nice, she thinks. and that “Richard walks very well now and does not like his sister teasing him. ” (56). Kenneth seems to truly enjoy his correspondence with Alexandros. Although the letter from the boy is only short, it is possible that the two characters have had more compelling exchanges in the past. Another possibility is that Kenneth simply finds the act of writing down his thoughts and feelings therapeutical, much like a diary or journal.
Perhaps his letters have been short and to the point in the past, and it is only now that he is independent that he feels free to share intimate details of his every-day life such as “Now I must end, for I have agreed to take a young woman out to dinner …” (57). This story appears to suggest that the difference in every day life between the two characters is that a man with wealth owns his life, while a poor man may not. This is not to say that the poor man is at a disadvantage, rather that a man or boy with less power may not feel as much pressure to strive or the perfect life. He makes do with what he has, and as a result lives a happier and simpler life. Updike has written this allegory to criticise the American society in the Twentieth Century and shine light on the modest that Alexandros lives. These two narrators are capricious, as their words are biased by what ever mood they happened to be in at the time they were written. More specifically, Alexandros may not write about the dreadful situations that he faces daily, simply because he finds it unnecessary to burden his correspondent with.
Kenneth may well be struggling with his new life as well, but prefers only to reveal highlights as to keep the spirits of his adopted son high. Of course, the fact that Kenneth can afford to support a boy like Alexandros even after his divorce insinuates that perhaps he has the better life. Updike has utilised this exchange of letters as a means to present his allegory. The reader can easily relate to either character, however their feelings towards their respective predicaments remain ambiguous.
This is a prime example of the advantage first person narration allows to the reader; the ability to interpret the text in whichever way they feel they can relate to the most. In conclusion, “Dear Alexandros” presents the readers with the chance to apply the meaning behind this story to their own life, a chance to ponder an ultimately indefinite answer to the meaning of a “better” life. Bibliography Updike, John. ‘Dear Alexandros. ’ 1959. EL1100:03 Subject Reader. Townsville: School of Humanities, James Cook U, 2013. 55-57.

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