“In Skies”, Tan uses the old woman

         “In all our lives, there is a fall from innocence.  A time after which, we are never the same.” – Stand By Me.  Innocence can be found at any age or any point in one’s life.  It means chastity, freedom from wrong, lack of knowledge, SIMPLICITY.  When one has innocence the world seems easy without any worries, however that can all change when one loses their innocence.  The loss of innocence can feel as though one has fallen into a black hole and can never escape, darkness, voicelessness, LONELINESS.  In Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club”, Nadine Gordimer’s “Once Upon a Time”, and Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak”, the authors use main and supporting characters to show a loss of innocence at a young age.  In “The Joy Luck Club” loss of innocence is expressed through the old woman from the fourth parable, “Queen Mother of the Western Skies”.  In “Once Upon a Time” loss of innocence is expressed through the young boy.  In “Speak” loss of innocence is expressed though Melinda.  Although all three of these characters go through the same struggle of loss of innocence, Anderson’s character Melinda is able to come to terms with her loss and regain her strength.  In these three stories, Tan, Gordimer, and Anderson use the theme of loss of innocence to portray loneliness, fear, and barriers to show how one can learn from past experiences.            In the fourth parable “Queen Mother of the Western Skies”, Tan uses the old woman to show her loss of innocence through flashbacks to her youth.  As she plays with her granddaughter, the old woman wonders what she will teach the child. She sees the baby laughing and the old woman recalls that she too was “once free and innocent”, laughing for pure enjoyment (213). However, as time went on she “threw away” her “foolish innocence” to protect herself (213).  As a result, when she had a daughter, she taught her daughter to do the same and “shed her innocence” (213).  The old woman wonders if telling her daughter to do so was wrong, for now she can recognize the evil in the world.  She calls the baby as if she is a high and mighty spirit named “Syi Wang Mu”, Queen Mother of the Western Skies and asks her to answer her question.  Continuing to call her granddaughter the Queen, she thanks the baby and asks her to teach her daughter how to lose her innocence, but not her hope, for then the daughter will be happy forever.  Tan uses the grandmother’s loss of innocence as a teaching moment for her daughter and granddaughter to stay happy.            In “Once Upon a Time”, Gordimer uses the young boy to show his loss of innocence through over protection and mental barriers.  In “Once Upon a Time” the boy represents innocence.  He is completely unaware of his surroundings and the dangers around his home.  Although his parents initial intentions are to protect their son, they become paranoid and very cautious.  In the parents exaggerated attempts to protect their lives and property, they unknowingly create an unsafe environment for their son.  The parents install different security measures to a point where their family is in complete isolation and a jail like home.  Their house is surrounded by layers and layers of fences, walls, security systems, and barbed wire.  As a result the boy is trapped in his home and has no place to play. In attempt to have fun, he acts out the fantasy of “Sleeping Beaty”: “he pretended to be the Prince who braves the terrible thicket of thorns to enter the palace and kiss the Sleeping Beauty”.  However in his mind the thicket of thorns was the barbed wire that surrounded their families home: “he dragged a ladder to the wall, the shining coiled tunnel was just wide enough for his little body to creep in, and with the first fixing of its razor-teeth in his knees and hands and head he screamed and struggled deeper into its tangle”.  The boy lost his innocence when his parents installed the security measures and took away his freedom.  The only place for the boy to feel free was in the unsafe yard surrounded by all the dangerous tools.  Gordimer uses the boy’s loss of innocence as a teaching lesson to not become over protective and take away ones freedom.          In “Speak”, Anderson uses Melinda’s rape to show her loss of innocence and coming of age moment.  All of Melinda’s high school dreams are crushed when a senior named Andy Evans rapes her at a high school-party before the start of her freshman year. When she starts high school, she’s lost her virginity against her will. She’s also lost all the people she thought were her friends and her ability to communicate with others. As Melinda struggles with the burden of her secret, she grows more and more depressed, she even begins mutilating her own body. An example of this would be when she says “I can’t stop biting my lips.  It looks like my mouth belongs to someone else, someone I don’t even know” (17).  As Melinda constantly hurts her self internally and externally, her loss of innocence is the main catalyst for her problems.  It causes her to become voiceless and mute, which then causes her to become friendless and isolated from everyone including her family.  However Melinda comes of age when she begins to take back her body, mind, and life, through various kinds of speech and action, from graffiti, drawing, painting, and note writing, to bike riding, to good old fashioned conversation. Eventually, she truly finds her voice when she says “NO” to Andy, loud and clear. (195)  She finally wins her internal battle by standing up for herself and fighting Andy back, whose “lips are paralyzed” and “cannot speak” (195).  At that moment, Melinda reclaims the innocence she thought she had lost when Andy raped her.  She is able to stand up to her demons and regain her strength.  Anderson uses Melinda’s loss of innocence as a time where she is voiceless and alone, but when she is able to stand up for herself she regains           Through the effects from loss of innocence, Tan, Gordimer, and Anderson use the common theme of teaching a lesson.  In each of