by Paul Fleischman
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
First Person (Central Narrators)
13 chapters + a different narrator for each chapter = So. Many. Narrators.
Why not just stick with one? Well, having so many storytellers means we get tons of different views on the same tiny garden. It's kind of impressive to see how much one once-vacant lot can inspire all sorts of people.
But as great as it is, all the changing narrators can get a little confusing. Especially when different narrators give us different takes on the same event. Yep, sometimes these narrators don't agree with one another at all. For example, check out how Kim and Ana have different perspectives on the beans that Kim has buried in the vacant lot. For Kim, these beans are a way to connect with her dad:
He would watch my beans break ground and spread, and would notice with pleasure their pods growing plump. He would see my patience and my hard work. I would show him that I could raise plants, as he had. I would show him that I was his daughter.
My class had sprouted lima beans in paper cups the year before. I now placed a bean in each of the holes. I covered them up, pressing the soil down firmly with my fingertips. I opened my thermos and watered them all. And I vowed to myself that those beans would thrive. (1.7-8)
Did you notice how Kim gives us tons of details about burying her beans and how much they mean to her? She sure is invested in making these beans grow. Those teeny tiny lima beans represent how Kim wants to bond with her pops, which is pretty amazing. But take a look at what happens when Ana tells the same tale in her chapter:
She was burying something. I never had children of my own, but I've seen enough in that lot to know she was mixed up in something she shouldn't be. And after twenty years typing for the Parole department, I just about knew what she'd buried. Drugs most likely, or money, or a gun. (2.3)
It's an understatement to say that Ana's take on the story is different from Kim's. In fact, this version of the story reminds us just how limited the first-person point of view can be. Ana only knows what she sees from her window, so she's not really the most reliable narrator. Can you imagine how we'd think about Kim differently if we only had Ana's version of the story and not Kim's? We're pretty psyched that this book gives us both.
And then eleven more.