Study Guide

How I Live Now Contrasting Regions: New York and England

By Meg Rosoff

Contrasting Regions: New York and England

I have to tell you about the house, which is practically indescribable if the only sort of houses you've lived in before are apartments in New York City. (1.3.6)

Daisy arrives in England and is wonderstruck at the sizes of houses and the spaces around them. As the first comparison between New York and England, this line sets the stage for a bigger contrast between Daisy's old world and new one.

Someone made cups of tea and they all stared at me like I was something interesting they'd ordered from a zoo and asked me lots of questions in a much more polite way than would ever happen in New York, where kids would pretty much wait for some grown-up to come in all fake-cheerful and put cookies on a plate and make you say your names. (1.3.13)

Lots going on here, and Daisy's feeling like a freak show. These kids talk to you and ask questions and seem interested, all without the help of a parent to guide them—crazypants. Here, Daisy plants the idea that people in England are so much more socially able and polite than people in New York.

When I woke up I thought how strange it is to be lying […] surrounded by grayish light and a weird kind of quiet you never get in New York City where the traffic keeps you company in a constant buzzy way day and night. (1.4.1)

One of the most substantial differences Daisy likes to point out is how peaceful the English countryside is compared to her home. The quiet isolation allows Daisy and her cousins to ignore the problems of the outside world, enjoying their own idyllic utopia—that is, until the war comes along.

Piper was making my tea and seeming worried that I'd had to get out of bed to get it. In New York, nine-year-olds usually don't do that sort of thing, but wait for some grown-up to do it for them, so I was impressed by her intrepid attitude. (1.4.8)

Daisy's amazed by how competent and self-sufficient her cousins are, as well as how well they are able to take care of themselves and each other. At first she's so stunned that she allows them to take care of her as well, but eventually their example helps her recognize her own strength and skill.

I'm not exactly in the habit of having people take over a perfectly private house to send the inhabitants off to live god knows where for The Duration, and all I could think was this would not happen in America. (1.14.3)

A typical American "this would never happen in America" comment, Daisy's grown frustrated with the way in which English politeness, in her opinion, means letting people walk all over you.

I wondered if this was a cultural thing or what, that no one in this country says You've got to be kidding when told to vacate their home and abandon their newly discovered loved ones by a bunch of jumped-up reject army guys playing war games for a lark. (1.15.6)

For the first time, Daisy's comparison of England to New York isn't a favorable one. It would be so simple, right, just to tell these army quacks to buzz off and leave them all alone, and Daisy's irritated that Osbert and the cousins aren't doing so, like a good New Yorker would. Of course, little does she know that pretty much the same thing was happening back home.

I learned more about farming in the few weeks we lived with the McEvoys than I was ever likely to find out in a lifetime on the tenth floor of an Eighty-Sixth Street apartment building where the closest you ever got to Agricultural Produce was a corned beef sandwich from Zabar's with a half-sour pickle. (1.17.15)

Daisy's finally realizing the ways in which living in England is making her more competent than she ever would have been at home in New York, where everyone is far removed from the origins and labor that go into the products they consume.

I spent some of my endless hours of leisure learning to shoot a gun, which I thought might come in handy someday, if not in the war then back on the streets of New York. (1.19.20)

It's pretty amusing that Daisy's first instance of a similarity between her new life and her old one is comparing England in wartime to New York on a regular Tuesday. Finally, a skill that will translate back home.

I was glad to know this fact because being from New York City where everyone's born knowing uptown is North but not a whole lot else, I didn't know anything about NNE vs. NE and was glad that someone let us in on that secret. (1.23.10)

Just kidding, Daisy's still pretty incompetent. Who doesn't know what Northeast is? Naturally, this foreshadows the fact that she's going to get pretty lost before she figures out where she's going. Luckily this little secret will hopefully help her out.

Footpaths are god's gift to people trying to travel long distances without using roads. I guess in America we'd have to crash a path through the woods but here it was all nice and civilized and half the time they were even marked with little arrows. (1.23.15)

Oh, how civilized the British are—even in wartime, Daisy notices the ways in which the polite tendencies of English people are helping her. A clear contrast between the civilized nature of the British and the wild, frenzied nature of America.

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