The son of Jewish immigrants, Schwartz was born in Brooklyn in His father was an exuberant huckster, who made and lost a fortune, and his mother was a deeply erratic paranoid. Their marriage was a catastrophe. Schwartz was a precocious teenager, an ardent and passionate reader who, by the time he was 20, had read all of the modernists and most of the philosophers, too.
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They are not yet engaged and he is not yet sure that he loves my mother, so that, once in a while, he becomes panicky about the bond already established.
But then he reassures himself by thinking of the big men he admires who are married: William Randolph Hearst and William Howard Taft, who has just become the President of the United States. He has come too early and so is suddenly embarrassed. As my father enters, my grandfather rises from the table qnd shakes hands with him.
My mother has run upstairs to tidy herself. My grandmother asks my father if he has had dinner and tells him that my mother will be down soon. My grandfather opens the conversation by remarking about the mild June weather. My father sits uncomfortably near the table, holding his hat in his hand. My uncle, twelve years old, runs into the house, his hair tousled.
He shouts a greeting to my father, who has often given him nickels, and then runs upstairs, as my grandmother shouts after him. It is evident that the respect in which my father is held in this house is tempered by a good deal of mirth. He is impressive, but also very awkward. I1 Finally my mother comes downstairs and my father, being at the moment engaged in conversation with my grandfather, is made uneasy by her entrance, for he does not know whether to greet my mother or to continue the conversation.
He gets up from his chair clumsily and says "Hello" gruffly. My grandfather watches this, examining their congruence, such as it is, with a critical eye, and meanwhile rubbing his bearded cheek roughly, as he always does when he reasons. He is worried; he is afraid that my father will not make a good husband for his oldest daughter. At this point something happens to the film, just as my father says something funny to my mother: I am awakened to myself and my unhappiness just as my interest has become most intense.
The audience begins to clap impatiently. My father and mother depart from the house, my father shaking hands with my grandfather once more, out of some unknown uneasiness. He is studying in his bedroom upstairs, studying for his final examinations at the College of the City of New York, having been dead of double pneumonia for the last twenty-one years. This is a habit which he very much enjoys, for he feels the utm superiority and confidence when he is approving or condemning the beh ior of other people.
At times he feels moved to utter a brief "Ugh," whene the story becomes what he would call sugary. This tribute is the assertion his manliness. My mother feels satisfied by the interest she has awaken and she is showing my father how intelligent she is and how interesting. They reach the avenue, and the street-car leisurely arrives. They going to Coney Island this afternoon, although my mother really consid such pleasures inferior.
She has made up her mind to indulge only in a w on the boardwalk and a pleasant dinner,. My father tells my mother how much money he has made in the wc just past, exaggerating an amount which need not have been exaggerat, But my father has always felt that actualities somehow fall short, no ma1 how fine they are. Suddenly I begin to weep. The determined old lady m sits next to me in the theatre is annoyed and looks at me with an angry fa and being intimidated, I stop.
I drag out my handkerchief and dry my fa licking the drop which has fallen near my lips. Meanwhile I have mis: something, for here are my father and mother alighting from the street-cax the last stop, Coney Island. They both breathe in deeply, both them laughing as they do so. They have in common a great interest health, although my father is strong and husky, and my mother is frail.
My father and mother go to the rail of the boardwalk and look down I the beach where a good many bathers are casually walking about. A few s in the surf. A peanut whistle pierces the air with its pleasant and acti whine, and my father goes to buy peanuts. My mother remains at the r and stares at the ocean. The ocean seems merry to her; it pointedly spark1 and again and again the pony waves are released.
My father returns with the peanuts. The boardwa -. The tide does not reach as far as the boardwalk, and the strollers would feel no danger if it did. My father and mother lean on the rail of the boardwalk and absently stare at the ocean. The ocean is becoming rough; the waves come in slowly, tugging strength from far back. The moment before they somer- sault, the moment when they arch their backs so beautifully, showing white veins in the green and black, that moment is intolerable.
They finally crack, dashing fiercely upon the sand, actually driving, full force downward, against it, bouncing upward and forward, and at last petering out into a small stream of bubbles which slides up the beach and then is recalled. The sun overhead does not disturb my father and my mother. They gaze idly at the ocean, scarcely interested in its harshness.
But I stare at the terrible sun which breaks up sight, and the fatal merciless passionate ocean. I forget my parents. I stare fascinated, and finally, shocked by their indifference, I burst out weeping once more. IV When I return, Feeling as if I had just awakened in the morning sick For lack of sleep, several hours have apparently passed and my parents are riding on the merry-go-round. My father is on a black horse, my mother on a white one, and they seem to be making an eternal circuit for the single purpose of snatching the nickel rings which are attached to an arm of one of the posts.
A hand organ is playing; it is inseparable from the ceaseless circling of the merry-go-round. For a moment it seems that they will never get off the carousel, for it will never stop, and I feel as if I were looking down from the fiftieth story of a building. But at length they do get off; even the hand-organ has ceased for a moment. There is a sudden and sweet stillness, as if the achievement of so much motion. My mother has acquired only two rings, my father, however, ten of them, although it was my mother who really wanted them.
They walk on along the boardwalk as the afternoon descends by imper- ceptible degrees into the incredible violet of dusk. Everything fades into a relaxed glow, even the ceaseless murmuring from the beach. They look for a place to have dinner.
My father suggests the best restaurant on the board- walk and my mother demurs, according to her principles of economy and housewifeliness. However they do go to the best place, asking for a table near the win- dow so that they can look out upon the boardwalk and the mobile ocean.
The place is crowded and here too there is music, this time from a kind of string trio. My father orders with a fine confidence. As their dinner goes on, my father tells of his plans for the future and mother shows with expressive face how interested she is, and how impressed, My father becomes exultant, lifted up by the waltz that is being played, anA his own future begins to intoxicate him.
My father tells my mother that he 23 going to expand his business, for there is a great deal of money to be made. He wants to settle down. I sat there quietly. The place is shadowed in the mauve light which is apparently necessary.
The camera is set to the side 00 its tripod and looks like a Martian man. The photographer is instructing my parents in how to pose. The photographer brings my mother a bouquet of flowers to hold in her hand, but she holds it at the wrong angle. Then the photographer covers himself with the black cloth which drapes the camera and all that one sees of him is one protruding arm and his hand with which he holds tightly to the rubber ball which he squeezes when the picture is taken.
But he is not satisfied with their appearance. He feels that somehod there is something wrong in their pose. Again and again he comes out from his hiding place with new directions. Each suggestion merely makes matters worse. My father is becoming impatient. They try a seated pose. My father says: "Hurry up, will you? The photographer charms me, and I approve of him with all my heart, for I know exactly how he feels, and as he criticizes each revised pose according to some obscure idea of right- ness, 1 become quite hopeful.
It takes a few minutes for the picture to be developed and as my parents sit in the curious light they become depressed. They begin to argue about it. My mother becomes stubborn, my father once more impatient. What my father would like to do now is walk off and leave my mother there, but he knows that that would never do. My mother refuses to budge.
She is near tears, but she feels an uncontrollable desire to hear what the palm reader will say. The place is too warm, and my father keeps saying that this is all nonsense, pointing to the crystal ball on the table. The fortune-teller, a short, fat woman garbed in robes supposedly exotic, comes into the room and greets them, speaking with an accent.
She makes a movement as if to go after him, but the fortune-teller holds her and begs her not to do so, and I in my seat in the darkness am shocked and horrified. I feel as if I were walking a tightrope one hundred feet over a circus audience and suddenly the rope is showing signs of breaking, and I get up from my seat and begin to shout once more the first words I can think of to commu- nicate my terrible fear, and once more the usher comes hurrying down the aisle flashing his searchlight, and the old lady pleads with me, and the shocked audience has turned to stare at me, and I keep shouting: "What are they doing?
If she does not do that, what will she do? You will be sorry if you do not do what you should do. Related Searches.
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Early life[ edit ] Schwartz was born in in Brooklyn, New York , where he also grew up. His parents, Harry and Rose, both Romanian Jews , separated when Schwartz was nine, and their divorce had a profound effect on him. He had a younger brother, Kenneth. He then did some graduate work in philosophy at Harvard University , where he studied with the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead , but left and returned to New York without receiving a degree. The book was well received, and made him a well-known figure in New York intellectual circles.
In Dreams Begin Responsibilities by Delmore Schwartz