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The Negative First Impression of the Great-Grandmother in The Horned Toad

The Horned Toad” Prompt

“She hated the city,” narrator Gerald Haslam stated in the short narrative, The Horned Toad. Within this narrative, Haslam tells of the time his great-grandmother moves into his household. He explains his first impression of the “old lady” is somewhat negative. But later on, as time passed, he slowly began to take a liking towards his great-grandmother, as for her; vice versa. There are many different themes that one could take from this story, one of them being that first impressions aren’t always the lasting impressions.

In the beginning of the narrative, when the author is describing his great-grandmother’s arrival, he writes, “she barked orders in Spanish from the moment she emerged from Manuel and Toni’s car”. The word “barked”, in this sentence is being used as a negative connotation. Not only had his great-grandmother been barking orders since the moment she stepped out of the car, the narrator’s uncle also tells the father, “Good luck, Charlie. That old lady’s dynamite.” When the uncle tells the narrator’s father this, it obviously means that the great-grandmother is going to be some kind of trouble to them. Also saying that the “old lady’s dynamite”, means that she is easily set off, which would also prove to be a problem to them. Furthermore, Haslam also includes how his great-grandmother would call him and his father names with a negative connotation. For example, she would call his father “ese gringo” (translating to “that American”) and calling the narrator “el macrido” (translating to “the spoiled brat”). It’s common for someone to take a disliking towards some that constantly insults them. According to the way Haslam seemingly describes her, he seems to take a disliking towards her, though later on in the text, this will prove to change.

“She had only been with us only two days when I tries to impress her with my horned toad. In fact nothing I did seemed to impress her”, the narrator remarks, hinting at how his relationship with his great-grandmother had worked. A little bit later in the text he also mentions that he would sneak around the house just to avoid his great-grandmother, At this time Haslam already had perceived his great-grandmother as an irritable person, supporting this, he also talks about how his great-grandmother would refuse to climb into a car or accompany his mother anywhere; also proving his great-grandmother to be stubborn. But all these negative interactions soon change after the narrator’s great-grandmother catches him in the act of avoiding her. “?Venga aqui!” she called out to the narrator, he then approached her. In Spanish, she then offered him some candy; to which the narrator responded with, “Deseo dulce.” “Oh, so you wan’ some candy. Go to the store an’ buy some.”, the great-grandmother retorted. This is where, in the narrative, we see a change between the two characters. It seems the narrator believes that she spoke in English just for him, and he also realizes this entire time his great-grandmother was playing a joke on him.

Also in the beginning of the narrative, Haslam writes about his first impression of his great-grandmother; using words such as “barked” to describe the way she ordered his aunt and uncle to do things. Also mentioning how she would call his father, “ese gringo”, translating to ‘that American’ in English. And how she called Haslam “el malcrido”, translating to ‘the spoiled boy’. Haslam also uses many words of negative connotation to describe his great-grandmother. Later on in the narrative, the author states, “I wasn’t afraid of my great-grandmother any longer”. After this point he begins to describe his great-grandmother in a more light-hearted and positive way. The author also makes a point to include that he had stopped sneaking around the house to avoid his great-grandmother, also showing that their relationship has changed. Through the language used, he described how his relationship with his great-grandmother slowly changed from being fearful of her to being very close and fond of her.

The lesson you are able to learn in this story is that first impressions aren’t always lasting impressions. It is significant because, a lot of times one can’t tell who a person really is by the first impression. People set up a barrier so they seem a specific way to the people that don’t know them very well. One won’t take down those barriers until you get to know them.

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