Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

by Edgar Allen Poe, William Saroyan, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Nov 06, 2009 8:47 am

Why is the title of the story The Parsley Garden?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby ladylinn » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:18 pm

I think that the Parsley Garden was sort of an oasis for the family and some of their neighbors. It was a cool and comforable place to sit and admire and contemplate the days' events. Al hid there for some time after the hammer incident and his mother sat and cooled after a hard days work. They both seemed to get comfort from the garden whether by eating its harvest or working in it or just sitting and admiring it.

I myself need a quite and peaceful place to clear my thoughts at times. That can be difficult at times in this busy - noisey world!

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby sweetchia » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:46 pm

I agree. The parsley garden was a respite. A refuge. A retreat. A place Al felt safe and comfortable, happy and peaceful. Since Saroyan's writings were personal, I have to wonder if he grew up with just such a garden. I think we all have those places, especially from our childhood, where we went to escape. Places that we remember even as adults, as being the one place everything felt right...even if everything else was wrong.
The parsley garden was a place that Al witnessed his mother in her happier, calm, and relaxed state too. A place she came to relax.
And given it was there that he confessed his "sin"...I think it also represents that safe haven...that place where we can open up, be ourselves, lay our cards on the table, let it all hang out...
That safe haven could be found in another person, which I think his mother was to him and to him, she WAS the parsley garden and it was a part of her. It and she were that place where it is safe to tell the truth and be the best and truest "you".
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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby Buster » Fri Nov 06, 2009 4:58 pm

Perhaps the garden also represented independence from the outside world, as well. Self-sufficiency, working only for yourself and your loved ones, brings a real freedom, and when it is combined with food and family...

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby gemini » Fri Nov 06, 2009 7:14 pm

Yes I agree with what ladylinn and sweetchia said about the garden being a safe haven and not only a working hobby but one that was enjoyed. I think the garden was a favorite place for Al and his mother but for Saroyan it was one of many ways of describing their life. Everything Al and his Mother did were to provide for themselves. Either food as in the garden or comfort as in the bench Al buiilt for the garden.
I think Buster has a point in that it represented independence to them. It was also one of those things that represented their pride. I think that may be why it was used as the title since the story was about Al's pride.
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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby stroch » Fri Nov 06, 2009 7:55 pm

It might also be that it is such a distinctive and engaging name. Saroyan probably had that name lodged in his brain for years, and needed to share it.
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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby Liz » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:16 pm

Ladylinn and sweetchia, I like the way you articulated the purpose of the Parsley Garden. You describe it, as does Saroyan, in such a way that immediately puts me in a relaxed state.

Buster, I think you’ve hit on something there, in that it is a place of independence or freedom from the outside world (which is what has made Al angry and feeling resentful). As sweetchia pointed out, it is a refuge. And gemini takes it further to indicate that the fact that it is something that they have grown and nurtured, providing nourishment for them. Plus it is something they have done themselves of which they can take pride.

And here is something else to consider. I just looked up the word to see if there was any symbolism, and this is what I found….

parsley

In superstitious, medieval times, parsley was believed to have evil powers. For example, it was said that parsley should never be transplanted, since it would cause a death in the family. It was believed that if one plucked parsley and spoke someone's name, the chosen person would die within seven days. To give parsley away meant disaster. Consequently, parsley is probably intended here as a warning to the enemies of the bearer.

And in the Encyclopedia of Spices:

Origin and History

Parsley has been cultivated and developed over so many centuries that its precise origins are difficult to pinpoint, compounded by the probability that all the parsleys we know nowadays, bear little resemblance to their ancestors. The botanical name Petroselinum comes from the Greek word for stone, which is petro, given to parsley because it was found growing on rocky hillsides in Greece. Although the Ancient Greeks did not use parsley in cooking, it was revered as a symbol of oblivion and death and as a funeral herb. According to legend, parsley sprang up where the blood of the Greek hero Archemorus was spilled when he was eaten by serpents. The Greeks used the herb to fashion wreaths for graves. The Romans are said to have used it at orgies to cover up the smell of alcohol on the breath, while also aiding digestion. And there's the unflattering remark that was once made about those who looked as if at death's door: "The man's in need of parsley" (Corpses were sprinkled with parsley to deodorize them.)

Parsley is mentioned often throughout history, and not only for its culinary and medicinal properties. The early Greeks made crowns of parsley to bestow upon the winners of the Nemena and Isthmian sports games, in the same manner that bay wreaths honored the Olympians. Parsley is used in the Hebrew celebration of Passover as a symbol of spring and rebirth. It is mentioned as one of the plants in the gardens of Charlemagne and Catherine de Medici. Rumor has it that Medici is responsible for popularizing parsley when she brought it back to France from its native Italy. In medieval times parsley was surrounded by much superstition, one belief being that the long germination period for the seeds was due to them having to travel to hell and back seven times before sprouting. Superstitious farmers would refuse to transplant parsley and some were even too afraid to grow it at all.
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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:58 pm

Thanks Liz for the info on parsley. Interesting that in history it has such negative connotations! As everyone has already said (very eloquently!) the garden was an oasis for the family, a place where we see their true character come out as opposed to what they had to deal with in the outside world where they have to present a serious face every day. So why use that title? Was it to show the difference between the face they had to put on every day and who they really were?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby trygirl » Sat Nov 07, 2009 12:00 am

I presume there is nothing else to add because you guys have really covered it. But maybe Saroyan used "Parsley Garden" to show the dichotomy between where plants literally grow and where a boy comes into his own. Al spends a lot of time in the garden and maybe here is where he decides to go back and work for the hammer. Parsley might be a symbol for Al. He experience a type of rebirth similar to Liz's tidbit about Hebrew celebrations. The character learns to welcome the sweet aroma of hard work. In the end, the garden smells to Al like it does to his mother. He is older.
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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Nov 07, 2009 10:43 am

Wow! What fabulous answers! I don't think there is anything I can add to that.

Liz, interesting information about parsley! :cool:

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby ladylinn » Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:53 am

Goodness Liz - I had no idea that parsley had such a history and connection with evil or death!

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby suec » Sun Nov 08, 2009 4:32 pm

For some reason, it reminds me of an Islamic garden. The water, I suppose, and the scent of the herb. And because it seems like such a sanctuary. At any rate, I think it is a spiritual place, just as Saroyan's writing is spiritual. The garden represents growth and healing from the sores and labours of outside. He confesses to his mother there, and makes the bench with the hamer he has now earned.

I don't know what to make of the connotations of parsley, really, because there are so many options. Two that occur to me are first of all the association with serpents (as in Eden and the loss of innocence). The other point that stands out for me, and I suppose it is connected with the first point, is the one about it being associated with oblivion. Unfortunately for Al, the memory of that incident will stay with him.
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Re: Saroyan Week ~ The Parsley Garden #2 ~ The Title

Unread postby Liz » Sun Nov 08, 2009 5:02 pm

trygirl wrote: Parsley might be a symbol for Al. He experience a type of rebirth similar to Liz's tidbit about Hebrew celebrations. The character learns to welcome the sweet aroma of hard work. In the end, the garden smells to Al like it does to his mother. He is older.

I had something similar going on in my head, too, trygirl. Thank you for formulating it for me. :ok:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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