Grace Paley Essay


Title: A man told me the story of his life

Literature critics have acclaimed A man told me the story of his life as the story that adheres to all the requirements of a successful short story.

A man told me the story of his life is a social drama masterly written by Grace Paley. The story is about a guy named Vicente willing to become a doctor.

However, this dream of his did not come true since he had been initially convinced by his school teachers that his future should be in engineering.

Even before entering the university he had been called by the army where he became a cook. Right afterwards the service in the army he got married to a girl named Consuela with whom he had three children.

And then drama comes when Vicente saved Consuela from death by telling the doctor that she had to be immediately operated due to the pain she had.

Vicente presented as the main character in this short story feel the necessity to earn a living. The story itself is grounded on the theme of changing a job to earn a living.

The protagonist is a male since he introduces his family after his decision of becoming a cook: “I have three children. This is my wife, Consuela” (Grace Paley, 2001, p 6).

In A man told me the story of his life, there is not much mention about the setting of the story, involving: the time, the location setting.

The story provides no detail information on either specific places or time limits. For instance, the very story does not clarify where or when Vincente existed.

The setting descriptions do not contribute to the plot at all, thus readers are becoming curious about the details of setting as well as the plot overall.

One another feature is the characters’ background while choosing his job. Vincente wants to become a doctor, though eventually becomes a cook despite the lack of his personal interest in cooking after all.

Yet in school Vincente was rather confused and forced to take engineering as a future profession.

The social drama based on the eternal need of earning the money puts Vicente in a rather confusing situation. Being occupied with his primary dream of becoming a doctor, he is convinced of not doing so and eventually serves as a cook.

However his genuine ambition becomes realistic and vital when he finds enough power to explain a doctor that his wife is on the verge of death. Being burdened with three children upbringing as well as immediate chores and commitments, Vicente acts just like a hero fulfilling his dearest ambition and making his dream come true.

By saving the dearest person in the world he proves he is eternally neither an engineer nor a cook. He is a doctor by default from his head to his heels and he just knows it. 

Grace Paley applies a convincing tone to depict a personal drama of her protagonist ascribing a sense of faith as the most essential in our life.

It was faith that helped Vicente to prove the society he is what he is and they should perceive him just like that. And the great deal of faith helped him to save his wife and a mother of his three children from an irrevocable death.



Paley, Grace. ‘A man told me the story of his life’, Literature and Media. Toronto: Nelson English, 2001. Pg.6-7


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