Helen on 86th Street
“Helen on 86th street” by Wendi Kaufman is about a 12 year old girl who tries out for a lead part in her school play. The play was about the Trojan War and when results rolled around she had gotten a smaller part, and was extremely jealous of Helen who made the main role. Vita was going to play inside the horse with a really cute boy. While Vita was jealous of Helen, Helen was jealous of Vita because the cute boy accompanying Vita during the play was the boy she had a major crush on. Throughout the play Vita was comparing her life to the one her father was living.
Her dad left them unexpectedly when she was a little girl, and they still to this day don’t know where he is in the world. Vita says her dad is on an Odyssey and hopes one day he will return home. Over the years she has been writing him letters and putting them in a shoe box tied shut in her closet. She does this because it allows her to put her true thoughts about her dad on paper and pretend she is really close with her dad and hopefully nobody will ever see them. Vita writes letters to her dad quiet often about her life, but she does not truly send them.
She does this because she doesn’t know where he really is out in the world or if he has a new family he cares about more. Even if she knew where he was, she probably wouldn’t send the letters because she holds fear inside of her and lets nasty thoughts overtake the positive ones. While writing the short story, Wendi used many context clues to portray these images clearly to the readers. She uses dashes to resemble a short pause. This pause is used so that the reader can see how when Vita is telling the story of her dad its emotional for her. She has to take pauses so she can process what she is saying.
It lets her endure every word spoken from her mouth and allows her to finally grasp that her father may not be coming back home. Farther along in the piece it talks about how she wants to write to her dad and ask him more personal questions such as “Do you miss us as much as we miss you? ” In the end, she chickens out and talks about everyday life events that are occurring in her life. She does this because she is scared once again on what her dad will think of those questions. Vita fears rejection and if he responded with a simple no she would be mortified.
It would end up crushing not only her heart, but her dreams of him returning home. She also says in the last paragraph that “it will take many years before I return home. ” This line is saying that it will take many years for Vita to get the life she wants to have, which is with her father. She wishes her dad never left and with this statement, it proves she won’t consider her life normal, until her family is reunited together and her dad is safely with them. Another way the author clearly showed the reader Vita’s true thoughts was through her use of diction.
She uses words that are very easy to understand but the way that Vita says them make the reader endure her life situation. When she says, “Every night I write a letter to my father. I don’t send them- I don’t know where to send them- but, still, I write them,” it shows how much she wishes she knew where her father was out in the world. The way that Wendi wrote this clearly puts a picture into the reader’s head of the scene occurring in the novel and makes them feel extremely grateful for the people they have in their lives.
Altogether, Vita writes the letters to prove she misses her dad on the inside and would do anything to have childhood memories with him. On the outside though, she doesn’t want people to see what she is going through and acts as though her life is perfectly normal. Throughout the short story, Vita faces many tough obstacles in life. She did her best to get through them and tried not to let anything get the best of her. On the other hand, her dad is somewhere out in the world and Vita felt he was doing the same thing as her, living an Odyssey.
In her mind she believed that one day her father would come home just like Odysseus has done after years of adventure. Sometimes she wished she had a way to communicate with him. This is why she wrote those letters to her father. In the end her dad did not return and she was starting to lose all hope she ever had for her dad to return. The message displayed by Vita was you have to learn to let go of things in life, even if you have had a grasp on it since a child and dreamed of one day getting it back.