“Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” by ZZ Parker is a text deeply woven in symbolic acts and situations in the lives of the individuals populating the short story Geese. The story revolves around Dina, a young African American woman, from Baltimore in the United States of America who sets out on a journey of self-discovery to Tokyo, Japan. The imagery significance of the title; Drinking Coffee Elsewhere relates to how characters who initially had constrained and naïve view of the various worldly states are eventually left with no option other than reluctantly accept new ways of life that alienate them further as outcasts in their own self-assessment and the new environment.
The struggle for identity is the central idea on which Dina’s experiences revolve. As a young growing woman of African American descent, the protagonist sets out her standards of morality clearly defining limits to her actions beyond which she deemed an utter impossibility of her conduct. In addition, she goes to the extent of setting her role in the redemption of the negatively portrayed Black race of America following a long protracted history of racial prejudice by the dominant White race. However, in the context of a new strange land in the lonesome expansive city of Tokyo in Japan, she is left with no choice than to bend her own rules to ensure her survival in the backdrop of an oppressive environment that no one had prepared her for.
First of all, Dina is portrayed as an outcast the moment she finds herself in a new land which turns out to be extremely unfamiliar to her. In Geese, we are told that she felt as the only African American in a country where there were American and African inhabitants as well. This had a great bearing with regard to her mission to correct the stereotypical negative picture painted about her race and assert a positive identity she believed in. According to the anthology Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, Dina prejudiced that many Japanese immediately associated Blacks with crime and other low ranked positions in life owing to the influence of many American films which portrayed them as such. Hoping to correct this perception, she resolves not to take a sweeping job on offer by a Japanese who derived pleasure in seeing others serve him. By doing this; she hoped to repair the portrayal of Blacks as slaves. Ironically, we see her regretting her resolve later on when her joblessness leads to untold hunger and poverty in Tokyo.
Secondly, she is forced to readjust her morality threshold later on and empathizes with the kamikaze pilots of the world war. She initially disapproved of their actions in ensuring their survival. After the biting pangs of poverty, hunger, and lack of a decent shelter, Dina falls prey to the lustful Japanese men whom she had heartily disdained when she trades her body for money to a rich businessman to get going with the expiry of her Visa and the poverty afflicting her. She is also seen stealing food and train tickets as a result of unemployment.
In conclusion, it is evident from the above analysis that both the search for identity and the recovery of lost identity are the driving forces behind the protagonist’s actions. She eventually finds herself a victim of her desired standards of life and is forced to bow to the pressure illustrating that perhaps change is indeed mandatory in life.
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