“Look at a teacup” is an essay written by Patricia Hampl. The essay shows two major themes; they are the relationship between the writer and her mother and the connection between present and the past. Both themes are presented by a teacup.
The teacup was bought by writer’s mother in 1939 in Czechoslovakia when the Second World War started. The same year the writer’s mother got married to an American who was born in Czechoslovakia. The same year Czechoslovakia was destroyed by the armies of Hitler. Now the teacup has been handed to the writer by her mother. It connects the mother and the writer and past and present because it was made in 1939 in Czechoslovakia and was with writer’s mother then and now it has been with her. The writer likes her mother to give other things and the true historical information about her mother’s past life. But her mother doesn’t want to talk about past. So the only way writer can know about her mother’s past life and her ancestral land Czechoslovakia is by looking at the teacup. It means the writer reads about her mother’s past history in the teacup. Her mother hands over the culture and tradition to her by giving her teacup. By handing over teacup, her mother wants her to get married, but the writer refuses it. Her mother and writer are different in their opinions in other senses also. When the writer was small, she said work was most important thing in the world. But her mother said, family was important for a woman. Likewise, when her mother wanted her to get married, the writer thought that many people didn’t get married. So it was not necessary to marry. She thought past was important but her mother thought future was important. Her mother wanted her daughter (writer) to carry on the culture but the writer wants to set her future life herself.
The cup is a detail, a small uncharred finger from the mid-century bonfire. The mid-century bonfire refers to the Second World War that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The word ‘finger’ refers to the work of art from Czechoslovakia. When Czechoslovakia was attacked by German soldiers, many things were destroyed, especially by fire. The cup, however, remained safe because it was taken to America by writer’s mother. The cup was not burnt. Looking at the cup, the writer gets lots more information about Czechoslovakia at the time of its destruction by relating the pictures painted in the cup with the incidents that took place in the war. So, cup is a detail, a small uncharred finger from mid-century bonfire.
The writer says ‘many things fell that year’. The year refers to 1939 when Second World War started in Europe. The war caused many things to fall, for example, human bodies fell dead in the streets after the explosions caused by falling bombs. The sentence also refers to people falling into their marriage beds. Many people got married in 1939 because they were worried about the war. Men were worried that they would be killed so they got married before they were sent to fight. Even young people lay dead on the battle field. Not only that, many countries fell on the hands of other countries when they were attacked by enemies.
There are pictures of falling flowers painted inside the cup. These flowers seem to have been dropped into the cup and they are falling towards the bottom. The writer has compared the falling flowers from falling bombs to getting married. By showing this, she shows her hatred towards marriage. Not only that, when the innocent people including the women and children were killed in war, people’s faith on traditional values like marriage and their faith on humanity was lost. They lost their faith on sovereignty of their countries when they fell under the control of enemies. The falling flowers also refer to the destruction of their culture due to Second World War.
The teacup is an example of the art of Czechoslovakia. It is a finger and the nation Czechoslovakia is body. The writer shows that body (nation) was destroyed but finger (teacup) remained safe, representing the past glory of Czechoslovakia.
“Many things fell that year.”
The sentence, ‘Many things fell that year’ takes us to the past, to 1939 when the Second World War began in Europe. The war brought massive destructions and caused many things to fall. In this context, the human bodies fell dead in streets after the explosions caused by the falling bombs. The sentence also refers to people falling into their marriage beds. Many people got married in 1939 because they were worried about the war and their life. The virginity and identity of women fell and they were confined to household affairs. Even the young people lay dead in the battle field. The sentence also talks about the infrastructures and nation development works that were collapsed as a result of war. Not only that, many countries fell on the hands of other countries when they were attacked by the enemies. The pride, prestige, sovereignty and nationality fell and collapsed. Citizens fell into the pit of slavery. The art, cultures, unity and everything else of the nation fell and collapsed.
Thus, this sentence has emphasized on the fact that the beautiful achievements of mankind fell into the dirtiest trap laid by mankind itself.
“The cup is a detail, a small uncharred finger from the mid century bonfire”
The sentence … has related various events of the past from just a small cup. The cup here, has depicted the history, according to the writer. The writer has compared the cup with the detail or source of information speaking the past. The mid-century bonfire refers to the Second World War that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The word ‘finger’ refers to the work of art from Czechoslovakia. When Czechoslovakia was attacked by German soldiers, many things were destroyed, especially by fire. The arts, cultural heritages etc. were lost due to the destruction caused by war. The cup, however, remained safe because it was taken to America by writer’s mother. Thus, the cup was not burnt. Looking at the cup, the writer got lots of information about Czechoslovakia at the time of its destruction by relating the pictures painted in the cup, with the various incidents that took place in the war.
Thus, the cup is a small piece of art which remained undamaged in the destruction but includes the past within itself, and acts as a mirror of the bitter truths and heart breaking reality of the war and the past as a whole.