I really enjoyed reading Andre Dubus’ essay “Digging” this week. The transformation that he describes as a result of having been convinced by his father to take on a difficult job is so complete and inspirational. While Dubus recalls feeling nothing but dread while going to work to dig trenches in the heat of the Louisiana summer, he is able to look back on the experience and realize that it changed him for the better.
I felt that Dubus was also looking at his relationship with his father objectively. When he was growing up, he felt distant from his father and overly-sensitive. He did not want to disappoint him and was unable to share his feelings. However, when recalling the day that his father picked him up from work because he knew he felt sick, he realizes that his father cared deeply about him and was proud of him just for trying. His father’s decision to believe in him and encourage him to push himself has allowed him to believe in himself as well. We know from what Dubus says that he eventually joined the Marine Corps, and I believe this has a lot to do with his father seeing the strength that he couldn’t see in himself.
Another aspect of Dubus’ essay that I found inspirational was the way that he was able to empathize with the African-American men that he was working alongside with. He was able to see that they were not being paid fairly, and felt a brotherhood with them as they suffered in the heat together. It is sad to think back to a time when there was a “colored” part of town, when labor was distributed unevenly and African-Americans were not properly paid for their work. However, it is important that readers be reminded of how things once were, because it is a part of our history as a society. The fact that the African-Americans that Dubus worked with were probably with the construction company for years did not change the fact that they were in entry-level jobs, the same job that a 16-year-old white boy could get hired for. However, I feel that Dubus was very strategic in the way that he described himself in relation to these men, truly feeling that they were equal and that they deserved better treatment.