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Memories of Childhood - Summary

Last updated date: 23rd May 2024
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Summary of Memories of Childhood Class 12 English

The Memories of Childhood summary comprises two autobiographical excerpts of Memories of Childhood written by ZitKala Sa and Bama.

Zitkala Sa experienced racial and cultural discrimination, whereas Bama is a victim of caste discrimination. In the summary of childhood memories, Zitkala Sa and Bama looked back and narrated the extracts of childhood, which reflects the relationship with the existing culture. Memories of childhood explanation recount both excerpts showing resistance and rigidity developed in both females who went through the cruel social differences during their juvenility.


First Part of Memories of Childhood Class 12 Summary

The Cutting of My Long Hair is the first part of Class 12 English memories of childhood summary narrated by Zitkala-Sa, whose original name is Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. In this summary of childhood memories, Zitkala-Sa, a native American born in 1876, experienced severe prejudice. An American Indian shared her first day at Carlisle Indian School, located in Land of Apples, which was terrible and rough. It was cold, and she was terrified in the chaos of the irritating loud noises of the ringing bell from belfry, clanking shoes, and unending murmuring in English, a language unknown to her. The rules of the places were unknown to her. She could not acknowledge the rules at the breakfast table, which led to several mistakes.

Zitkala Sa shared an awkward experience where pupils had to pull chairs at the first bell. However, ZitKala Sa sat down immediately on listening to the first bell. Also, everyone had to sit on the second bell; she remained standing. She was feared and did not venture into anything when another bell rang to avoid errors. ZitKala Sa was scared of the woman with a pale face. She cried and sank to the ground as the whole incident infused humiliation into her. As the day continued, her friend Judewin spoke to her pale-faced woman.

Judewin also informed her about the chopping of her hair to shingled hair. Zitkala was baffled by this idea because she had grown with the mother's belief that only unskilled warriors and mourners have short hair. According to her culture, shingled hair was the symbol of cowardice. After Judewin left Zitkala to her destiny, Zitkala decided not to submit easily. She decided to struggle and rebel until the last moment she could. She hid under a bed present in an empty dark hall, windows covered by green curtains.  She heard footsteps; the sound increased, and finally, someone looked under the bed. She was dragged and tied to the chair.

She fought, kicked wildly, cried out aloud. She resisted and continued to shake her head until her hair was cut. She recalled her mother, but no one was present to console her. Her spirits were crushed due to this merciless act. The cruelty reminded her of the comforts of her home. She felt like a little animal part of a group driven by a herder.


The Second Part of Memories of Childhood Summary Class 12

The second part of the summary of the chapter Memories of Childhood is - We two are human beings is autobiographical except Kurruku, written by author pen name Bama. In this summary of Memories of Childhood Bama, a Tamil Dalit narrates her experience in the third standard. She was not aware of the evil of untouchability, but she had experienced humiliation and embarrassment in her surroundings.

Bama describes her day while returning from school. The distance from school to the home could be traversed in ten minutes. However, it took half an hour to reach home. She loitered to watch unending attractions like a temple, puppet show, monkeys, snake’s charmer showing snakes, stunt performance, Pongal celebration, and various snacks and savoury stalls. Some of the others were always going on, which attracted her attention. If nothing was available these sites were available, she stopped to watch the chopping of onion and coffee clubs, almonds falling by wind, vegetables and fruits stall. On one fine day, she saw a threshing floor installed near a street. The landlord sat to watch the executions. An elder person who was carrying a small packet came to a street. He was holding a packet by string without touching it. He bowed and extended the packet to the landlord. Bama was surprised and amused to see all this event; however, she went home and narrated the story to her elder brother, Annan.

Annan explained to Bama that it is not funny how the older man held the packets. Annan explained that the man was from a low caste. He could not touch food as the landlord believed that they were from a high caste and would get polluted if they touched him. As soon as Bama understood the event, she felt disgusted and sad. She wondered why poor people showered respect before such cruel people, and the rich forget that others are human beings.


Common Threads about Memories of Childhood

While Zitkala Sa and Bama hail from vastly different cultural backgrounds, there are striking parallels in the themes that emerge from their childhood narratives. Both authors grapple with the clash between tradition and external influences, whether it be the imposition of Western education on Native American children or the deep-seated caste prejudices in Bama's Tamil Nadu.

Cultural Identity and Assimilation: Zitkala Sa and Bama both grapple with the challenge of preserving their cultural identities amid external pressures to assimilate. Zitkala Sa's struggle is rooted in the efforts to maintain her Native American heritage, while Bama confronts the pervasive caste discrimination that seeks to erase the Dalit identity.

Resistance and Resilience: The narratives are infused with a spirit of resistance and resilience. Zitkala Sa's refusal to fully conform to the expectations of her boarding school, and Bama's determination to challenge the oppressive caste system, showcase the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Impact of Education: Education plays a significant role in both narratives, but its impact is nuanced. Zitkala Sa's education is a double-edged sword, offering opportunities for personal growth but also serving as a tool for cultural erasure. Bama's engagement with education is colored by the discriminatory practices within the system, prompting her to question and challenge the status quo.

Social Injustice: Both authors shine a light on social injustices prevalent in their respective societies. Zitkala Sa exposes the damaging effects of forced assimilation on Native American children, while Bama unveils the insidious nature of caste discrimination and untouchability.


"Memories of Childhood" by Zitkala Sa and Bama provides readers with a profound insight into the complexities of growing up in diverse cultural landscapes. Through the lens of their childhood experiences, these authors illuminate universal themes of identity, resistance, and the human spirit's resilience in the face of adversity.

As we navigate the pages of "Impressions of an Indian Childhood" and "Karukku," we are confronted with the raw and authentic narratives of Zitkala Sa and Bama. Their stories transcend cultural boundaries, resonating with readers who may find echoes of their own struggles for identity and dignity. "Memories of Childhood" serves as a poignant reminder of the power of storytelling to bridge gaps, foster understanding, and advocate for a more inclusive and compassionate world.

FAQs on Memories of Childhood - Summary

1. What is the second part of ‘Memories of Childhood’?

The second part consists of ‘Karakku’ which is an autobiography written by a Tamil Dalit, Bama. She was an innocent child who spent her whole childhood in the village and used to walk home. Whenever school gets over, she would walk to reach her home. The time that usually takes for her to walk and reach was ten minutes but as she enjoyed watching fun games, her walk started taking half an hour or an hour. This child had to face hardships because of the people who were cruel and practised untouchability.

2. What is the common theme between the two parts?

The two parts in ‘Memories of Childhood’ are based on two different cultures. It reflects two different stories who were the victims of discrimination and oppression. They grew up in a marginalized society since their childhood and their stories reflect their experiences with the mainstream. They suffered from discrimination, humiliation and insults which were due to ill beliefs. The common theme between the two parts was that both the women were victims of discrimination and racism.

3. What kind of discrimination does Zitkala-Sa’s experience show?

Zitkala-Sa, the narrator is a Native American and she experiences how the people try to destroy her culture and discriminate against her. She notices the attitude of the people towards her community and how they discriminate against them. They cut her hair forcefully to showcase that they are the rulers. In their culture, the hairs of the unskilled warriors were shingled by the enemy when they were captured.  Thus, she experiences discrimination due to her culture.

4. How did Zitkala-Sa find it hard to try ‘eating by the formula’?

Zitkala-Sa goes to her school and everything seems strange to her. When the first bell rang, she didn’t know what to do. When it rang, she pulled the chair and sat on it but then she saw that everyone else was standing there so she began to rise. She looked around to see what others were doing. The second bell rings and she sits on her chair again and then sees a man who is speaking in the hall. She drops her eyes to see a paleface woman staring at her. When the third and last bell rings, everyone starts eating but she starts crying.

5. How did Zitkala-Sa feel when her hair was cut?

Zitkala-sa lost her spirit when the people removed one of her thick braids. People tossed her around like a puppet and her hair was shingled which left her feeling humiliated. They were tormenting her and she called out for her mother. She felt like the animals that are driven by the herder. She had suffered more discrimination due to her culture and marginalisation was prevailing in the society and she became a victim of it.

6. What is the Conclusion of Memories of Childhood?

The two autobiographical excerpts are the summary Memories of Childhood. It describes the different types of social discrimination like racial and caste discrimination prevalent in the society which the two authors Bama and Zitkala Sa, had experienced during their childhood lives. These experiences made both women rigid due to societal pressures and harsh environments resulting from social differences. Both wounded females have shared the hardships suffered by the acts of social discrimination in their early lives.

7. What type of Discrimination is Narrated in the Summary of the Chapter Memories of Childhood?

The Cutting of My Long Hair extracts depicts racial discrimination. Zitkala Sa experienced racial differences in her boarding school. The culture of the school was completely different from the culture to which she belonged. The second extract, We two are human beings depicts caste discrimination where low caste people are considered untouchable. Not only low caste pay respect to high caste but also anything touched by low caste will be polluted.

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