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Frank Raymond LaPena was born in 1937, in San Francisco, California and passed away on May 2, 2019 at the age of 81.
 The essay Sharing Tradition written by Frank LaPena is about passing on culture and values from old generation to new generation through oral tradition. For this, we must listen to our elders’ stories. The writer through this essay presents the importance of tradition for the people of this world and its preservation through the oral tradition which is an art form. LaPena emphasises on our traditional and cultural values which are very much important for our bright future. According to him, we must listen to our elders to maintain our cultural and traditional norms and values.

LaPena reflects on the issue of passing on culture and values from generation to generation in oral form. Oral tradition refers to a form of human communication wherein knowledge, art, ideas and cultural value is received, preserved, and transmitted orally from one generation to another. This transmission is made possible through different sources like: speech, song, folktales, chants, verses, prose, myths, festivals, rituals, etc. Throughout this essay LaPena highly admires the oral tradition because the major importance of oral tradition is related with the conservation of culture and tradition across generation and time. For the preservation and passing of the oral tradition, he finds both the elder people (old generation) and young people (new generation) equally responsible. The elder people are transmitting the knowledge and young people are willing to receive it. LaPena warns, if knowledge about culture, tradition, and custom is not passed on it is likely to disappear in the course of time. Because the culture and values of tradition should be nurtured and protected from generation to generation for the benefit of people and their life; cultural and traditional values play a very important role in people's lives.

The essay begins with LaPena’s narration of what inspired him to meditate on the issue of oral tradition. The observation of the death of the elders and a realisation of the difficulty to maintain the tradition evoked the writer’s thoughts on the oral tradition. He defines oral tradition as an art form that passes from generation to generation orally. When the elders pass away, their knowledge, information and idea is to be carried forward by the new generation but it is not that easy and simple in the context of today’s world.

LaPena in details discusses the obstacles on the way of maintaining the oral tradition. In this regard, he outlines four major problems. The first problem is the inability of the young people (new generation) to fill the ‘niche’ created by the elder people. In fact, when elders pass away, their knowledge of culture and responsibilities have to be assumed by the other individuals. But the problem is young people don’t pay much attention to the culture, tradition and custom shared by the elders when the elders are alive. As a result, the new generation cannot fulfil this responsibility sincerely.

Likewise, the emergence of new technology is the second obstacle with regard to maintaining the oral tradition. The young people are so lost in the new technology that they have no time to listen to their elders. LaPena is critical of new technology as it leads to the disappearance of the oral tradition. He states that in the modern world driven by technology, it is hard to maintain tradition. Similarly, the modern education system is another hindrance on the way of oral tradition. The ‘educated’ researcher conducts the study on tradition but there is always the danger of manipulating the truth and reality of the tradition as the research is likely to be guided by the interest of the research. So, the modern education system provides not the true information but a bundle of wrong information. The fourth obstacle for oral tradition is the possible misrepresentation of the oral tradition. As the oral tradition is based on oral means, the information of the elders is likely to be perceived mistakenly by the young people thereby leading to the misrepresentation of the tradition, custom and culture.

LaPena also shows the difference between an oral tradition and a literary tradition. A literary tradition refers to both written and printed tradition in which information is transmitted through written form. According to him, mistakes can be modified and corrected in the oral tradition but it is not possible in the literary tradition. He finally concludes the essay by establishing a relationship between art and oral tradition. The oral tradition offers the artistic imagination to the artist shaping his view on how to visualise the stories, the characters, the designs and colour for art, the atmosphere etc.


Curriculum Development Centre. (2020). English Grade 11. Sanothimi, Bhaktapur: Government of Nepal, Curriculum Development Centre.
Niraula, S. (2021, 5 21). Retrieved from



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