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ENG 204 Final Study Guide

Terms in this set (40)

by Edgar Allen Poe

The narrator begins by telling us that Fortunato has hurt him. Even worse, Fortunato has insulted him. The narrator must get revenge. He meets Fortunato, who is all dressed up in jester clothes for a carnival celebration − and is already very drunk. The narrator mentions he's found a barrel of a rare brandy called Amontillado. Fortunato expresses eager interest in verifying the wine's authenticity.

So he and the narrator go to the underground graveyard, or "catacomb," of the Montresor family. Apparently, that's where the narrator keeps his wine. The narrator leads Fortunato deeper and deeper into the catacomb, getting him drunker and drunker along the way. Fortunato keeps coughing, and the narrator constantly suggests that Fortunato is too sick to be down among the damp crypts, and should go back. Fortunato just keeps talking about the Amontillado.

Eventually, Fortunato walks into a man-sized hole that's part of the wall of a really nasty crypt. The narrator chains Fortunato to the wall, then begins to close Fortunato in the hole by filling in the opening with bricks. When he has one brick left, he psychologically tortures Fortunato until he begs for mercy - and we finally learn the narrator's name: Fortunato calls him "Montresor."

After Fortunato cries out Montresor's name, he doesn't have any more lines. But just before Montresor puts in the last brick, Fortunato jingles his bells. Then Montresor finishes the job and leaves him there to die. At the very end, Montresor tells us that the whole affair happened fifty years ago, and nobody has found out.
by Edgar Allen Poe
An unnamed narrator arrives at the House of Usher, a very creepy mansion owned by his boyhood friend Roderick Usher. Roderick has been sick lately, afflicted by a disease of the mind, and wrote to his friend, our narrator, asking for help. The narrator spends some time admiring the awesomely spooky Usher edifice. While doing so, he explains that Roderick and his sister are the last of the Usher bloodline, and that the family is famous for its dedication to the arts (music, painting, literature, etc.). Eventually, the narrator heads inside to see his friend.

Roderick indeed appears to be a sick man. He suffers from an "acuteness of the senses," or hyper-sensitivity to light, sound, taste, and tactile sensations; he feels that he will die of the fear he feels. He attributes part of his illness to the fact that his sister, Madeline, suffers from catalepsy (a sickness involving seizures) and will soon die, and part of it to the belief that his creepy house is sentient (able to perceive things) and has a great power over him. He hasn't left the mansion in years. The narrator tries to help him get his mind off all this death and gloom by poring over the literature, music, and art that Roderick so loves. It doesn't seem to help.

As Roderick predicted, Madeline soon dies. At least we think so. All we know is that Roderick tells the narrator she's dead, and that she appears to be dead when he looks at her. Of course, because of her catalepsy, she might just look like she's dead, post-seizure. Keep that in mind. At Roderick's request, the narrator helps him to entomb her body in one of the vaults underneath the mansion. While they do so, the narrator discovers that the two of them were twins and that they shared some sort of supernatural, probably extrasensory, bond.

About a week later, on a dark and stormy night, the narrator and Usher find themselves unable to sleep. They decide to pass away the scary night by reading a book. As the narrator reads the text aloud, all the sounds from the fictional story can be heard resounding from below the mansion. It doesn't take long for Usher to freak out; he jumps up and declares that they buried Madeline alive and that now she is coming back. Sure enough, the doors blow open and there stands a trembling, bloody Madeline. She throws herself at Usher, who falls to the floor and, after "violent" agony, dies along with his sister. The narrator flees; outside he watches the House of Usher crack in two and sink into the dark, dank pool that lies before it.
by Herman Melville
This story, in its most basic, stripped-down form, is a simple one: a successful lawyer, in need of assistance, hires a new scrivener (a kind of human Xerox machine) to join his small firm. Enter Bartleby, a quiet, initially efficient, anti-social little man. Bartleby proceeds to work well as a copyist, but refuses to help out with any other office tasks - or rather, he simply "prefers" not to. The lawyer and his other employees are shocked, but Bartleby just won't do what they ask.

Bartleby is always in the office, either working or staring out the window at a facing wall, and it turns out that he actually lives in the office. Eventually, this refusal grows more bizarre, when Bartleby announces that he will no longer work as a copyist - but prefers simply to stay in the office and not do any work. Finally, he is firmly asked to leave...but he just doesn't.

Rather than take any more drastic measures to get Bartleby out of his office, the lawyer actually picks up and moves his practice elsewhere. Another practice moves into the building, only to discover that Bartleby is still a fixture there. The new occupants complain to the Narrator, but he tells them the truth - Bartleby isn't his responsibility. At the end of their rope, the new occupants have the police arrest Bartleby. The story concludes with Bartleby in prison. He prefers not to do anything there, either, and even prefers not to eat. The Narrator goes to visit Bartleby, but unsurprisingly, he can't get through to the strange scrivener. Eventually, Bartleby wastes away and starves to death, leaving only the Narrator to mourn him.

As a rather odd end note, the narrator informs us that Bartleby previously worked as a clerk in an obscure branch of the Post Office known as the Dead Letter Office, sorting through undeliverable mail. We have to wonder what kind of effect these "dead" letters must have had on his psyche. But still, Bartleby is a mystery left unsolved.
by Ambrose Bierce
The story begins with a simple tableau (a grouping of silent figures), kind of like you might see in a movie: a man and his executioners stand on a railroad bridge in Alabama. The Civil War is on and military justice is about to be served; the only spectators are a handful of soldiers. The man to be executed is a civilian dressed in the clothes of a plantation owner, and his executioners are Federal (Union) soldiers. As he waits for his executioners to get on with it already, the man looks down at the water below him and imagines ways he could escape home to his wife and children. With a nod of the captain's head, the hanging begins.

Part 2 opens with the narrator introducing Peyton Farquhar, a wealthy Alabamian slave owner. Farquhar is not in the army because of personality issues, but he is determined to support the Confederate cause by any means necessary. An opportunity arises when a soldier dressed in a gray Confederate uniform rides up to his house. The soldier tells him that Union troops are repairing railroads in the surrounding area and have recently rebuilt the nearby bridge over Owl Creek. Apparently the head honcho has issued an order stating that any civilian caught tampering with the railroad will be hanged. The soldier leaves after informing Farquhar that a pile of flammable driftwood has accumulated near the bridge. An hour later, the soldier rides past the Farquhar residence heading north. It turns out that he is actually a Union scout. Tricky.

Now we know that the man being hanged at the beginning of the story and the plantation owner from Part 2 are one and the same. Part 3 of the story begins as Farquhar falls through the bridge. Unable to think rationally, he feels himself freeing his hands from their bindings, removing the noose around his neck, and pushing up to the surface. Diving beneath the water keeps him safe from the soldiers' bullets and he swims with the current toward the opposite shore. Narrowly evading a cannonball, Farquhar gets caught in a vortex that eventually flings him on the sand.

Celebrating his escape, Farquhar hurries toward home, traveling all day through a wild forest straight out of a horror movie. By nightfall, Farquhar reaches the gate to his home. He sees his wife, but, as he is about to grasp her, he feels a powerful blow against the back of his neck. Bright white light turns to complete darkness.

Farquhar is dead, his neck is broken, and his body hangs beneath Owl Creek Bridge.
by Jack London
There's a bearded man walking through the Yukon wilderness on his way to a mining camp on Henderson Creek. Oh yeah, and there's a half-tame wolf dog following along at his heels. When the man spits into the air, he hears a snap, crackle, and pop. No, this doesn't tell him that his breakfast cereal is ready. It tells him that it must be really cold out, because his saliva is basically exploding in mid-air. That's downright apocalyptic if you ask Shmoop. The dog's instinct tells it not to travel in such cold, but the man doesn't seem all that concerned.

Did someone say foreshadowing?

When the man reaches Henderson Creek, he decides to follow it all the way to the camp. For some reason, walking across the ice instead of solid ground strikes him as a good idea. When he takes off his mittens, he's shocked to find his fingers go completely numb in a matter of seconds.

As the man continues his journey, he thinks back to a conversation he had with an older, more experienced man from Sulphur Creek (there seem to be a lot of creeks in the Yukon). He remembers the old-timer telling him that it's a really bad idea to travel alone in temperatures below minus fifty. But the man thinks the old-timer is a wimpy old coot and keeps walking. Ignoring the advice of an older and wiser mentor, eh? That tends not to work out in most stories.

The man plunges through the ice and wets his feet. He's annoyed that he'll have to stop and build another fire. When oh when, he wonders, will he get to sit by a fire and eat bacon with the boys? He builds his second fire under a tree, but when he pulls twigs off the bottom of the tree, he causes snow to fall off the branches and put out his fire. Just his luck! Or that was dumb. Now his hands are getting really numb, and he needs to quickly build another fire to warm them. By this point, his hands are so frozen that he can only use them as stumps. He's so clumsy he ends up bungling his next fire and putting it out. Okay, this is getting serious.

In desperation, he tries to kill his dog so he can cut it open and warm his hands inside its body (We won't blame you for saying "Ewwwww!") But without his hands, there's no way for the man to kill the dog in the first place, and his attempt to give the animal a killer bear hug fails miserably. With no options left, the man does his best Forrest Gump impression and starts running as hard as he can for the camp. But the place is still hours away, and he quickly runs out of steam.

He scolds himself for acting so shamefully and decides to meet death with dignity. With his last spark of brain activity, he imagines himself alongside his camp friends, discovering his own body the next day. Then he's transported into a warm room with the old man from Sulphur Creek. He admits to the old-timer that he was wrong about traveling alone, and then finally croaks.

The dog waits for him to get up out of the snow; but after it smells death on him, the animal howls into the night sky. When it's finished howling, it forgets about the man and continues along the creek toward the camp, where it knows there will be a warm fire and some tasty grub. Man's best friend indeed.
by Henry James
Frederick Winterbourne is bored by his life. He mostly hangs out with older ladies: visiting his elderly aunt in her European homes and engaging in some kind of affair with an older woman in Geneva.

In Vevay, Switzerland, he meets the vivacious young Daisy Miller, a girl from Schenectady, NY traveling through Europe with her clueless mother and badly behaved little brother, and his world is turned upside down. He likes Daisy, but her erratic, flirtatious behavior confuses and irritates him.

The following winter, he meets up with Daisy in Rome only to find she's been flirting like crazy with all of the Italian dudes. (Come on, who wouldn't?) She starts hanging out a little too intimately and a little too publicly with an Italian social climber named Mr. Giovanelli. People start to talk, and Winterbourne is torn: is Daisy tacky and ridiculous or hot and fun? And is she engaged to Giovanelli or not? He can't get a straight answer.

Winterbourne tries to get Daisy to tone it down and she makes fun of him for being boring. He almost loses it when he sees her out alone at night with Giovanelli at the Colosseum, a location where people typically contract Roman fever (malaria).

A few weeks later, she's sick as a dog. Yep, she's got malaria. When she dies, her mother passes on a message to Winterbourne: Daisy wanted him to know she was never engaged to Giovanelli.

After thinking this through, he decides he should have made a move when he had a chance instead of nagging her like a nerdy older brother. At the end, he concludes he's "lived too long in foreign parts" (2.276). Poor thing
by Kate Chopin
Mrs. Mallard has a heart condition, which means that if she's startled she could die. So, when news comes that her husband's been killed in an accident, the people who tell her have to cushion the blow.
Mrs. Mallard's sister Josephine sits down with her and dances around the truth until Mrs. Mallard finally understands what happened. The deceased Mr. Mallard's friend, Richards, hangs out with them for moral support.
Richards originally found out because he had been in the newspaper headquarters when a report of the accident that killed Mr. Mallard, which happened on a train, came through. Richards waited for proof from a second source before going to the Mallards' to share the news.
When Mrs. Mallard finds out what happened she acts differently from most women in the same position, who might disbelieve it. She cries passionately before deciding to go to her room to be by herself.
In her room, Mrs. Mallard sits down on a comfy chair and feels completely depleted. She looks out the window and looks out at a world that seems alive and fresh. She can see the sky coming between the rain clouds.
Mrs. Mallard sits still, occasionally crying briefly like a kid might.
The narrator describes her as youthful and pretty, but because of this news she looks preoccupied and absent.
She seems to be holding out for some kind of unknown news or knowledge, which she can tell is approaching.
Mrs. Mallard breathes heavily and tries to resist before succumbing to this unknown thing, which is a feeling of freedom.
Acknowledging freedom makes her revive, and she doesn't consider whether she should feel bad about it.
Mrs. Mallard thinks to herself about how she'll cry when she sees her husband's dead body and how much he loved her. Even so, she's kind of excited about the chance to make her own decisions and not feel accountable to anyone.
Mrs. Mallard feels even more swept up by the idea of freedom than the fact that she had felt love for her husband. She focuses on how liberated she feels.
Outside the locked door to the room, her sister Josephine is pleading to her to open up and let her in.
Mrs. Mallard tells her to go away and fantasizes about the exciting life ahead.
Finally, she goes to her sister and they go downstairs.
Suddenly, the door opens and Mr. Mallard comes in. He's not dead and doesn't even know anyone thought he was.
Even though Richards and Josephine try to protect Mrs. Mallard from the sight, they can't. She receives the shock they tried to prevent at the beginning of the story.
Later, the medical people who examine her say that she was full of so much happiness that it murdered her.
by Edith Wharton
It's winter. A nameless engineer is in Starkfield, Massachusetts on business and he first sees Ethan Frome at the post office. Ethan is a man in his early fifties who is obviously strong, and obviously crippled. The man becomes fascinated with Ethan and wants to know his story. When Ethan begins giving him occasional rides to the train station, the two men strike up a friendship. One night when the weather is particularly bad, Ethan invites the man to stay at his house. In the hall the man hears a woman talking angrily, on and on. When Ethan speaks, the voice stops. The man tells us that he learned something that night which allowed him to imagine Ethan's story. Now we go back in time 24 years and learn about Ethan's life.

Ethan has walked from his farm and sawmill into town to pick up Mattie Silver from the church dance. He peeks in the windows of the church basement and sees Mattie dancing with Denis Eady and is jealous. Mattie is Ethan's wife's cousin. Her parents both died just over a year ago, and she was left with nothing. Her father had apparently swindled some of the relatives out of their savings, so nobody wanted to help Mattie. Zeena, Ethan's wife, is always sick, and decided to let Mattie live with them in exchange for doing the housework and helping the ailing Zeena.

Ethan liked Mattie from the beginning and worried that Zeena was too hard on her. The two women soon adjusted to each other (sort of) and things weren't as bad as they could have been. Meanwhile, Ethan has fallen in love with Mattie and wants to spend all his time with her.

Mattie soon comes out of the dance, and Ethan watches while Denis Eady tries to give her a ride home. She brushes him off and then Ethan reveals his presence. Ethan and Mattie are happy to see each other. They discuss possibly doing some sledding in the future. Neither is afraid to sled down the hill - at the bottom of which lies the deadly elm tree. The walk home is altogether lovely and romantic, but when they arrive, the house key isn't under the mat like it usually is.

Soon, Zeena, looking ill and scary, comes downstairs and lets them in. She's usually in bed by this hour but she couldn't sleep. She is obviously suspicious of their behavior. The next day she announces that she will be gone overnight visiting a new doctor. Mattie and Ethan make good use of her absence and enjoy a romantic dinner for two. Unfortunately, the cat breaks Zeena's favorite dish and Ethan isn't able to locate any glue until after Zeena gets back. The first thing Zeena does when she gets home is to tell Ethan that she's kicking out Mattie. He protests, but fighting is useless. Then Zeena finds the broken pickle dish and is super upset (it had been a wedding gift).

Ethan decides he'll run away with Mattie, but then a combination of lack of cash and guilt stop him. Still, he insists on driving Mattie to the train station. He takes her on the long route, so they can look at different places they enjoyed together. By the time they get to the town sledding hill, it's already dark. As they are contemplating sledding, and pondering the hopelessness of their situation, Mattie suggests that they sled into the elm tree and kill themselves. Ethan agrees and they smash into the tree. But they survive.

Then the story goes back to the present and we find the engineer right where we left him, about to enter the Frome kitchen. When he does enter he learns that the woman who was talking on and on in an argumentative tone is...Mattie! She has spinal disease and can't move without assistance. Zeena is there too, cooking. They all three live together, an unhappy family in the Frome house.
by James Joyce
At the annual dance and dinner party held by Kate and Julia Morkan and their young niece, Mary Jane Morkan, the housemaid Lily frantically greets guests. Set at or just before the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, which celebrates the manifestation of Christ's divinity to the Magi, the party draws together a variety of relatives and friends. Kate and Julia particularly await the arrival of their favorite nephew, Gabriel Conroy, and his wife, Gretta. When they arrive, Gabriel attempts to chat with Lily as she takes his coat, but she snaps in reply to his question about her love life. Gabriel ends the uncomfortable exchange by giving Lily a generous tip, but the experience makes him anxious. He relaxes when he joins his aunts and Gretta, though Gretta's good-natured teasing about his dedication to galoshes irritates him. They discuss their decision to stay at a hotel that evening rather than make the long trip home. The arrival of another guest, the always-drunk Freddy Malins, disrupts the conversation. Gabriel makes sure that Freddy is fit to join the party while the guests chat over drinks in between taking breaks from the dancing. An older gentleman, Mr. Browne, flirts with some young girls, who dodge his advances. Gabriel steers a drunken Freddy toward the drawing room to get help from Mr. Browne, who attempts to sober Freddy up.

The party continues with a piano performance by Mary Jane. More dancing follows, which finds Gabriel paired up with Miss Ivors, a fellow university instructor. A fervent supporter of Irish culture, Miss Ivors embarrasses Gabriel by labeling him a "West Briton" for writing literary reviews for a conservative newspaper. Gabriel dismisses the accusation, but Miss Ivors pushes the point by inviting Gabriel to visit the Aran Isles, where Irish is spoken, during the summer. When Gabriel declines, explaining that he has arranged a cycling trip on the continent, Miss Ivors corners him about his lack of interest in his own country. Gabriel exclaims that he is sick of Ireland. After the dance, he flees to a corner and engages in a few more conversations, but he cannot forget the interlude with Miss Ivors.

Just before dinner, Julia sings a song for the guests. Miss Ivors makes her exit to the surprise of Mary Jane and Gretta, and to the relief of Gabriel. Finally, dinner is ready, and Gabriel assumes his place at the head of the table to carve the goose. After much fussing, everyone eats, and finally Gabriel delivers his speech, in which he praises Kate, Julia, and Mary Jane for their hospitality. Framing this quality as an Irish strength, Gabriel laments the present age in which such hospitality is undervalued. Nevertheless, he insists, people must not linger on the past and the dead, but live and rejoice in the present with the living. The table breaks into a loud applause for Gabriel's speech, and the entire party toasts their three hostesses.

Later, guests begin to leave, and Gabriel recounts a story about his grandfather and his horse, which forever walked in circles even when taken out of the mill where it worked. After finishing the anecdote, Gabriel realizes that Gretta stands transfixed by the song that Mr. Bartell D'Arcy sings in the drawing room. When the music stops and the rest of the party guests assemble before the door to leave, Gretta remains detached and thoughtful. Gabriel is enamored with and preoccupied by his wife's mysterious mood and recalls their courtship as they walk from the house and catch a cab into Dublin.

At the hotel, Gabriel grows irritated by Gretta's behavior. She does not seem to share his romantic inclinations, and in fact bursts into tears. Gretta confesses that she has been thinking of the song from the party because a former lover had sung it to her in her youth in Galway. Gretta recounts the sad story of this boy, Michael Furey, who died after waiting outside of her window in the cold. Gretta later falls asleep, but Gabriel remains awake, disturbed by Gretta's new information. He curls up on the bed, contemplating his own mortality. Seeing the snow at the window, he envisions it blanketing the graveyard where Michael Furey rests, as well as all of Ireland.
by Sherwood Anderson
In his Memoirs, Anderson tells about the first reactions to Winesburg, Ohio when it was published in 1919. He recalls that it was "widely condemned," described as "a sewer," and its author was called "sex-obsessed." He reports that a woman told him, "I read one of the stories and, after that, I would not touch it with my hands. With the tongs I carried it down into the cellar and put it in the furnace."

"Hands" was very likely the story referred to by this shocked lady, for the subject of homosexuality was one that most readers in the twenties thought unmentionable. Anderson, however, like other American naturalists in the early twentieth century, thought that sex should be given its proper place in the picture of life. Stephen Crane had described a prostitute in Maggie, A Girl of the Streets (1893) and Theodore Dreiser had let his immoral heroine in Sister Carrie (1900) become a successful actress, but none of the fiction writers had dared describe a sexual pervert. Anderson, therefore, was thought of in his day as daringly frank, and Winesburg, Ohio was labeled Freudian.

Today, however, Anderson's treatment of Wing Biddlebaum's problem seems very delicate. The old man, who is described as fat, frightened, and nervous, seems too ineffectual to be dangerous. His bald forehead — noticed because his nervous hands fiddle about arranging non-existent hair — suggests his loss of strength and virility. Even the description of the former teacher's caressing of his students sounds quite possibly innocent. The picture of Adolph Myers with the boys of his school is similar to the dream which Wing tries to describe to George, a "pastoral golden age" in which clean-limbed young men gathered about the feet of an old man who talked to them.

Unfortunately, Wing has not been allowed to realize this dream, so his creative impulse, his longing to mold his students, has become thwarted. Because a half-witted boy imagined unmentionable things, Adolph Myers was driven from a Pennsylvania town in the night. "Keep your hands to yourself," the saloon keeper had roared. Anderson is obviously criticizing the cruelty of a society which persecutes anything it doesn't understand. Ironically, the townspeople of Winesburg are rather proud of Wing's nervous hands — which have picked a hundred and forty quarts of strawberries in a day. Production such as this the town can understand and acclaim. Similarly, Anderson felt that the mercenary world had not sympathized with his longing to write fiction, but had rewarded his glibness in advertising.

Wing Biddlebaum is not only frustrated but lonely, as are most of the citizens of Winesburg. As the story begins, the old man is seen on his half-decayed veranda late in the afternoon, wishing that George Willard would visit him. Passing along the road nearby are a group of young berry pickers, laughing, shouting, and flirting with one another. Their joy and friendship serve as a counterpoint to Wing Biddlebaum's loneliness. The author then tells us about Wing's past in order to explain why the former teacher is alienated and frightened. These intrusions of the author into the story give the effect of an oral story teller — an effect which Anderson probably learned from his storytelling father. Anderson's manipulation of time — reviewing Wing's former life, then returning to the present suggests a dream, thus making us aware that, to Wing, his life must seem like a nightmare. The fact that George Willard never comes, that in fact nothing really happens in the story, reinforces our awareness of the old man's defeat and disillusion. His life no longer has any climaxes; he is a static, not a developing, character.

The central symbol of this powerful story is, of course, hands, an image that will be important in other stories in Winesburg. Consistently Anderson seems to suggest that hands are made for creative impulses, for communication. Whitman, one of Anderson's favorite authors, said, "What is more or less than a touch?" By the end of the nineteenth century, however, industrialization was crowding out the creative handcraftsmen, and Anderson looked with nostalgia at the good old days. Thus, he makes of Wing Biddlebaum "an imprisoned bird," an image reinforced not only by his nickname but by the reader's last glance of him, picking up bread crumbs from the floor. As in so many of the Winesburg stories, its setting is night, suggesting the dark misery of the lives of Anderson's characters. As Wing kneels on the floor, he is described as being "like a priest engaged in some service of his church." This image, plus the old man's persecution by society and his desire to show his love for others by the laying on of his hands, may make Wing seem to be a Christ-like figure; but, if so, Anderson is suggesting that Christ is misunderstood and defeated in the modern world.

Although "Hands" is the story of Wing Biddlebaum, we are also introduced to George Willard, the young reporter who appears in many of the Winesburg tales. Like Wing, George has creative impulses, but at this point, as Wing tells George, "You are afraid of dreams. You want to be like others in town here . . . You must begin to dream . . . You must shut your ears to the roaring of the voices." For the time being, however, George is afraid to forget the voices, to be different. He has wondered, for example, about Wing's secret, has realized that there is something wrong in Wing's life, but has decided, "I don't want to know what it is." As the book develops, George will get more involved with other people, will begin to get below the surface of life, and will decide to be different and flee Winesburg so that he can become a writer.

In his Memoirs, Sherwood Anderson says that he wrote "Hands" at one sitting on a dark, snowy night in Chicago. It was, he says, his "first authentic tale," so good that he laughed, cried, and shouted out of his boarding house window. "No word of it was ever changed," says Anderson. Examination of the original manuscript shows that Anderson was not quite accurate in that statement, but he actually revised very little in this story. However, he did insert last names for his characters several times so that neither Wing Biddlebaum nor George Willard is ever called by a single name. This repetition, a trick he might have learned from Gertrude Stein's story "Melanctha," encourages the reader's objectivity toward the characters. Another change that also seems effective occurs in the sentence, "He raised the hands [changed from "his hands"] to caress the boy." This change makes Wing's hands a personification with a will of their own and thus conveys the helplessness of a man controlled by his compulsions. In this helplessness lies the power of the story; "Hands" haunts us because we recognize in Wing Biddlebaum our own helplessness and we see how thoughtlessly society can persecute what it does not understand. Perhaps we see ourselves in both Wing and in the society that has ruined his life.
by James Joyce
The narrator, an unnamed boy, describes the North Dublin street on which his house is located. He thinks about the priest who died in the house before his family moved in and the games that he and his friends played in the street. He recalls how they would run through the back lanes of the houses and hide in the shadows when they reached the street again, hoping to avoid people in the neighborhood, particularly the boy's uncle or the sister of his friend Mangan. The sister often comes to the front of their house to call the brother, a moment that the narrator savors.

Every day begins for this narrator with such glimpses of Mangan's sister. He places himself in the front room of his house so he can see her leave her house, and then he rushes out to walk behind her quietly until finally passing her. The narrator and Mangan's sister talk little, but she is always in his thoughts. He thinks about her when he accompanies his aunt to do food shopping on Saturday evening in the busy marketplace and when he sits in the back room of his house alone. The narrator's infatuation is so intense that he fears he will never gather the courage to speak with the girl and express his feelings.

One morning, Mangan's sister asks the narrator if he plans to go to Araby, a Dublin bazaar. She notes that she cannot attend, as she has already committed to attend a retreat with her school. Having recovered from the shock of the conversation, the narrator offers to bring her something from the bazaar. This brief meeting launches the narrator into a period of eager, restless waiting and fidgety tension in anticipation of the bazaar. He cannot focus in school. He finds the lessons tedious, and they distract him from thinking about Mangan's sister.

On the morning of the bazaar the narrator reminds his uncle that he plans to attend the event so that the uncle will return home early and provide train fare. Yet dinner passes and a guest visits, but the uncle does not return. The narrator impatiently endures the time passing, until at 9 P.M. the uncle finally returns, unbothered that he has forgotten about the narrator's plans. Reciting the epigram "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," the uncle gives the narrator the money and asks him if he knows the poem "The Arab's Farewell to his Steed." The narrator leaves just as his uncle begins to recite the lines, and, thanks to eternally slow trains, arrives at the bazaar just before 10 P.M., when it is starting to close down. He approaches one stall that is still open, but buys nothing, feeling unwanted by the woman watching over the goods. With no purchase for Mangan's sister, the narrator stands angrily in the deserted bazaar as the lights go out.


In "Araby," the allure of new love and distant places mingles with the familiarity of everyday drudgery, with frustrating consequences. Mangan's sister embodies this mingling, since she is part of the familiar surroundings of the narrator's street as well as the exotic promise of the bazaar. She is a "brown figure" who both reflects the brown façades of the buildings that line the street and evokes the skin color of romanticized images of Arabia that flood the narrator's head. Like the bazaar that offers experiences that differ from everyday Dublin, Mangan's sister intoxicates the narrator with new feelings of joy and elation. His love for her, however, must compete with the dullness of schoolwork, his uncle's lateness, and the Dublin trains. Though he promises Mangan's sister that he will go to Araby and purchase a gift for her, these mundane realities undermine his plans and ultimately thwart his desires. The narrator arrives at the bazaar only to encounter flowered teacups and English accents, not the freedom of the enchanting East. As the bazaar closes down, he realizes that Mangan's sister will fail his expectations as well, and that his desire for her is actually only a vain wish for change.

The narrator's change of heart concludes the story on a moment of epiphany, but not a positive one. Instead of reaffirming his love or realizing that he does not need gifts to express his feelings for Mangan's sister, the narrator simply gives up. He seems to interpret his arrival at the bazaar as it fades into darkness as a sign that his relationship with Mangan's sister will also remain just a wishful idea and that his infatuation was as misguided as his fantasies about the bazaar. What might have been a story of happy, youthful love becomes a tragic story of defeat. Much like the disturbing, unfulfilling adventure in "An Encounter," the narrator's failure at the bazaar suggests that fulfillment and contentedness remain foreign to Dubliners, even in the most unusual events of the city like an annual bazaar.
by Ernest Hemingway
The story opens with a description of the view of the river Ebro, and the white hills (mountains) beyond it, from a train station in Spain. An American man and a woman are having some beers outside the station bar as they wait for the train from Barcelona to Madrid.

As the couple drinks, the woman tells that man that the hills in the distance remind her of "white elephants." This sparks a little argument between them, which the woman sidesteps by pointing out that something has been painted on the beaded curtain that hangs over the doorway of the bar. The painting advertises a liquor called Anis del Toro, which they decide to try.

Their conversation remains tense, and soon the man begins trying to convince the woman, Jig, to have an abortion, but only, he says, if she wants to. She wants to know if this will solve their problems, and get their relationship back on track. He tells her that their relationship is on track, but that he is distracted because of his "worry" over the pregnancy. She agrees to have the abortion, but says she is only agreeing because she no longer cares about herself. The man says she shouldn't do it for that reason.

She expresses despair over the situation and a feeling that all is now lost. The man tries to reassure her that this is not the case, and finally tells her (without actually saying it) that he is willing to marry her instead, but makes it clear he would prefer that she have the abortion. She becomes anxious and asks him to stop talking. He responds by saying he doesn't want her to have the abortion if she doesn't want it. Jig threatens to scream.

The woman who has been serving their drinks tells them that the train will soon arrive, and the man gets up and takes their luggage over to the train stop. Then he goes into the bar and has another Anis del Toro. When he gets back to Jig, sitting at the table outside, she gives him a smile. He asks her if she "feel[s]" better," and she responds by insinuating she never felt bad in the first place. And that's the end of the story.
by William Faulkner
You might want to look at our discussion of the novel's setting before you enter here, or at least know it's there to help if you get tangled up in this story's crazy chronology. Also keep in mind that the narrator of this story represents several generations of men and women from the town.

The story begins at the huge funeral for Miss Emily Grierson. Nobody has been to her house in ten years, except for her servant. Her house is old, but was once the best house around. The town had a special relationship with Miss Emily ever since it decided to stop billing her for taxes in 1894. But, the "newer generation" wasn't happy with this arrangement, and so they paid a visit to Miss Emily and tried to get her to pay the debt. She refused to acknowledge that the old arrangement might not work any more, and flatly refused to pay.

Thirty years before, the tax collecting townspeople had a strange encounter with Miss Emily about a bad smell at her place. This was about two years after her father died, and a short time after her lover disappeared from her life. Anyhow, the stink got stronger and complaints were made, but the authorities didn't want to confront Emily about the problem. So, they sprinkled lime around the house and the smell was eventually gone.

Everybody felt sorry for Emily when her father died. He left her with the house, but no money. When he died, Emily refused to admit it for three whole days. The town didn't think she was "crazy then," but assumed that she just didn't want to let go of her dad, (even though you could argue that he had stolen her youth from her).

Next, the story doubles back and tells us that not too long after her father died Emily begins dating Homer Barron, who is in town on a sidewalk-building project. The town heavily disapproves of the affair and brings Emily's cousins to town to stop the relationship. One day, Emily is seen buying arsenic at the drugstore, and the town thinks that Homer is giving her the shaft, and that she plans to kill herself.

When she buys a bunch of men's items, they think that she and Homer are going to get married. Homer leaves town, then the cousins leave town, and then Homer comes back. He is last seen entering Miss Emily's house. Emily herself rarely leaves the home after that, except for a period of half a dozen years when she gives painting lessons.

Her hair turns gray, she gains weight, and she eventually dies in a downstairs bedroom that hasn't seen light in many years. The story cycles back to where it began, at her funeral. Tobe, miss Emily's servant, lets in the town women and then leaves by the backdoor forever. After the funeral, and after Emily is buried, the townspeople go upstairs to break into the room that they know has been closed for forty years.

Inside, they find the corpse of Homer Barron, rotting in the bed. On the dust of the pillow next to Homer they find an indentation of a head, and there, in the indentation, a long, gray hair.
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Babylon Revisited" begins with Charlie Wales, an American expatriate who has returned in 1930 to Paris, the site of much drinking and partying on his part during the 1920s. Since the stock market crash of 1929, Charlie has sobered up and now looks with a combination of amazement and disgust at the extravagant lifestyle he lived.

Charlie's first visit in Paris is to the Ritz bar he used to frequent in his wild days. He asks after many of his former party-friends but finds that Paris is largely empty compared to several years earlier. He leaves an address with the barman to give to friend named Duncan Schaeffer. Since Charlie hasn't settled on a hotel yet, he leaves the address of his brother-in-law's house. He then wanders through Paris and sees all the hotspots he used to frequent during the extravagant days of the twenties. Everything looks different to him now that he's sober and doesn't have the money he used to.

As the story progresses, we learn that Charlie is back in town to try to regain custody of his daughter Honoria, who is currently staying with his sister-in-law and her husband. Charlie's deceased wife Helen died a little over a year ago from heart trouble. At the time, Charlie was in a sanatorium having suffered a collapse. Though we don't get all the details, we see that Charlie was, perhaps among other things, recovering from alcoholism. Now he only has one drink per day, so that the idea of alcohol doesn't get too big in his mind.

We learn that Charlie has a pretty bad relationship with his sister-in-law, Marion Peters, who blames him for her sister Helen's death. She is resistant to the idea of allowing him to take Honoria home with him, but Charlie eventually wins her over with his patience and insistence that he is reformed. They make plans for him to leave shortly with Honoria.

Meanwhile, two of Charlie's old party friends, Duncan Schaeffer and Lorraine Quarrles, who are still living the drunken lifestyle, have been trying to get him to go out drinking with them. Charlie resists, as he's left behind the wild days of running around Paris drunk. On the night when Charlie is at the Peters' finalizing plans to take Honoria home, Lorraine and Duncan show up, drunk, begging him to come out with them. Marion sees that Charlie is still associating with the party crowd, and so she goes back on her offer to let him take his daughter back. Charlie is baffled as to how Duncan and Lorraine found him, and either doesn't remember or refuses to acknowledge that he left the Peters' address for Duncan at the Ritz bar.

Charlie leaves the Peters' house and returns to the Ritz bar, where he has his one drink for the day and refuses to have a second one. He plans to try and get Honoria back again, perhaps six months from now when Marion has calmed down. He wonders how long he'll have to pay for the destructive lifestyle he used to live.
by John Steinbeck
"Babylon Revisited" begins with Charlie Wales, an American expatriate who has returned in 1930 to Paris, the site of much drinking and partying on his part during the 1920s. Since the stock market crash of 1929, Charlie has sobered up and now looks with a combination of amazement and disgust at the extravagant lifestyle he lived.

Charlie's first visit in Paris is to the Ritz bar he used to frequent in his wild days. He asks after many of his former party-friends but finds that Paris is largely empty compared to several years earlier. He leaves an address with the barman to give to friend named Duncan Schaeffer. Since Charlie hasn't settled on a hotel yet, he leaves the address of his brother-in-law's house. He then wanders through Paris and sees all the hotspots he used to frequent during the extravagant days of the twenties. Everything looks different to him now that he's sober and doesn't have the money he used to.

As the story progresses, we learn that Charlie is back in town to try to regain custody of his daughter Honoria, who is currently staying with his sister-in-law and her husband. Charlie's deceased wife Helen died a little over a year ago from heart trouble. At the time, Charlie was in a sanatorium having suffered a collapse. Though we don't get all the details, we see that Charlie was, perhaps among other things, recovering from alcoholism. Now he only has one drink per day, so that the idea of alcohol doesn't get too big in his mind.

We learn that Charlie has a pretty bad relationship with his sister-in-law, Marion Peters, who blames him for her sister Helen's death. She is resistant to the idea of allowing him to take Honoria home with him, but Charlie eventually wins her over with his patience and insistence that he is reformed. They make plans for him to leave shortly with Honoria.

Meanwhile, two of Charlie's old party friends, Duncan Schaeffer and Lorraine Quarrles, who are still living the drunken lifestyle, have been trying to get him to go out drinking with them. Charlie resists, as he's left behind the wild days of running around Paris drunk. On the night when Charlie is at the Peters' finalizing plans to take Honoria home, Lorraine and Duncan show up, drunk, begging him to come out with them. Marion sees that Charlie is still associating with the party crowd, and so she goes back on her offer to let him take his daughter back. Charlie is baffled as to how Duncan and Lorraine found him, and either doesn't remember or refuses to acknowledge that he left the Peters' address for Duncan at the Ritz bar.

Charlie leaves the Peters' house and returns to the Ritz bar, where he has his one drink for the day and refuses to have a second one. He plans to try and get Honoria back again, perhaps six months from now when Marion has calmed down. He wonders how long he'll have to pay for the destructive lifestyle he used to live.
by Jorge Luis Borges
This story is arguably the most allegorical in Borges' The Garden of Forking Paths collection. It is a touching tale of the process of creation; not only does it treat matters of identity, but it also acts as a memorable foray into the realm of dreams.

The story begins with a wounded foreigner from the south of Persia fleeing to ancient circular ruins in the north. Upon resting there, he finds that his wounds magically heal - but he is not surprised to see this. The temple ruins appear to have one been colored like fire, but now have an ash color, destroyed by fire. Crowning the ruins is a statue of what might be either a horse or tiger, made of stone.

The man feels an obligation to sleep, and finds offerings by him when he awakes, which he takes to mean that the locals either "sought his favor, or feared his magic" (96). He then begins to work towards his goal of dreaming a man into reality. He enters a meditative sleep and concentrates all his efforts on dreaming, seeking to create through the dreaming process itself.

His dreams began as unbridled chaos, but soon shift to an amphitheater in which he lectures a collection of students in a dialectical style. He lectures on all manner of academic disciplines, and the students attempt to prove their comprehension with their answers to his question. Both while he sleeps and while he is awake, he ponders the students' answers to these questions, all the while looking for the one soul distinguished enough to be brought into reality.

He determines after nine or ten nights that nothing meaningful can be expected of students who merely parrot him because they show no independence of soul. Thus, he resolves to select and tutor only those who raise objections against his lectures. In so doing, he whittles the crowd of students down to one single youth.

At this point, the act of creation becomes more of a trial. The man first develops insomnia from the strain, and has to rest for a month without undertaking premeditated dreaming in order to dream again at all. Then, he begins to dream each part of the youth specifically through intensive focus, beginning with the heart and organs and eventually moving to every hair on his skin. At one point, he almost destroys his creation - and Borges remarks that he should have - but instead he makes an appeal to the statue of the ruins. The god Fire reveals itself to the man as a combination of a tiger, horse, bull, rose, and tempest (99). He tells the man that he will bring his dream to life and make him so real that only Fire and the man who dreamed him will know of his unreal nature, provided that the man instructs the youth in the rites of fire.

He instructs the youth for two years and sends him to train alone at ruins downstream. At this point the man feels tired and weak, and fears that the youth will eventually discover through his bonds to fire that he is not like others, but instead the product of someone's dream. The story ends with a holocaust of fire consuming the ruins where the man lives; he finds that the fire does not harm him, and thereby discovers that he is also the product on someone's dream.
by Flannery O'Connor
It's time for a family trip of some kind, and there's a disagreement in the family about where to go. Bailey wants to take his family, (i.e., his wife, baby, and two kids, John Wesley and June Star), to Florida. His mother, called simply "the grandmother," doesn't want to go there. To make her case, she mentions that there's a dangerous criminal named The Misfit on the loose, and that he's headed that way.

No one seems to take her seriously. The next morning, it's off to Florida they go. Everyone piles in the car, including the grandmother, who seems to have acquired some enthusiasm for the trip. (She's also secretly stowed away her cat, Pitty Sing.) They hit the road and begin the trip from Georgia to Florida.

During the trip the grandmother plays games and tells stories to the kids. They stop at a restaurant to eat, and converse a bit with the owner, Red Sammy, and his wife. The grandmother talks with the couple about how hard it is to trust people and find "good men" these days. She also talks a bit about The Misfit.

Back on the road, the grandmother gets the kids all excited by telling them about an old plantation she once visited that's located nearby. The kids convince the reluctant Bailey to take them all to see it. He turns onto a dirt road, which, the grandmother assures him, leads to the plantation.
After following the road for a while they don't see anything. Suddenly, the grandmother remembers that the plantation isn't here at all - it's actually in Tennessee. She is so startled by this realization (which she doesn't tell anybody), that she jerks, letting her cat out of the basket where she's stowed it. The animal is propelled onto Bailey's shoulder. A dramatic accident follows, as the car veers off the road and flips over. As June Star laments, however, no one is killed.

The family waits for a car to come along, and sure enough, one does. Only it's not quite the help they were expecting. It turns out that their "help" is none other than The Misfit and two of his buddies. The grandmother recognizes The Misfit, and tries to convince him he's a good man who couldn't possibly want to do anything to harm them. The Misfit orders Bailey and John Wesley into the woods, where his cronies shoot them. The mother, the baby, and June Star soon follow.

All the while, the grandmother, increasingly dizzy and in shock, talks with The Misfit, still trying to convince him he's a good man, and telling him he should pray to Jesus. This gives The Misfit the opportunity to tell a bit of his personal history and offer some his ideas on Jesus, about whom he's actually done some thinking. The grandmother, detecting a moment of vulnerability in him is suddenly moved to call him her child and reaches out to touch him. The Misfit responds by promptly shooting her three times in the chest.

The story ends with him telling his cronies, who've returned from shooting the others, to dump her body with the rest. "She would've been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life," he says
by Flannery O'Connor
We start off with a bang: "Her doctor had told Julian's mother that she must lose twenty pounds on account of her blood pressure ..." (1). Because mom is afraid to ride the buses alone at night (she's just a wee bit racist, this one), she asks her son, Julian, to take her to the Y for her reducing class every Wednesday. Major eye-roll, but he does it anyway.

This Wednesday is different because (1) his mom has a new, really ugly hat, and (2) Julian gets it in his mind to teach his mother a lesson about the error of her old-fashioned views on race and class.

Attempt #1 doesn't go too well, when the black guy Julian tries to talk to "refused to come out from behind his paper" (71). Guess he didn't want to be part of the life-lesson.

Now for Attempt #2: two new passengers get on the bus and sit next to Julian, a young boy (Carver) and his mother. Gasp! They're black. To his delight, Julian sees that Carver's mother is wearing the same hat as his mother; he can't "believe that Fate had thrust upon his mother such a lesson" (82). Unfortunately, the lesson is lost on his mother because she's too distracted by Carver, whom she finds exceedingly cute. But Carver's mother is not amused by their mutual affections and violently forces her son away.

When it turns out that they are all getting off at the same stop, Julian's mother searches for a nickel to give Carver. All she finds is a penny and even though Julian warns her not to do it, she offers it to the boy. Carver's mother is super ticked-off and hits Julian's mother with her purse, shouting "He don't take nobody's pennies!" (102).

Things get very serious very fast. The sudden act of violence (or maybe the emotional shock) pushes his mother over the edge, and her blood pressure rises dangerously high. When she collapses on the sidewalk, Julian panics and flees, crying for help.
by Ralph Ellison
The narrator remembers how naïve he was some twenty years earlier. In the present, he feels ashamed for having been ashamed of his grandparents, who were once enslaved but freed after the Civil War. So, just one more time to make sure it's clear: he is ashamed of having felt ashamed.
Back to the part about the grandparents. The narrator's grandfather's last words were an admonishment to fight oppression. Known as a meek man throughout his life, the narrator's grandfather expresses anger at the system (that would be the white-controlled system) and advises using the system against the whites. And then he passes away.
Okay. So while the rest of this plot summary will be told in the present tense, remember that it's all the recollection of a certain invisible man hibernating in a man hole.
As a young boy in a nameless Southern town, the narrator is intelligent and obedient—a model student. He wonders if his grandfather would approve, and if the white people will ever realize that his behavior is actually treachery.
Anyway, the narrator gives a graduation speech praising humility as the key to black men's progress. The speech becomes such a hit that the narrator is invited to deliver it to the white leaders of the town.
When the narrator arrives in the hotel ballroom, all pumped up to give his speech, he finds the town leaders smoking and drinking heavily.
He learns that nine of his schoolmates are there to participate in a "battle royal" as part of the evening's entertainment.
He is asked to join them. The young black men change into boxing shirts and gloves, and were then brought up on stage.
Someone is already there.
A beautiful naked blonde woman is undulating onstage, and the narrator feels compelled to look at her—he feels both obsessed and disgusted. As she dances, one of the young men faints. Another begs to leave and unsuccessfully hides an erection.
The narrator describes her face as blank and impersonal.
As she dances, the drunken men in the audience reach out to grab her flesh. She tries to flee, but the men chase after her, fondling her and throwing her body up into the air.
With the help of men who are clearly more levelheaded, she manages to escape.
The boys try to leave.
The ten of them are blindfolded and ordered into the boxing ring. Each is told to knock the lights out of the other black boys. Under his breath, the narrator continues to practice his speech.
The narrator can hear the school superintendent's voice, among others, shouting at the blindfolded black men.
A bell rings and the narrator feels like he's being punched at from all sides. He can't even see what's going on but he can hear the men shouting from the sidelines. He tastes blood in his mouth and can't distinguish blood from sweat on the rest of his body.
The narrator is punched in the stomach and in the clamor to get up amidst the fighting, he realizes that he can see. Either his blindfold has gotten loose or there's a rip in the fabric.
He can now see the nine other boys randomly beating up whatever they can get their gloves on. Now that he can see, the narrator fights on behalf of different groups.
Eventually, the boys leave the boxing ring. Only he and the biggest of the boys, Tatlock, are left. He realizes that the other boys settled it beforehand without telling him. The last person standing would be awarded extra money.
The narrator gives and takes a couple of punches, and then whispers to Tatlock that he can have the narrator's money if he fakes defeat. The narrator even offers to pay him five and then seven dollars. Tatlock says that his desire to fight the narrator is his own, that it has nothing to do with the white men.
The yells from the audience let the narrator know that the white men have put bets on them. This is the evening's entertainment.
The narrator takes a bad hit and is knocked out. The fight is over... or is it? The men bring out a square rug with coins and bills on it.
The boys fight for the money, realizing too late that the rug is actually circuited and effectively electrocutes anyone who touches the money. Despite this knowledge, the boys still fight over the money. The white men jeer them from the sidelines, drunk and enjoying the spectacle.
The narrator reaches for the leg of a chair, where a man named Mr. Colcord is sitting. Since the narrator's body is still slippery from sweat and blood, Mr. Colcord is unsuccessful in pushing the narrator away.
Although unintentional at first, the narrator eventually tries to push Mr. Colcord onto the rug.
Instead, the narrator is knocked over and rolls onto the electric rug himself. The rug is moved out of place, and the M.C. announces that the fight is over.
The M.C. goes into the back room and pays every boy five dollars, giving Tatlock an extra five for being the winner.
Completely beaten up and exhausted, the narrator moves to leave, disappointed that he didn't deliver his speech.
But, wait.
The narrator is called back into the room and introduced to the white crowd. The men clap and laugh at the boy.
He delivers his speech, which quotes a speech given by Booker T. Washington involving an unfortunate ship in need of water and a more fortunate ship who tells the unfortunate ship to "cast down your bucket" so that they can provide the water. The narrator's speech backs the idea of different races working with one another and helping one another.
As he delivers his carefully prepared speech, the crowd continues to laugh and drink. The men belittle the narrator's use of big words, making him repeat them several times. When he is told to repeat "social responsibility" over and over again, he accidentally says "social equality."
That word is a very big no-no.
The narrator covers up the mistake by saying he was swallowing blood in his mouth.
When he finishes the speech, the men burst into applause. The school superintendent gives him a present: a fine briefcase with a scholarship to the "state college for Negroes." The narrator is stunned into tears and hastily leaves.
At home, everyone congratulates him. That night, however, he has a nightmare. He is at the circus with his grandfather, and his grandfather refuses to laugh at the clowns.
In the dream, the narrator opens the briefcase to find envelopes within envelopes, finally ending with a note that reads "Keep This ******-Boy Running."
The narrator wakes up to his grandfather's laughter. Now suddenly narrating from the present, the narrator admits that this is a frequently recurring dream.
by John Updike
The narrator is checking groceries when he realizes that three barefoot girls in bathing suits have walked into the store. The leader of the trio, who has her bathing suit straps down, catches his eye. She walks like a queen through the store, never turning to look at the narrator or his coworker, Stokesie.

Queenie (as the narrator thinks of her) leads the other two around the store. The narrator has fun watching the shock of the other customers, who aren't used to seeing bathing suits at the A&P.
Queenie is buying a jar of "Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks in Pure Sour Cream" (11). She gets in the narrator's checkout lane and prepares to pay him with a dollar bill that she takes from her bathing suit top. (Bow chicka wow wow.) Then Lengel, the manager of the A&P, comes in from outside, sees the girls, and tell them off for wearing nothing but skimpy swimsuits in the store. They argue with him, but he tells them they better dress right next time or not come again. Lengel tells the narrator, whose name is Sammy, to ring the girls up.

Sammy does what he's told, but then he tells Lengel he's quitting. The girls probably hear him, but they don't turn around. Lengel warns Sammy that quitting will ruin his life, but Sammy turns in his apron and bow tie and saunters out into the parking lot. If he was hoping to find the girls, he's out of luck - they're long gone. Sammy watches Lengel checking groceries in Sammy's lane. Lengel looks hard and stiff, and Sammy "[feels] how hard the world [is] going to be to [him] hereafter" (31).
by John Cheever
On a Sunday afternoon in midsummer, Neddy and Lucinda Merrill and Helen and Donald Westerhazy sit around the Westerhazys' pool, complaining about their hangovers. They are all drinking. Neddy feels young, energetic, and happy. He decides to get home by swimming across all the pools in his county. He feels like an explorer. He dives into the Westerhazys' pool, swims across, and gets out on the other side. He thinks about all the pools that lie ahead and the friends that await him.

He walks to the Grahams' pool, swims across, then has a drink. He next swims across the Hammers' pool, then several others. At the Bunkers' pool, a party is going on. Enid Bunker greets him, telling him that she's happy he could come to the party after all. He has a drink, then moves on. The Levys aren't home, but Neddy swims across their pool anyway and helps himself to a drink, feeling very contented. A storm begins, and Neddy waits it out in the Levys' gazebo. After the storm, he notices that red and yellow leaves are scattered all over the lawn.

Neddy heads toward the Welchers' pool. On his way, he finds that the Lindleys' horse-riding area is overgrown, and he can't remember whether he heard that the Lindleys were going away for the summer. At the Welchers' house, he finds that the pool is empty, which Neddy thinks is strange. There is a for-sale sign in front of their house. Neddy tries to remember when he last heard from the Welchers. He wonders whether his memory is failing him or he has just repressed unpleasant information.

Neddy waits for a long time to cross a highway, and people in the cars going by yell and throw things at him. He knows that he should head back to the Westerhazys', but he can't bring himself to do so. He finally manages to cross to the median and then to the other side. He walks to a public pool, showers, and swims across, disgusted by the crowds and the overly chlorinated water. Then he walks to the Hallorans'. He takes off his swim trunks because he knows the Hallorans enjoy being naked and swims across the pool. The Hallorans greet him and say that they're sorry for all his "misfortunes," hinting that he's sold his house and something has happened to his family. Neddy denies that anything has happened, puts his swim trunks back on, and leaves. He feels cold and weak and smells burning wood. He wishes he could have a drink of whiskey so that he could warm up and get some energy.

Neddy asks for a drink when he gets to Helen and Eric Sachses' pool, but Helen says they haven't been drinking since Eric had an operation three years ago. Neddy has no recollection that Eric had been sick. He swims across their pool, then tells them he hopes to see them again soon.

He goes to the Biswangers' house. The Biswangers regularly invite him and Lucinda to dinner, but they always refuse because the Biswangers are of a lower social standing. A party is going on, and Neddy goes to the bar. Grace Biswanger greets him coldly, and the bartender is rude to him. Neddy knows that their odd behavior means something has happened to his own social standing because caterers and bartenders always know what's happening in his social circle. In the background, Grace says something about someone losing all their money and asking her for a loan. Neddy swims across the pool, then leaves.

He expects to get a warm welcome at Shirley Adams's pool because Shirley had been his mistress, although he can't remember how long ago the affair had ended. Shirley tells him she won't give him any more money and that she won't give him a drink because someone is in the house. Neddy swims across the pool, but he has trouble getting out and must use the ladder. As he walks away, he smells fall flowers and sees fall constellations in the sky.

Neddy starts crying for the first time since childhood, feeling cold and confused. He thinks that he has just been swimming too long and needs a drink and dry clothes. He swims weakly across a few more pools. Finally, he reaches his own house. The lights are all off, and Neddy doesn't know where everyone could be. Every door is locked, and no one answers when he knocks. He looks in the windows and sees that his house is empty.
by Tim O'Brien
First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carries letters from a girl named Martha, who's an English major at Mount Sebastian College. He reads the letters every night. He's in love with her, but she's not in love with him.
The men carry the things they need, like can openers and pocketknives and Kool-Aid and water.
Some necessities are more individual. Kiowa, for example, carries a copy of the New Testament, and Ted Lavender is scared, so he carries tranquilizers until he's shot in the head.
(For more on what the characters carry and how it helps us see them as individuals throughout this story, head over to "Character Clues.")
Some basic vocabulary: The soldiers are called "legs" or "grunts." To "hump" something means to carry it. (Get your mind out of the gutter!)
You can hump something that exists, tangibly, like a pack of ammunition, or you can hump something in the emotional sense, like the love that Jimmy Cross has for Martha. (Out of the gutter, we said!)
Almost everyone humps photographs. Jimmy Cross carries two of Martha. In one, she's playing volleyball, and he's almost sure that she's a virgin (these facts are not related). The two of them saw a movie once, and he touched her knee, and he wishes that he'd carried her up to her room and tied her to the bed and touched her knee all night.
They carry the things their military rank demands that they carry.
For example, Rat Kiley is the medic, so he carries morphine, malaria tablets, comic books, and M&Ms.
Jimmy Cross is the platoon leader, so he carries a compass, codebooks, and the responsibility for his men.
Ted Lavender, until he dies outside the village of Than Khe, carries nine more rounds of ammo than anyone else, plus everything that everyone else carries, plus the fear.
Jimmy Cross blames himself when Ted Lavender is shot, and afterwards, they burn Than Khe.
They carry weapons: the M-60, the M-16, the M-79, M-14s, CAR-15s, Chi-Coms, RPGs, and bayonets, just to name a few. Lee Strunk carries a slingshot, Mitchell Sanders carries brass knuckles, and Kiowa carries his grandfather's hatchet.
They all carry respect for the power of the things they carry.
Before Ted Lavender dies, Jimmy Cross gets a good-luck charm from Martha. It's a pebble. Sometimes he carries the pebble in his mouth, and has trouble thinking about the war because he loves Martha so much.
What the men carry depends on their mission. If it's in the mountains, they carry things like machetes. If they're going to a heavily mined area, they carry a 28-pound mine detector.
On night missions, they all carry their own necessities. Kiowa carries moccasins. Henry Dobbins carries his girlfriend's stockings around his neck.
Sometimes they're required to blow out tunnels. Before they do that, they're supposed to search them—a pretty terrifying job. They draw numbers to see who has to do it.
Outside Than Khe, Lee Strunk draws the unlucky number, and goes down into the tunnel. The rest of the men sit down to wait.
Jimmy Cross tries to focus on the tunnel, but he keeps thinking about Martha, and what it would be like to be in that tunnel with her. He's trying to focus, but he's just a kid. He's just twenty-four years old.
Lee Strunk pops out of the tunnel, grinning. Everyone relaxes and starts to joke around.
Strunk then makes a noise like a funny ghost, and then all of a sudden, bam, Ted Lavender is shot in the head. He's on his way back from peeing.
Sometimes they carry things according to superstition. Norman Bowker, for example, who's normally very gentle, carries a thumb that Mitchell Sanders cut off a Viet Cong (VC) corpse.
They found the corpse lying in a ditch, and Mitchell Sanders said that there was a moral to it. He cut the thumb off, gave it to Bowker, and said that the moral was "Have gun, will travel."
Henry Dobbins said he didn't get it. We, dear readers that we are, don't really get it either. And that's okay; this book is kind of about things not making sense, so don't feel bad.
They carry stationery and chess sets and infections and the sky. They march just to march, not really thinking about where they're going. They carry their lives. They'll always have something to carry.
After Lavender dies, Jimmy Cross and the men burn the village of Than Khe. Cross feels guilty for what happened to Lavender; he loved Martha more than his men, and look what happened. He cries for Lavender but also for Martha, because she belongs to another world, and she doesn't love him.
Kiowa can't stop talking about how Ted Lavender died, how he hit the ground. He saw Jimmy Cross cry, and he says that the Lieutenant really cares. Norman Bowker asks him to shut up, please, so he does.
But even though Kiowa stopped talking about the death, he can't stop thinking about it, and what he thinks is that the only emotion he can muster up is surprise.
They carry themselves with dignity and poise, except when things are really scary, and then they don't. They joke about it afterwards.
They make their vocabulary hard and rough to cover up how much they actually care.
When Lavender dies, they say he was high on so many tranquilizers, he didn't feel a thing. Sanders says that there's a moral there—that drugs will ruin your day every time.
They're tough, and carry the knowledge that they might die at any time. They carry the fear of embarrassment and the fear of blushing. They don't talk about these things, and they mock guys who take the easy way out by shooting off a toe or a finger.
They pretend they're carried by jets back to America.
After Ted Lavender dies, Jimmy Cross burns all of Martha's letters and her photographs. He knows it's just a gesture, that Lavender is still dead, but he does it anyway. He thinks he hates Martha now, while loving her at the same time.
He decides that he's not going to be distracted by her anymore. He's going to crack down on the men, be all about discipline. No matter what the men think, he's going to be a real leader from now on.
by Raymond Carver
Welcome to Albuquerque New, Mexico, and the home of heart doctor Mel McGinnis and his wife Terri. Their friends, newlyweds Nick and Laura, are with them, and the two couples are drinking gin and tonics and talking about love.

The first bottle of gin is devoted to a discussion of Terri's ex, Ed, the guy she was with before Mel. It is not a happy bottle of gin. She says that, the night Ed beat her, he told her, "I love you, I love you, you bitch" (4) while he pulled her around the room. Terri thinks that what Ed felt for her was love. Mel thinks that's a load of codswallop, and he wants Nick and Laura to weigh in. They're all, um, guys, this is really uncomfortable, and Terri continues with her story.

See, Ed tried to kill himself—once with rat poison, which didn't work so well, and then again by shooting himself in the mouth. That did the trick. It turns out that before he did the deed, he had been stalking Mel and Terri, who were living together while Mel was divorcing his ex wife. Have you ever seen a more tangled web?

Here's the kicker: although Terri totally gets that the whole stalking fiasco was scary, she still thinks he loved her. But Mel just ain't having that. Terri says Ed even died for love. Mel says that love has absolutely nothing to do with why Ed killed himself. In fact, it's just plain hard to know why anybody kills himself.

As the story of Ed ends, right on cue, so does the bottle of gin. Don't worry, though, the gin never runs out at Mel and Terri's.

Laura says she and Nick "know what love is" (42). Terri tells them to cut it out with their sappy newlywed love because the honeymoon will be over soon enough. Just kidding! Mel opens the second bottle and they all toast to love. Whatever that means.

Then Mel tells them a story that he thinks shows what true love means. A few months back, at the hospital where he works, an old couple came in. They had been in a car accident. While they survived (which wasn't a sure thing), the man got really down in the dumps afterwards. When Mel asked him why he was so mopey, the old man told him it's because the car accident left him unable to turn his head, which means he could never look at his wife again, lying next to him. As he tells this story, Mel and Terri bicker back and forth.

And that bickering keeps right on going when the story's done. Terri says Mel is depressed and asks if he wants a pill. Mel's all, those things don't work. He just wants to call his kiddos. But Terri nixes that idea because his ex-wife Marjorie might pick up the phone. Apparently this Marjorie is a real piece of work.

Mel says that Marjorie is "vicious" (133), and agrees with Terri that calling his youngsters is not the best idea in the world. Maybe it's time for dinner instead. So do they all get up and head to the table? Nope, they just stay put drinking gin, until the bottle is empty and all Nick can do is just sit there, listening to the sounds of their heartbeats.