Short Stories - summaries
Terms in this set (14)
The Rockpile (Baldwin)
While Roy and John are forbidden to play on the Rockpile as the other boys from the neighborhood do, Roy decides to go anyway once, asking John not to tell anyone as he will be right back. There he gets into a fight and gets hurt, starts bleeding. He is brought back into the house and as the father gets home, he tries to blame the woman and John for letting Roy go there. He favors Roy because he is his real son and John (stepson) serves as the scapegoat.
A theme of the story is alienation, and feeling neglected.
Literary term - symbolism - what the rockpile represents referring to the characters and the events
Elizabeth, the mother.
Gabriel, the father. He is also a preacher.
Roy, Elizabeth and Gabriel's son who gets hurt on the rockpile.
John, Elizabeth's elder illegitimate son.
Delilah, Elizabeth and Gabriel's daughter.
Paul, Elizabeth and Gabriel's son.
Richard, a boy who drowned in the Bronx river.
Aunt Florence. She lives in the Bronx. She is Gabriel's sister.
Everyday Use (Walker)
The story centers around one day when the older sister, Dee, visits after time away and a conflict arises between her and her mother over some heirloom family possessions. The struggle reflects the characters' contrasting ideas about their heritage and identity. Throughout the story Dee goes back and forth on being and rejecting her heritage. For example, when she decides at dinner that she wants the butter churn, she shows that she respects her heritage because she knows that her uncle carved it from a tree they used to have. However, she wants it for the wrong reason, saying that she will use it only for decoration. Another example is when she wants the quilts that Mama has. She states that she wants them because of the generations of clothing and effort put into making the quilt, showing her appreciation for her heritage. The fact that she changes her name, though, from Dee to Wangero disrespects her heritage because "Dee" is a family name that can be traced back many generations. The story is narrated by the mother.
Maggie - Though described by her mother as dull and unattractive, Maggie is a very innocent and humble character. She leads a simple and traditional life with her mother in the South while her elder sister, Dee, is away in school.
Mama - Acts as narrator of the story. She is also known as Mrs. Johnson. She is a middle-aged or older African-American woman living with her younger daughter, Maggie. Although poor, she is strong and independent as shown by how she interacts with her children, and takes great pride in her way of life. Her appearance is described as someone who is overweight, and someone who has a body that is more like a man's than a woman's. She has strong hands that are worn from a lifetime of work.
Dee/Wangero - Eldest daughter of "Mama" and sister to Maggie. She is very "educated, worldly, and deeply determined"; she doesn't let anything get in the way of getting what she wants.
Hakim-a-barber - Dee/Wangero's boyfriend, possibly husband, she brings to dinner at her Mamas house. He is referred to as "Asalamalakim", which is a Muslim greeting, by Mama because he is Muslim. He is short and stocky and has long hair that reaches his waist and a long, bushy beard.
One symbol found in this short story is the quilt. The quilt itself is a very meaningful item in the sense that it has history on it; it includes clothes that Dee's great grandma used to wear and pieces of uniforms that Dee's great grandpa wore during the Civil War. However, it also symbolizes value in Negro-American experience. Because Walker includes the fact of the Civil War gives a sense of history to the African American history. The quilt additionally adds to the idea of creative activities women came up with to pass down history from generation to generation.
literary terms - first-person point of view and character motivation and contrasting characters
The First Seven Years (Malamud)
literary terms - epiphany, internal and external conflict
Written in 1950, "The First Seven Years" was published in Bernard Malamud's first collection of short stories, The Magic Barrel, in 1958. The story is about Feld, a Jewish shoemaker who seeks a suitable husband for his daughter Miriam. But she is not interested in his choice of Max, a college student. Feld soon discovers that his assistant, Sobel, a Polish Jewish refugee, is in love with Miriam, and that she returns his affections. Miriam sees spiritual qualities in Sobel, but Feld is dismayed because he wants her to do better for herself. Feld is faced with a moral choice: will he allow Sobel to wed Miriam? Can he put his daughter's feelings above what he thinks is appropriate for her? Can he learn to see in Sobel what Miriam sees in him? In the climax of the story, Feld tells Sobel that if he works for two more years, making seven in all, he can ask Miriam for her hand in marriage. Hence the title of the story, which is an allusion to the Biblical story of how Jacob labored in the service of Laban for seven years to win the hand of Rebecca, whom he loved.
"The First Seven Years" is one of many stories Malamud wrote about Jewish immigrants living in New York. As such, it is a representative work of one of the most distinguished American writers of the second half of the twentieth century. Although Malamud often wrote about Jews, he is usually regarded not as a "Jewish" writer but as one who explored, through the Jewish experience, universal human hopes, struggles, conflicts, and dilemmas.
The Life You Save May Be Your Own (O'Connor)
Style - Southern Gothic
"The Life You Save May Be Your Own" is a short story by the American author Flannery O'Connor. It is one of the ten stories in her short story collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find, published in 1955.
An elderly woman and her daughter sit quietly on their porch at sunset when Tom Shiftlet comes walking up the road to their farm. Through carefully selected details, O'Connor reveals that the girl is deaf, that the old woman views Shiftlet as 'a tramp,' and that Shiftlet himself wears a "left coat sleeve that was folded up to show there was only half an arm in it." The two adults exchange curt pleasantries, then Mrs. Crater offers him shelter in exchange for work but warns, "I can't pay." Shiftlet says he has no interest in money, adding that he believes that most people are too concerned with money. Sensing not only a handyman but a suitor for her daughter, Mrs. Crater asks if Shiftlet is married, to which he responds, "Lady, where would you find you an innocent woman today?" Mrs. Crater then makes known her love for her daughter, Lucynell, adding, "She can sweep the floors, cook, wash, feed the chickens, and hoe." Mrs. Crater is clearly offering her daughter's hand to Shiftlet. For the moment, however, he simply decides to stay on the farm and to sleep in the broken-down car. Once Shiftlet moves into the Crater's farm, he fixes a broken fence and hog pen, teaches Lucynell how to speak her first word ("bird" — a recurring symbol in O'Connor's fiction), and, most importantly, repairs the automobile. At this time Mrs. Crater gives her daughter's hand in marriage over to Mr. Shiftlet, but he declines saying, "I can't get married right now, everything you want to do takes money and I ain't got any."
Mrs. Crater, in her desperation to marry off her daughter, offers him a sum of money to marry Lucynell. He then accepts and agrees to marry her. Soon after, the three take the car into town and Lucynell and Shiftlet are married. After the wedding Shiftlet and Lucynell go on their honeymoon. They stop in a restaurant and have dinner. There Lucynell falls asleep. Once she is sound asleep on the counter of the diner, Shiftlet gets up out of his seat and begins to leave. The boy behind the counter looks at the girl and then back at Shiftlet in a confused manner. Seeing how beautiful Lucynell is, the boy exclaims, "She looks like an angel of Gawd". Shiftlet then replies "Hitchhiker" and leaves her at the restaurant. Afterwards Shiftlet "was more depressed than ever" and he "kept his eye out for a hitchhiker." As a storm is breaking in the sky, Shiftlet sees a road sign that reads, "Drive carefully. The life you save may be your own." Shiftlet then offers a ride to a boy who did not even have his thumb out.
Shiftlet tries to make conversation, telling stories about his sweet mother, who is — as the boy at the diner called Lucynell — "an angel of Gawd." But the boy does not buy Shiftlet's sentimentality. "My old woman is a flea bag and yours is a stinking polecat," he snaps, before leaping from the car. Shocked, Shiftlet "felt the rottenness of the world was about to engulf him," exclaiming, "Oh Lord! Break forth and wash the slime from the earth!" The rain finally breaks, with a "guffawing peal of thunder from behind and fantastic raindrops, like tin-can tops, crashed over the rear of Mr. Shiftlet's car." Shiftlet speeds off to Mobile, Alabama.
As in several other O'Connor stories, such as "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "Good Country People," in "The Life You Save May be Your Own" a malevolent stranger intrudes upon the lives of a family with destructive consequences. Tom Shiftlet has been compared to The Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find;" however, Shiftlet remains primarily a comic character and does not embody The Misfit's spiritual dimensions.
A Rose for Emily (Faulkner)
ambiguity - literary term
genre - southern Gothic
"A Rose for Emily" is a short story by American author William Faulkner first published in the April 30, 1930 issue of Forum. The story takes place in Faulkner's fictional city, Jefferson, Mississippi, in the fictional county of Yoknapatawpha County. It was Faulkner's first short story published in a national magazine.
Faulkner described the title as "an allegorical title; the meaning was, here was a woman who has had a tragedy and nothing could be done about it, and I pitied her and this was a salute ... to a woman you would hand a rose."
The story opens with a brief first-person account of the funeral of Emily Grierson, an elderly Southern spinster. It then proceeds in a nonlinear fashion to the narrator's recollections of Emily's archaic and increasingly insane behavior throughout the years. Emily is a member of a family in the antebellum Southern aristocracy; after the Civil War, the family has fallen on hard times. She and her father, the last two of the clan, continue to live as if in the past; neither will consent to a marriage for Emily to a man below their perceived status. Her father dies when Emily is about thirty; she refuses to accept that he has been dead for three days, behavior written off by the community as part of her grieving process.
After her acceptance of her father's death, Emily revives somewhat; she becomes friendly with Homer Barron, a Northern laborer who comes to the town as a contractor to pave the sidewalks. The connection surprises the rest of the community: the match would have been far below her earlier standards, and Homer had himself claimed that he was "not a marrying man." The town appeals to Emily's distant cousins; they are her closest remaining relatives, but they have been on bad terms with Emily and her father, and had not even been present at her father's funeral. The cousins arrive at Emily's house, but quickly gain a reputation even worse than that of Emily; the sentiment of the town rallies behind Emily in opposition to the cousins. Indeed, during this time, Emily buys arsenic from a druggist's shop without giving her reasons for needing it; neighbors believe that she means to poison herself with it. However, her relationship with Homer appears to solidify, and there is talk of marriage between the two. Homer leaves the area for a time, reputedly to give Emily a chance to get rid of her cousins, and returns three days after the cousins have left; one person reports seeing Homer walk in the house at night, which is the last contact the neighborhood has with either of them for a long time.
Despite these turnabouts in her social status, Emily continues to behave haughtily, as she had before her father died. Her reputation is such that the city council find themselves unable to confront her about a strong smell that has begun to emanate from the house. Instead, they decide to send men to her house under the cover of darkness to sprinkle lime around the house, after which the smell dissipates. The mayor of the town, Colonel Sartoris, made a gentleman's agreement to overlook her taxes as an act of charity, though it was done under a pretense of repayment towards her father to assuage Emily's pride. Years later, when the next generation has come to power, Emily insists on this informal arrangement, flatly refusing that she owes any taxes; the council declines to press the issue. Emily has become a recluse: she is never seen out of the house, and only rarely accepts people into it; her black servant does all her shopping for her. The community comes to view her as a "hereditary obligation" on the town, who must be humored and tolerated.
The funeral is a large affair; Emily had become an institution, so her death sparks a great deal of curiosity about her reclusive nature and what remains of her house. After she is buried, a group of townsfolk enter her house to see what remains of her life there. The door to her upstairs bedroom is locked; some of the townsfolk kick in the door to see what has been hidden for so long. Inside, among the possessions that Emily had bought for their wedding, lies the horribly decomposed corpse of Homer Barron on the bed; on the pillow beside him is the indentation of a head, and a single thread of Emily's now-gray hair.
The Jilting of Granny Weatherall (Porter)
As the story opens, octogenarian Granny Weatherall is in bed, attended to by Dr. Harry and her grown daughter, Cornelia. Although Granny finds their concern officious, it becomes apparent that Granny is suffering from a serious illness, and that she is not fully aware of the gravity of her condition.
As she 'rummages around her mind,' she senses death lurking nearby, and she desires to stave it off, at least until she can tie up some loose ends. Her unfinished business primarily concerns a bundle of letters she has stored in the attic, some from her long-dead husband, John, but primarily those from a man named George who jilted Granny Weatherall sixty years ago. She wants to get rid of them tomorrow, lest her children discover them and find out how "silly" she had been.
Granny's mind continues to wander in and out of consciousness, and she becomes irritated because Cornelia seems to be whispering about her behind her back. Cornelia's patronizing behavior causes Granny to fantasize about packing up and moving back into her own home, where nobody will continue to remind her that she is old. Her father lived to be 102, so she might just last to "plague Cornelia a little."
Granny reflects on the old days when her children were still young and there was still work to be done. She imagines being reunited with John. She muses that he will not recognize her, since he will be expecting a "young woman with the peaked Spanish comb in her hair and the painted fan." Decades of hard work have taken a toll on her. "Digging post holes changed a woman," she notes. Granny has weathered sickness, the death of a husband, the death of a baby, hard farm labor, tending to sick neighbors, yet she has kept everything together. She has 'spread out the plan of life and tucked in the edges neat and orderly.'
However, for Granny life hasn't always gone according to plan. Sixty years ago she was to marry George. 'She put on the white veil and set out the white cake for him, but he didn't come.' Granny has tried to forget the pain and shame of being jilted, yet on her deathbed, this memory keeps resurfacing.
Once again, her thoughts shift. She imagines finding her dead child, Hapsy, after wandering through several rooms. Hapsy is standing with a baby on her arm, and suddenly Granny becomes Hapsy and Hapsy becomes the baby. Then the image fades away and Hapsy comes in close to say, "I thought you'd never come."
Granny's thoughts wander back to George. She decides she would like to see him again, after all. She wants to make sure he understands that he did not ruin her life; she was able to pick up the pieces. She found a good husband and had children and a house "like any other woman."
Father Connolly arrives to administer last rites. Granny feels she doesn't need the priest. She made her peace with God long ago. As she senses her time running out, she thinks of all the things she wants to tell her children, who have assembled to say their good-byes. She thinks of Hapsy and wonders if she will see her again.
Granny asks God for a sign of assurance that she is loved and accepted, but there is no sign. Feeling as if God has rejected her just as George once did, Granny feels immense grief, and with that, the candle blows out and she dies.
"Katherine Anne Porter's short fiction is noted for its sophisticated use of symbolism, complex exploitation of point of view, challenging variations of ambiguously ironic tones, and profound analyses of psychological and social themes."
The Jilting of Granny Weatherall is no exception. In this story, Porter employs the stream-of-consciousness narrative technique. This style allows Porter to create empathy for the title character by giving readers uncensored access into Granny's mind, memories and experiences. She draws an intimate portrait of a strong, independent woman who, over the course of a lifetime, has harbored a deep and painful secret.
Porter's use of religious symbolism can be seen in the vision Granny has of Hapsy holding her infant son. And when Granny remembers the fateful day of her jilting, she is overcome by images of dark smoke and hellfire.
Additionally, Porter uses simile and metaphor to describe the process of dying. Early in the story, Porter uses images of floating to convey Granny's state of mind as she wavers in and out of consciousness. Granny's "bones felt loose, and floated around in her skin." "Doctor Harry floated like a balloon around the foot of the bed." "The pillow rose and floated under her." However, as Granny's death becomes imminent, the tone changes, and Porter uses images of darkness and falling to describe Granny's worsening condition. "Her heart sank down and down, there was no bottom to death." In describing the moment Granny dies, Porter writes: "She stretched herself with a deep breath and blew out the light."
The Jilting of Granny Weatherall is a character sketch of an otherwise ordinary woman who has weathered a deep and abiding blow to her psyche. As readers witness the moments leading up to her death, they are able to glean a great deal about who she was and who she has become.
She was once a young, hopeful bride-to-be. She became an independent widow. She has "weathered all" that life has presented. Granny has survived, intact, but not without scars. Although her scars may not visible to the human eye, by revealing what goes on deep inside her private thoughts, Porter uncovers the wounded pride and vanity that Granny has tried for sixty years to keep hidden, even from those closest to her.
"The sanctity of the human heart and the existential loneliness of the human condition are the enduring themes of this story."
A Worn Path (Welty)
"A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty is a short story about an elderly African-American woman who undertakes a familiar journey on a road in a rural area to acquire medicine for her grandson. She expresses herself, both to her surroundings and in short spurts of spoken monologue, warning away animals and expressing the pain she feels in her weary bones. At its heart, "A Worn Path" is a tale of undying love and devotion that pushes us toward a goal.
In "A Worn Path", an old woman named Phoenix Jackson is walking through the woods into town. On her way she encounters many obstacles, including thorny bushes, barbed wire, and a large dog, among others. She meets a hunter, pocketing a nickel that he drops, and a lady who ties her shoes. Her reason for going to Natchez is to pick up a supply of medicine for her grandson, who accidentally swallowed lye a few years before. She tells the nurse in the hospital that the damage to his throat never fully heals, and every so often his throat will begin to swell shut. It is Old Phoenix's love for her grandson that causes her to face the trial of the journey to town, every time it is necessary, with no questions asked.
Popular with Literature classes, the symbolism in the piece and the lesson(s) to be learned from it are open to interpretation. Many critics have commented on the significance of the main character's name in relation to the folkloric phoenix, relating to her indomitable ability to rise again and make her journey.  Many writers argue that it emphasizes racial and economic inequalities in the Deep South during the Depression. It is similar to the story of Odysseus, who faces many trials along his journey. Welty herself has said it is a story about how a writer works
The Corn Planting (Anderson)
Hatch Hutchenson lives in a small town, where he marries a schoolteacher and they have a son named Will. The Hutchenson family runs a farm even after their son Will goes into Chicago to attend school at the Art Institute as a cartoonist. At the Art Institute, Will meets a young man named Hal Weyman and they become good friends. Hal Weyman develops a strong relationship with the Hutchensons and visits them to read Will's letters while he is still at the school. Hal receives a telegraph notifying him that Will died in a drunken car crash, and Hal and the narrator travel to the Hutchenson household to bare the bad news. The Hutchensons are so distraught with the news that in order to cope with their loss, they proceed to plant corn in their nightgowns in the middle of the night.
Hatch Hutchenson- a simple, hardworking and dedicated man who was 70 years of age and was devoted to his family and his farming way of life, refused to travel into the city and leave behind the life he had known.
Hal Weyman- Met Will Hutchenson at the Art Institute in Chicago and had a close relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Hutchenson. Read letters from Will to the Hutchensons, and informed them of their sons death.
Will Hutchenson- a charismatic free-spirit, intelligent, creative and well-liked by all. The son of Hatch and Mrs. Hutchenson. Studied at the Art Institute in Chicago as a cartoonist and sells his cartoons to advertisement companies. Dies of a drunk driving accident.
- Form a relationship with nature because unlike other people and aspects in society you can always depend on it.
- The city is corrupt and people cannot control aspects of their lives where distance does not permit it.
- Small-town life and the working class are the strongest facets to American society.
To urge people to revert back to their original ways of life such as farming, and avoid the dangers of industrialization, cities and new technology because it divides families, and creates new danger in everyday life.
The farmland and crops prove to be an escape to the Hutchensons, a way to cope with the loss of their son, and a connection or relationship in which they could always depend on. The city represented an industrialized and technological area which resulted in it obtaining more dangers. The distance created due to traveling brought on by the automobile, the train, ect., separated families and changed the style of living in America.
1st Person Narration- important in pertaining to this time period because the narrator does not reveal enough information for the reader to know the story is completely truthful, and the themes presented are not clear. As a result of the lack of clarity with themes, it leaves the story to be more open to the narrator's opinion.
Imagery- Hutchenson's planting at night in their nightgowns conveys that they are in such a great deal of pain that in order to console themselves they simply revert back to what makes them feel safe- farming. The narrator watches as they plant corn in their nightgowns in a somewhat ghostly manner almost representing death.
Pg. 818: "It was a thing to curl your hair- it was so ghostly. They were both in their nighthgowns. They would do a row across the field, coming quite close to us as we stood in the shadow of the barn, and then, at the end of each row, they would kneel side by side by the fence and stay silent for a time."
Symbolism: farmland and small town represent a connection to nature and a safety or escape. The city represents the dangers in society and the negativity accumulated into one area.
Realism- the story is plausible in relation to the characters, the setting and the occurrences of the time period. The narration of the story reflects realism because the narrator is similar to a reporter because they are observing the events and describing them. The bleak feelings portrayed after Will's death are an aspect of realism because they are raw and truthful traits of human-beings. The technological advancements and the drinking and driving are realistic parts of the society pertaining to that time period as well, and conveying those aspects in the story, further developed it as being more plausible.
Transcendentalism- The story encourages a relationship with the nature and portrays the city as being a corrupt and dangerous place because it is unknown, or in a sense unnatural due to the technology and industrialization.
-American Values: corruption, closeness to nature, dependency, greed, determination.
-Relationship to today: In cities today, there are gangs, robberies, and cities generally appear to obtain a lot of the community's violence and are often portrayed as dangerous places where it's necessary to take precautions.
-There is a movement going on in our time where people are reverting towards more organic products and attempting to have a better connection and knowledge of where their food is coming from.
-People view manual labor such as farming as being difficult and tedious work.
-People still push towards cities and they are the most highly populated areas in America.
In Another Country (Hemingway)
It is about an ambulance corps member in Milan during World War I. Although unnamed, he is assumed to be "Nick Adams" a character Hemingway made to represent himself. He has an injured knee and visits a hospital daily for rehabilitation. There the "machines" are used to speed the healing, with the doctors making much of the miraculous new technology. They show pictures to the wounded of injuries like theirs healed by the machines, but the war-hardened soldiers are portrayed as skeptical, perhaps justifiably so.
As the narrator walks through the streets with fellow soldiers, the townspeople hate them openly because they are officers. Their oasis from this treatment is Cafe Cova, where the waitresses are very patriotic.
When the fellow soldiers admire the protagonist's medal, they learn that he is American, ipso facto not having to face the same struggles in order to achieve the medal, and no longer view him as an equal, but still recognize him as a friend against the outsiders. The protagonist accepts this, since he feels that they have done far more to earn their medals than he has. Later on, a major who is friends with the narrator, in an angry fit tells Nick he should never get married, it being only a way to set one up for hurt. It is later revealed that the major's wife had suddenly and unexpectedly died. The major is depicted as far more grievously wounded, with a hand withered to the size of a baby's hand, and Hemingway memorably describes the withered hand being manipulated by a machine which the major dismisses as a "damn thing." But the major seems even more deeply wounded by the loss of his wife.
The Far and the Near (Wolfe)
The Far and the Near by Thomas Wolfe was originally published in an issue of Cosmopolitan. It later made its way into From Death to Morning, his first book of short stories. The Far and the Near is a short story about an everyday event that occurs in the lives of three people over a span of many years. There is a woman who lives just outside of a small town in a cottage. There is a train that goes past this particular town and cottage every afternoon. For a period of roughly twenty years, the conductor of the train always blows the train's whistle as he passes this cottage. In anticipation of this, the woman is always on the porch to wave at him. As time goes by, her daughter joins her in this afternoon tradition.
theme - up close, things are rarely as perfect as they seem from afar..Support for this view includes the engineer's disappointing realization that he should not have visited the women
The Turtle (from The Grapes of Wrath) (Steinbeck)
A parable is defined as a brief story that teaches a moral lesson. Chapter 3 is about a turtle crossing a highway - a turtle that later appears in the novel. This chapter and the continued motif of the turtle is often called a parable to Steinbeck's story of the westward migration of farmers during the Dustbowl.
The method used to develop the theme of the novel is through the use of symbolism. There are several uses of symbols in the novel from the turtle at the beginning to the rain at the end. As each symbol is presented through the novel they show examples of the good and the bad things that exist within the novel. The opening chapter paints a vivid picture of the situation facing the drought-stricken farmers of Oklahoma. Dust is described a covering everything, smothering the life out of anything that wants to grow. The dust is symbolic of the erosion of the lives of the people. The dust is synonymous with deadness. The land is ruined ^way of life (farming) gone, people ^uprooted and forced to leave. Secondly, the dust stands for ^profiteering banks in the background that squeeze the life out the land by forcing the people off the land. The soil, the people (farmers) have been drained of life and are exploited: The last rain fell on the red and gray country of Oklahoma in early May. The weeds became a dark green to protect themselves from the sun's unyielding rays....The wind grew stronger, uprooting the weakened corn, and the air became so filled with dust that the stars were not visible at night. (Chp 1) As the chapter continues a turtle, which appears and reappears several times early in the novel, can be seen to stand for survival, a driving life force in all of mankind that cannot be beaten by nature or man. The turtle represents a hope that the trip to the west is survivable by the farmer migrants (Joad family). The turtle further represents the migrants struggles against nature/man by overcoming every obstacle he encounters: the red ant in his path, the truck driver who tries to run over him, being captured in Tom Joad's jacket: And now a light truck approached, and as it came near, the driver saw the turtle and swerved to hit it. The driver of the truck works for a large company, who try to stop the migrants from going west, when the driver attempts to hit the turtle it is another example of the big powerful guy trying to flatten or kill the little guy. Everything the turtle encounters trys its best to stop the turtle from making its westerly journey. Steadily the turtle advances on, ironically to the southwest, the direction of the mirgration of people. The turtle is described as being lasting, ancient, old and wise: horny head, yellowed toenails, indestructible high dome of a shell, humorous old eyes. (Chp 1)The driver of the truck, red ant and Tom Joad's jacket are all symbolic of nature and man the try to stop the turtle from continuing his journey westward to the promise land. The turtle helps to develop the theme by showing its struggle against life/ comparing it with the Joad struggle against man. The grapes seem to symbolize both bitterness and copiousness. Grandpa the oldest member of the Joad family talks of the grapes as symbols of plenty; all his descriptions of what he is going to do with the grapes in California suggest contentment, freedom, the goal for which the Joad family strive for: I'm gonna let the juice run down ma face, bath in the dammed grapes (Chp 4) The grapes that are talked about by Grandpa help to elaborate the theme by showing that no matter how nice everything seems in California the truth is that their beauty is only skin deep, in their souls they are rotten. The rotten core verses the beautiful appearance. The willow tree that is located on the Joad's farm represents the Joad family. The willow is described as being unmovable and never bending to the wind or dust. The Joad family does not want to move, they prefer to stay on the land they grew up on, much the same as the willow does. The willow contributes to the theme by showing the unwillingness of the people to be removed from their land by the banks. The latter represents the force making them leave their homes. Both of these symbols help contribute to the theme by showing a struggle between each other. The tree struggles against nature in much the same way that the Joad family struggles against the Bank and large companies. The rains that comes at the end of the novel symbolize several things. Rain in which is excessive, in a certain way fulfills a cycle of the dust which is also excessive. In a way nature has restored a balance and has initiated a new growth cycle. This ties in with other examples of the rebirth idea in the ending, much in the way the Joad family will grow again. The rain contributes to the theme by showing the cycle of nature that give a conclusion to the novel by showing that life is a pattern of birth and death. The rain is another example of nature against man, the rain comes and floods the living quarters of the Joads. The Joads try to stop the flood of their home by yet again are forced back when nature drops a tree causing a flood of water to ruin their home forcing them to move. In opposite way rain can helpful to give life to plants that need it to live. Depending on which extreme the rain is in, it can be harmful or helpful. This is true for man, man can become both extremes bad or good depending on his choosing. Throughout the novel there are several symbols used to develop the theme man verses a hostile environment. Each symbol used in the novel show examples of both extremes. Some represent man, that struggles against the environment, others paint a clear picture of the feelings of the migrants. As each symbol is presented chronologically through the novel, they come together at the end to paint a clear picture of the conditions, treatment and feelings the people (migrants) as they make there journey through the novel to the West.
Winter Dreams (Fitzgerald)
"Winter Dreams" is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald that first appeared in Metropolitan Magazine in December 1922, and was collected in All the Sad Young Men in 1926. It is considered one of Fitzgerald's finest stories and is frequently anthologized. In the Fitzgerald canon, it is considered to be in the "Gatsby-cluster," as many of its themes were later expanded upon in his famous novel The Great Gatsby in 1925.
Writing his editor Max Perkins in June 1925, Fitzgerald described "Winter Dreams" as "A sort of first draft of the Gatsby idea."
Dexter Green is a middle-class boy who aspires to be part of the "old money" elite. Dexter mentions that he was born in Keeble, Minnesota. His father owns the second most profitable grocery store in the town. He starts out as a teenage golf caddy at a Golf Club in Black Bear Lake, Minnesota, which has been suggested is really White Bear Lake, where Fitzgerald lived for a relatively short time at the Yacht Club. Dexter meets Judy Jones and works under her father, Mortimer Jones, at the club. The first time he meets her she is 11 and he is a caddy. He quits instead of agreeing to be her caddy when he is instructed to do so. He can't abide acting as one of her servants.
After college, Dexter gets involved in a partnership in a laundry business. He returns to the Sherry Island Golf Club and is invited to play golf with the men for whom he once caddied. He encounters Judy Jones again on the golf course, only now she is older and amazingly beautiful. Later in the evening Dexter swims to a raft on the lake, and runs into Judy, who is driving a motor boat. She asks him to take over while she rides on a surfboard attached to the boat. After this encounter, Judy invites Dexter to dinner, where their affair begins. He soon finds that he is one of a dozen men she is stringing along.
After about 18 months Dexter becomes engaged to Irene Scheerer, a kind but ordinary looking girl, while Judy is vacationing in Florida. When Judy returns, however, she again captures Dexter's heart and asks him to marry her. Dexter breaks off his engagement with Irene, only to be dropped again by Judy a month later. To deal with his heartbreak, Dexter joins the army to fight in World War I.
After the War, seven years later, Dexter has become a businessman in New York City. He had become phenomenally rich and hadn't visited his home in years. On a particular day, a man, Devlin, from Detroit visits Dexter for business. During the meeting, Devlin mentions Judy Simms, formerly Judy Jones, the wife of one his friends and explains how she had become a housewife. Dexter becomes interested and learns from Devlin that Judy had settled and her beauty had faded; her husband is also cruel to her. The news hit Dexter hard as he still had love and hope for Judy. Later Dexter realizes that his dream is gone and that he can never return home now.
Fitzgerald scholar Matthew Bruccoli described "Winter Dreams" as "the strongest of the Gatsby-cluster stories." He continues,
"Like the novel, it examines a boy whose ambitions become identified with a selfish rich girl. Indeed, Fitzgerald removed Dexter Green's response to Judy Jones' home from the magazine text and wrote it into the novel as Jay Gatsby's response to Daisy Fay's home."
Tim Randell suggests that "Winter Dreams" should be regarded as "one of modernism's crowning achievements" because in it Fitzgerald "achieves a dialectical metafiction that grasps the production of capitalist ideology within class relations and print culture, including the forms of literary modernism," and Fitzgerald does this in 1922—over ten years before Bertolt Brecht coined the term "Verfremdungseffekt" (alienation effect) to describe an identical use of metafiction in the theatre. He argues that the story's form demonstrates that modernism's concern with a "'lack of communal meaning' and 'inescapable subjectivity' are false epistemological problems" because "[Fitzgerald's] metafiction identifies ruling class interests as the collective origin of meaning and 'reality' for the entire social body" and "conveys the possibility of counter, collective meanings within the dialectic of class antagonism."
Big, Two-hearted River (Hemingway)
"Big Two-Hearted River" is a two-part short story written by American author Ernest Hemingway, published in the 1925 Boni & Liveright edition of In Our Time, the first American volume of Hemingway's short stories. It features a single protagonist, Hemingway's recurrent autobiographical character Nick Adams, whose speaking voice is heard just twice. The story explores the destructive qualities of war which is countered by the healing and regenerative powers of nature. When it was published, critics praised Hemingway's sparse writing style and it became an important work in his canon.
The story is one of Hemingway's earliest pieces to employ his Iceberg Theory of writing; a modernist approach to prose in which the underlying meaning is hinted at, rather than explicitly stated. "Big Two-Hearted River" is almost exclusively descriptive and intentionally devoid of plot. Hemingway was influenced by the visual innovations of Cézanne's paintings and adapted the painter's idea of presenting background minutiae in lower focus than the main image. In this story, the small details of a fishing trip are explored in great depth, while the landscape setting, and most obviously the swamp, are given cursory attention.
Background and publication
In 1922, Hemingway moved with his wife Hadley to Paris, where he worked as foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. He became friends with and was influenced by modernist writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. The year 1923 saw his first published work, a slim volume titled Three Stories and Ten Poems, followed the next year by another collection of short vignettes, in our time (without capitals). Hoping to have in our time published in New York, in 1924 he began writing stories to add to the volume with "Big Two-Hearted River" planned as the final piece. He started writing the story in May of that year but did not finish until September as he spent the summer helping Ezra Pound and Ford Madox Ford launch the journal the transatlantic review.
Gertrude Stein photographed with Hemingway's son Jack in 1924. Stein advised Hemingway to shorten the ending of "Big Two-Hearted River".
"Big Two-Hearted River" has strong autobiographical elements. During World War I, Hemingway signed on as a member of the Red Cross at age 19, and was sent to the Italian Front at Fossalta as an ambulance driver. On his first day there, he helped to retrieve the remains of female workers killed in a munitions factory explosion, about which he later wrote in Death in the Afternoon: "I remember that after we searched quite thoroughly for the complete dead we collected fragments". A few days later, on July 8, 1918, he was severely wounded when a mortar bomb exploded between his legs. He was sent to a hospital in Milan where he recuperated for six months; after his return home, he went on a week-long fishing and camping trip in September 1919 with two high school friends to the backcountry near Seney in Michigan's Upper Peninsula—a trip that became the inspiration for "Big Two-Hearted River". The manuscript shows the use of plural pronouns, suggesting that in an early version more characters were included, but by publication any mention of his friends or the townspeople had been removed—leaving Nick alone in the woods.
When Hemingway asked her opinion of the draft in October 1925, Stein advised him to cut an 11-page section of stream-of-consciousness reminiscences written from Nick's point of view. Hemingway took her advice, reworked the ending, and wrote to his editor: "I have discovered that the last eleven pages of the last story in the book are crap". Biographer James Mellow writes that at this early stage in his career Hemingway had not developed his talent enough to fully and capably integrate self-reflections in his writing; Mellow also believes the deleted passage might have been a "tour-de-force" had it been written at a more mature period in Hemingway's development.
In January 1925, while wintering in Schruns, Austria, waiting for a response from query letters written to friends and publishers in America, Hemingway submitted the story to be published in his friend Ernest Walsh's newly established literary magazine This Quarter. Walsh bought it for 1,000 French francs, the highest payment Hemingway had yet received for a piece of fiction. On October 5, 1925, the expanded edition of In Our Time (with conventional capitalization in the title) was published by Boni & Liveright in New York. The last story in the volume was the two-part "Big Two-Hearted River". The piece was later included in Hemingway's collection The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories published in October 1938, and in two collections of short stories published after his death, The Nick Adams Stories (1972) and The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigía Edition (1987).
Nick was happy as he crawled inside his tent .... It had been a hard trip. He was very tired .... He had made his camp. He was settled. Nothing could touch him. It was a good place to camp.
—Ernest Hemingway, "Big Two-Hearted River"
The story opens with Nick arriving by train at Seney, Michigan, to find that a fire has devastated the town, leaving "nothing but the rails and the burned-over country." While following a road leading away from the town, he stops on a bridge where he observes trout in the river below. After, he hikes up a hill and rests at a burned stump. While smoking a cigarette, he discovers an ash-blackened grasshopper crawling on his sock, and detaches it. His first spoken words in the story are "Go on, hopper .... Fly away somewhere."
Later in the day he relaxes in a glade of tall pines and falls asleep. When he wakes, he hikes the last mile to the edge of the river where he sees the trout feeding in the evening light "making circles all down the surface of the water as though it were starting to rain." He pitches his tent, unpacks his supplies, cooks his dinner, fills his water bucket, heats a pot of coffee, and kills a mosquito before falling asleep.
Early the next morning, Nick fills a jar with 50 dew-heavy grasshoppers found under a log he names a "grasshopper lodging-house", eats breakfast, drinks sweetened coffee and makes a sliced onion sandwich. After checking and assembling his fly fishing rod and tying on damp leader line, he walks to the river with a net hanging from his belt, a sack over his shoulder and the jar of grasshoppers dangling around his neck. Wading in the water, he fishes the shallows; he lands a trout that "was mottled with clear, water-over-gravel color" that he releases. Moving into a pool of deeper water, he hooks a large trout, "as broad as a salmon", which he loses. After a rest, he moves away from the pool to the more shallow center of the river and catches two trout that he stows in his sack. Sitting on a log, smoking a cigarette and eating his onion sandwich, he thinks about fishing the deep water of the swamp, but decides to wait for another day. At the log in the river, he kills, guts and cleans the two trout before returning to camp.
Ernest Hemingway in Milan, 1918. The 19-year-old author is recovering from WWI shrapnel wounds.
Hemingway saw World War I as the "central fact of our time". "Big Two-Hearted River" hints at both widespread physical devastation and Nick's personal war and post-war experience, but neither of these central facts are directly mentioned. Hemingway scholar Joseph Flora makes the observation that Hemingway portrays Nick's character coping "more meaningfully than he had ever done before, with the issues of life and death". Biographer Phillip Young sees the story as basically concerned with a description of a young man "trying desperately to keep from going out of his mind." Nick returns wounded, and introduces a character type Hemingway used again in his later stories and novels. The theme of an unspecified wound is introduced, a device that was to culminate in Jake Barnes' character in The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway scholar William Adair suggests that Nick's war experience was different, and perhaps more traumatic than Hemingway's own, writing that Nick's unspecified wound should not be confused or automatically identified with Hemingway's wound.
Although Hemingway's best fiction such as "Big Two-Hearted River" perhaps originated from the "dark thoughts" about the wounding, Jackson Benson believes that autobiographical details are employed as framing devices to make observations on life in general and not just Nick's own experiences. He writes that Hemingway created "what if" scenarios from real situations in his early fiction, which he projected onto a fictional character—"What if I were wounded and made crazy?" the character asks himself. Benson goes on to write that "much of Hemingway's fiction is dream-like—his early fiction, his best, has often been compared to a compulsive nightmare, as in the recurring imagery of In Our Time."
Adair views the river setting as a fictional representation of the Piave River near Fossalta, the site of Hemingway's mortar wound. Hemingway may have taken the idea of the swamp from the terrain in the battle of Portogrande—a battle that Hemingway wrote about in a 1922 newspaper story, saying of it: "Austrians and Italians attacked and counter-attacked waist deep in swamp water". Furthermore, Adair suggests that Hemingway's own wounding is reflected in the scene where Nick loses a fish—the "biggest one I ever had"—with descriptive imagery such as shoes "squelchy" with water, suggestive of Hemingway's recollection of "feeling as if his boots were filled with warm water (blood) after his wounding."
Writing in A Moveable Feast, Hemingway remembered "Big Two-Hearted River", recalling when he "sat in a corner with the afternoon light coming in over my shoulder and wrote in the notebook .... When I stopped writing I did not want to leave the river where I could see the trout in the pool, its surface pushing and swelling smooth against the resistance of the log-driven piles of the bridge. The story was about coming back from the war but there was no mention of the war in it."
Hemingway's stories typically position nature as a source of refuge and rebirth. His characters are often shown retreating to the country in search of regeneration. Nature acts as the setting for hunters' or fishermen's existential moment of transcendence—especially at the moment when prey is killed. In Big Two-Hearted River, Nick walks away from a ruined town, and enters the woods to hike toward the river, unharmed by the fire. His journey is motivated by absolution; the river is described as two-hearted because it gives life in the form of food (fish) and offers redemption. In the woods, Nick stops in a grove of trees that is described as chapel-like, a description that echoes Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage in which Henry Fleming flees to a chapel-like grove of trees. In the grove Nick sleeps well for the first time since the war, and there he begins the healing process. The next morning he goes to the river, wading into the water to fish. At first the strength of the current frightens him, and for some moments he has difficulty controlling himself.
The meadow was wet with dew and Nick wanted to catch grasshoppers for bait before the sun dried the grass. He found plenty of good grasshoppers .... They were cold and wet with the dew and could not jump until the sun warmed them. Nick picked them up, taking only the medium sized brown ones, and put them into the bottle.
—Ernest Hemingway, "Big Two-Hearted River"
Hemingway's descriptions of the Michigan landscape, which would have been familiar to him as in his youth he summered at the family's Walloon Lake cottage in Northern Michigan, are presented in a vague and dreamlike manner. Ronald Berman sees Hemingway's treatment of landscape as like a painter's canvas on which he presents Nick's state of mind. The descriptions of the river's water have been compared to American transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau's descriptions of the pond in Walden. Biographer Meyers sees the story as a blend of American primitivism and sophistication; Nick evidences a sense of loss which is "not simply grace under pressure—but under siege". Nature is perceived as good and civilization as bad—a pervasive theme in American literature, found in such American classics as Mark Twain's 19th-century Huckleberry Finn and in William Faulkner's 20th-century Go Down, Moses.
According to Hemingway scholar Susan Beegel, Hemingway is fundamentally an American nature writer. She attributes it to his upbringing: his mother believed avidly in the early 20th-century "back to nature" movement, and his father was a physician who taught science to his son, taking him to Agassiz Movement meetings as a young boy. Hemingway's affinity with nature is reflected most strongly in "Big Two-Hearted River", in broad strokes whereby he has Nick traveling deep into the American back-country to find solace, and in small details such as his Agassiz "object oriented" descriptions of the grasshoppers.
Hemingway was inspired by Ezra Pound's writings and applied the principles of imagism to his own work. Pound's influence can be seen in the stripped-down, minimalist style characteristic in Hemingway's early fiction. Betraying his admiration for the older writer, he admitted that Pound "taught [me] more about how to write and how not to write than any son of a bitch alive". He also learned from James Joyce, who further instilled the idea of stripped down economic prose. Hemingway's short stories from the 1920s adhere to Pound's tight definition of imagism; biographer Carlos Baker writes that in his short stories Hemingway tried to learn how to "get the most from the least, [to] prune language, [to] multiply intensities, [to] tell nothing but the truth in a way that allowed for telling more than the truth". Hemingway adapted this style into a technique he called his iceberg theory: as Baker describes it, the hard facts float above water while the supporting structure, including the symbolism, operates out of sight.
If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.
—Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon
The iceberg theory has been termed the "theory of omission". Hemingway believed a writer could convey an object or concept while writing about something entirely different. In "Big Two-Hearted River" he elaborates on the mundane activities Nick carries out. The story is filled with seemingly trivial detail: Nick gathers grasshoppers, brews coffee, catches and loses a large trout. In this climactic event, however, the excitement and tension becomes so strong that Nick betrays his inner thoughts and he takes a break.
While Hemingway painstakingly describes seemingly extraneous minutiae from Nick's fishing trip, he avoids or barely hints at the driving force of the work: the emotional turmoil wrought on Nick by his return home from a catastrophic war. Hemingway has said he believes this avoidance made the heart and thrust of the story all the more acute, writing "'Big Two-Hearted River' is about a boy beat to the wide coming home from the war .... beat to the wide was an earlier and possibly more severe form of beat, since those who had been were unable to comment on this condition and could not suffer that it be mentioned in their presence. So the war, all mention of the war, anything about the war is omitted." Flora believes that in "Big Two-Hearted River" the concept of the iceberg theory is more evident than in any other piece written by Hemingway.
Paul Smith believes Hemingway was still only experimenting stylistically during In Our Time. He maintains that Hemingway's later minimalist style can be seen here, but not so much from tight editing as from Hemingway's first approach, his desire to emulate his influences. Hemingway's sentences "began life as scrawny little things, and then grew to their proper size through a process of accretion." He avoided complicated syntax to reflect Nick's wish that the fishing trip be uncomplicated. An analysis of the text shows that about 70 percent of the sentences are simple sentences—a childlike syntax without subordination—and that repetition is often substituted for subordinate thoughts. Furthermore, the repetition creates prose with a "rhythmic, ritualistic effect" that emphasizes important points. The length of the paragraphs varies with short paragraphs intensifying the action. Benson writes that in "Indian Camp" and "Big Two-Hearted River" Hemingway's prose was sharper and more abstract than in other stories, and that by employing simple sentences and diction—techniques he learned writing for newspapers—the prose is timeless with an almost mythic quality.
In this story, O'Brien uses a first-person narrator to recount an incident of war. The narrator's nine-year-old daughter, knowing that her father writes war stories, asks him if he has ever killed anyone. The narrator says no but resolves to tell her the truth when she is grown. He then recalls how he killed a young man in Vietnam. He and another soldier were on patrol, taking turns sleeping and keeping watch. Out of the predawn fog, a young man approached carrying a gun. Instinctively, the narrator pulled the pin on a grenade and threw it, wanting to make the man disappear, not to kill him. Then he describes seeing the man's corpse with a hole where an eye should be. The narrator realizes that he could have let the man pass unharmed and that there was no real danger. Years later, the incident still haunts him. Sometimes he can forgive himself, sometimes not.
This story addresses
accepting responsibility for one's actions,
living with regret.
empathize with the narrator's regret about both lying to his daughter and killing the soldier,
identify alternative reactions to the moral dilemmas presented in the story and predict their outcomes,
rectify or cope with troubling situations.
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