Transformation

The Great Gatsby is a book of transformations, namely the transformation that comes from a transition from living in the “Middle West” to the East. Although the story is set in New York City and her suburbs, as Nick says “this has been a story of the West.” In attempting to acclimate to their new home, each of the main characters adopts his or her own understanding of what seems to be a heightened version of the High Society attitudes of the New York elite.

The clearest example of transformation is that of James Gatz, farm boy, into Jay Gatsby, host of the best parties outside Manhattan. His transformation is planned from his childhood and is much less obscured than those of the other characters. In the schedule that Fitzgerald includes in the last few pages, young Gatsby, or Gatz as he was known back then, is seen as someone “bound to get ahead.” Gatz seems unconcerned with his lot in life, simply using it at as a rather low starting point for achieving his lofty aspirations. He did not come East hoping to do well. Instead, his confidence told him that he would and he went on to do so with a doggedness and a take-no-prisoners attitude. His list and his attitude as a child and young adult support his inherent belief that he will succeed. That being said, despite his best intentions, the lessons of Gatsby’s Gatz years stick with him, giving him depth and a moral compass that is less skewed than his friends’. When Daisy kills Myrtle, Gatsby has no qualms about taking the blame just as Tom has no qualms about turning Gatsby in. Perhaps his lingering love for Daisy allows him to maintain that one emotional connection with his past, regardless, he maintains some of his Midwestern morals such as true chivalry as opposed to the illusion of it.

Daisy, however, has changed as well. Living in the East has given her more freedom to portray her true self. Though she might have contemplated immoral behaviour out west, the surrounding morality of the Midwest forced her to curb her behaviour. Once she gets to New York, however, her messes get cleaned up for her, so she no longer needs to worry about the repercussions of some of the questionable decisions that she makes (such as having an affair). Tom, as well, exhibits some of these behaviours. His philosophy that his relationship with Myrtle Wilson is both normal and acceptable hints at a view that scandalous behaviour in the upper echelons of New York society is permissible as long as it does not cross an unspoken line. As long as he and Daisy are still together after the conclusion of the affair, society is satisfied.

Nick, by contrast, is not willing to forgo his morals. His lingering Midwestern ideals cry foul at the idea of widely known extramarital affairs. Nick claims that “though [he] was curious to see her, [he] had no desire to meet her.” Being a more recent emigrant to the East, he is less morphed by the questionable ideals of the East and New York’s fast paced lifestyle. He resists adopting the philosophies of the East, as does Gatsby to a certain extent, which leads to conflict with the East.

Nick claims, towards the end of the book, that the main characters are “all Westerners and perhaps [they] possessed some deficiency in common which made [them] subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.” Perhaps he is onto something. Each of the characters has to deal with internal conflict of living life fast and loose and staying true to their childhood morals. Some of the characters snap, such as Daisy and Gatsby and others move on to the next challenge after a brief recovery period.

 

Advertisements

Farewell Fair Readers!

Two things:

1. I have updated the One Direction post. WordPress mobile wasn’t cooperating with me, so this must have been the fourth time I typed up that post. Oh well, c’est la vie. 

2. I am going to be out of the country for the next few weeks. I promise to take a picture of a penguin for all of you!

Happy New Year!

Eva

One Direction and Grief

First off, please don’t run away. I promise that this will be a serious post on the effectiveness of grief in stories. The other night I was reading a fanfic story that my friend had sent me about One Direction (she’s obsessed). She had promised me that I would be overwhelmed by the depth and emotion that this story contained. To say the least, I was skeptical. Regardless, being the good friend that I am, I read the story. Less than 24 hours later, I was sobbing in bed as I finished the story. Now a bit of backstory, as I mentioned before, my friend is obsessed with One Direction. I am not. In fact, I sort of despised them at first. As, ahem, a classically trained musician, I look down upon most pop music, and One Direction was never exempt from this judgement.

Regardless, being the good friend that I am, I decided to give it a try. As a former fanfic writer (a dark point in my life, I assure you) and a fanfic reader (let’s not talk about that particular guilty pleasure), I knew that fanfics are prone to grammatical mistakes galore and contrived plot lines. With that in mind I began the story. As I mentioned above, by the end of the story, I was sobbing. I wasn’t sobbing becauthe of the death of a character, I was crying because I could empathize with the grief that the survivors felt.

Empathy is one of those emotions that everyone can feel (I so hope that none of you are sociopaths) and as such, it is a particularly effective storytelling device. Because it is so subtle, the walls that many have erected around their hearts are shattered by the overwhelming sensation of empathy that then morphs into grief. Despite one’s best intentions, grief worms itself past that barrier and opens you up to so many other emotions. It may seem counter intuitive, but it all gets easier from there.

#FridayFlash: The End of the World

“I’m sorry, Julsie, but I can’t put you in that sort of danger!”

“Are you kidding me right now, Cy? You and I both know that I’m in danger no matter whom I’m with.” Juliana’s indignant glare captured Cyrus’ gaze and forced him to maintain eye contact. “There is something else, isn’t there.”

“No, I just don’t think that you’d be safe with me!” He tried to defend his decision.

“What is it? Is it because I’m never here? Is it because we’re just never together? I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry!” Juliana ripped her eyes from Cyrus’. She turned towards the corner of the room and wrapped her arms around herself. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Julsie. It wasn’t anything you did. This was doomed from the start.” Cyrus tried to comfort her.

“No it wasn’t, and you know it.” She sucked in a breath. “I refuse to let you deny everything that happened as fiction.” She spun on her heel and turned to exit. “Come and find me when you’ve come to your senses. I will be with James.”

Other Phoenix Excerpts:

What could have been.

We were hopeful then.
We saw the future that could,
we saw the people that would
we did not see the truth.

When they took the parents from the children
and the husbands from the wives
we saw what we wanted
we did not see the truth.

We lived in a state of promise
we lived in a state of fear
and yet we hoped, for
we did not see the truth.

It was our fight, our loss
it was our responsibility,
though we never took any, since
we did not see the truth.

The battles were fought by those
whose eyes were unclouded,
not by us, though it was our battle too.
We did not see the truth.

Today we remain
relics of what was and
examples of what could
hoping that others, now, can see the truth.

One Flag

One FlagThree knocks. Two men. One flag.

One Year

And what an amazing year! Thank you to all of you who have encouraged and supported me through this crazy process of self discovery. Thank you to all of you who helped me prove my English teachers wrong. It means so much to me!

Here’s to many more years! (Hopefully)

Eva

PS I promise I’m not dead!

Standby. And go.

“Light cue one, standby”

A hush falls over the audience. The indiscernible chatter backstage fades out until the entire cast is prepped and ready to go, silent in their excitement. The headset is silent, everyone waiting for the inevitable cue.

“And go.”

Blackout.

“Cue Spot one. Go”

A single light lands.

“Standby.” The chord swells and “go.”

The light surrounds a man. In unison with the orchestra, he opens his mouth and begins to sing. Behind him, the cast echoes his emotion and his words.

“Standby.” Breath in as the chorus arrives. “Go.”

The explosion of light heralds the explosion of sound.

“Fly, standby.” The cast clears to the wings.

“Spot two, standby.” They leave just one person on the stage.

“GO!” Behind the single remaining character arrives a scene, a setting. Light falls, colouring the scene in an iridescent shade of blue.

“Light cue four, standby.” He tells a story. He invites the audience in. Behind him, and behind the flown in set, the ensemble moves, just as integral to the story as he is. “Standby lights. Standby fly.”

Everyone is set. He prepares to land his note. “Go.”

Lights up. Scenery up. Everyone is framed. Faces are joyous, emotion is strong. The audience is sucked in. The actors pour out their hearts.

“Go.” The lights follow the actors.

“Go.” The emotion evoked by the singers is echoed by the inanimate objects controlled by the crew.

“Go.” Again, a shift in lighting paints an action packed sequence with emotion. The gels paint the scene in a certain light.

“Standby sound.” A whirl and a twist. Spinning, enchanting, the cast moves to entrance. “Standby sound for fade.”

The music climaxes. The sound designer adjusts for the outpouring of music. “Standby lights.” The song finishes. “Go.” The audience is blinded. “Go.” The stage is swathed in black.

“Prepare to catch, Stage Right.” Objects come hurtling off stage.

The actors hurry off following the set that had transformed a bare stage and preparing for the change in place and pace. “Standby fly.”

“Fly loft, go.” Avoiding the incoming set, the actors rush back on stage, so aware of their surroundings that they no longer need lights.

“Standby stage right. And go.” A desk zooms onto stage, timed precisely to avoid any misplaced actors.

“Standby lights.” Everyone takes his or her place. The scene is set. “And go.”

 

 

 

The Most Important Element of an Effective Short Story

A good short story must contain an element of suspense that leaves the readers on the brink of their seats.

In all of the stories we read, the element of suspense prevails across the board. Suspense drives a short story, allowing the story not to fall flat.  In the case where a story does not contain suspense, many readers find that the story has no point and the story quickly looses the readers’ interest.

In the case of “Desiree’s Baby,” the suspense lies in the fate of Desiree and the reception of the race issue by her husband and society at large.  Not only that, but the suspense of the fire at the end builds to the point that the reader seems astounded, more emotionally vulnerable and feels as if he or she has been left shocked when the author reveals the true origin of the baby’s race.

Concerning “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” the niggling sense that something does not fit allows for suspense throughout the narrative. Because the reader knows that the protagonist should have died, the reader feels blindsided by the narration that follows of the protagonist’s journey towards escape. Because the reader feels unsettled by the fact that something seems off, the reader finds him or herself eagerly awaiting the resolution that surely follows such a wacky climax.

In all of the stories that we read, the punch line, if you will, came very close to the end of the story. This allows for doubts to percolate as we read and for each reader to try and predict what will soon come to pass, only to find that their predictions have no basis in fact and appear to refute any actual events in the narration. Because short stories, as the title implies, have a much more condensed plot, they need to have some sort of driving to keep readers engaged.

Now that you’ve heard my perspective, what do you think is the most effective element?

 

“Above…or apart”

The idealized American reality of Whitman is one that completely contrasts the portrait of well-to-do life that James paints for the readers in Daisy Miller. Walt Whitman, in his extremely verbose way, illustrates an America that belongs to everyone. In Daisy Miller, the America of the wealthy and upper middle class seems quite different from that of the poor and underrated so celebrated by Whitman. Daisy, the ultimate flighty American heiress, has none of the drive and depth of the true American that Whitman extols in his poems.

In ‘Song of Myself’ Section 15, Whitman, as he tends to do, begins to list. He lists the ordinary and mundane as opposed to the extraordinary and resplendent. For him, America embodies the humdrum in a way more glorious than the sparkle of Europe. In his list, he includes everyone, regardless of social rank, or perhaps in spite of it. Not only that, but the one person Whitman chooses to include of any clear importance is the President, who typifies America in all her glory.

In clear contrast, James waxes loquacious on the pros and cons of higher American society and its resemblance to European society. He idolizes the virtues of Winterbourne, calling him “an extremely amiable fellow, and universally liked” (James p. 11) and describes Daisy as pretty a multitude of times and embellishes that with the claim that it was a natural beauty, one with “a want of finish.” (James p. 18)

Not only are the choices in cast of character different, the situations discussed are incompatible. For Whitman, the grit of America (‘Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field’, Whitman), the grime of her cities (‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’, Whitman) and the gallantry of her citizens (‘Song of Myself’ Section 21, Whitman ‘Song of Myself’ Section 48, Whitman), no matter how lowly and oft ignored, are the things that must be celebrated.

Daisy Miller is filled with the joyful escapades of the wealthy young adults flocking to Vivey and Europe at that time. James chooses not to show the reader the darker side of Europe. The readers see only what the characters see and the readers know only what the characters know. Everything in the novella should be taken with a grain of salt, an adjustment that acknowledges the fact that the world of Winterbourne and Daisy is one far from the bitter reality of Whitman’s American. For Winterbourne, his most pressing issue is to decode Daisy’s signals and emotional responses, something many men through the ages have found difficult. Daisy concerns herself simply with her own ability to manipulate men, namely Winterbourne, and her uncanny aptitude for ensnaring members of the opposite sex for her own gain. These needs seem paramount to Daisy, Winterbourne and their societal equivalents, but they have no prevalence in the poems of Whitman, or at least the emotional aspect of relationships are not mentioned, simply the physical aspects are. (‘Song of Myself’, Section 24)

The primary difference between Whitman and James is the focus. All subsequent irregularities seem to diverge from this original division. Where Whitman is the poor, James is the rich. Whitman focuses on the physical, all consuming aspect of relationships, and James hones in on the emotional turmoil present in all liaisons. Together, they are America. Separately, they embody America as well, but James and Whitman present quite disparate views on the America of their writing. America is a land of contrasts and only through the union of these contrasts can the true heart of the country be found.