The Norton Introduction To Literature (Sixth Edition) [6 ed.] 0393966658, 9780393966657


453 73 219MB

English Pages 2284 Year 1995

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD PDF FILE

Recommend Papers

The Norton Introduction To Literature (Sixth Edition) [6 ed.]
 0393966658, 9780393966657

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

THE

NORTON INTRODUCTION TO

LITE R ATU RE

Carl

E.

Bain

Jerome Beaty J.

Paul Hunter

Digitized by tine Internet Archive in

2010

littp://www.arcliive.org/details/nortonintroductiObain

The Norton Introduction

to

LITERATURE SIXTH EDITION

The Norton Introduction

to

LITERATURE V V V SIXTH EDITION

Carl E. Bain

Jerome Beaty J.

Paul Hunter

-^ W W •



NORTON & COMPANY NEW YORK LONDON •



Copyright

©

igg^, 1991, 1986, 1981, 1977, 1973 by

W. W. Norton

&•

Company

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of .\merica

Composition by Maple-Vail. Manufacturing by Since

this

Donnelley

R. R.

page cannot legibly accommodate

&

Sons.

the copyright notices, pages A31-A41 constitute

all

an extension of the copyright page.

Cover Art,

illustration:

Kansas

Wayne Thiebaud, Apartment

Cit\',

Hill.

Courtesy the Nelson-Atkins

Museum

Missouri (Purchase: Acquired with the assistance of the Friends

of

.\rt).

Libran, of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

The Norton

introduction to literature

Jerome Beaty,

J.

/

[edited by] Carl E. Bain,

Paul Hunter.— 6th ed.

p.

cm.

Includes indexes. 1.

Literature— Collections. III.

I.

Bain, Carl E.

Hunter,

PN6014.N67

J.

II.

Beat)',

Jerome

Paul

1994b

808— dc2o

94-42758

ISBN

0-393-96665-8

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth .Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110 W. W. Norton &• Compan)' Ltd., 10 Coptic Street, London WCiA iPU

234567890

8

CONTENTS

FICTION Fiction:

Reading, Responding, Writing

3

SPENCER HOLST The Zebra Storyteller ELIZABETH TALLENT No One's a Mystery 11 GUY DE MAUPASSANT The Jewelry Questions

PLOT,

18

MARGARET ATWOOD Happy Endings 26 JOHN CHEEVER The Country Husband JAMES BALDWIN Sonny's Blues 47

1

Glossary

Questions

lado

VIEW, 73

An Occurrence

3 CHARACTERIZATION, 103

GRACE PALEY Father

89

Live at the P.O.

I

Fenstad's

Our Friend

Mother with

186

127

My

L40

Questions

Writing Suggestions, 145

A

Rose

for

Emily

AMY TAN A Pair of Tickets 157 ANTON CHEKHOV The Lady with

5 SYMBOLS,

108

117

Judith

A Conversation

WILLIAM FAULKNER

Questions

Owl Creek

Writing Suggestions, 100

Why

CHARLES BAXTER DORIS LESSING

SETTING, 148

Blow-Up

Questions

EUDORA WELTY

Glossary

at

82

JULIO CORTAZAR Glossary

of Amontil-

77

AMBROSE BIERCE Bridge

28

Writing Suggestions, 71

The Cask

EDGAR ALLAN POE

2 POINT QF

4

6

Writing Suggestions, 17

Understanding the Text 1

3

the

151

Dog

Writing Suggestions, 184

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

Brown 189 MARGARET LAURENCE ANN BEATTIE Janus

YouUg Goodman

The Loons 2o6

198

172

Contents

vi

Questions

Glossary

Writing Suggestions, 210

Student Writing, The Struggle to Surface Water of "Sonny's Blues" 212

6 THEME,

LEO TOLSTOY How Much Land Does Need? 222 KATHERINE MANSFIELD Her First Ball ANGELA CARTER A Souvenir of Japan

218

Questions

Glossary

7 THE WHOLE

TEXT,

The

JOSEPH CONRAD

in

a

the

Man 233

237

Writing Suggestions, 244

Secret Sharer

246

Questions, 275

246

LOUISE ERDRiCH

Love Medicine

278

Questions, 294

GUY VANDERHAEGHE Questions

The Watcher

296

Wnting Suggestions, 321

Student Writing, "Like the Sand of the Hourglass

Exploring Contexts

8 THE AUTHOR'S WORK AS CONTEXT: D. H.

LAWRENCE

AND FLANNERY O'CONNOR, 329

.

.

323

.",

329 LAWRENCE Odour of Chrysanthemums The Rocking-Horse Winner

D. H.

335

350

Passages from Essays and Letters

361

FLANNERY o'cONNOR

The Lame

Shall Enter First

366

Everything That Rises Must Converge Passages from Essays and Letters

Glossary

9 CULTURE AS CONTEXT:

BORDER

STORIES, 412

Writing Suggestions,

410

4L4 RUDOLFO ANAYA The Water People RICHARD DOKEY Sanchez 424 DENiSE CHAVEZ The Last of the Menu Girls

Questions

10

Questions

393

404

434 Writing Suggestions, 452

LITERARY KIND AS CONTEXT:

JAMES JOYCE Araby TONi CADE BAMBARA

INITIATION

ALICE

MUNRO

456 Gorilla,

My

Boys and Girls

Love

460

465

STORIES, 454 Glossary

Questions

Writing Suggestions, 475

Student Writing, To See the

Light,

477

Contents t

1 1

FORM AS CONTEXT:

THE SHORT

SHORT STORY, 482

The Story of an Hour 484 ernest Hemingway A Very Short Story 486 Gabriel garcia marquez A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings 487 kate chopin

JAMAICA KINCAID

Girl

Bell Gricket

Questions

492

The Grasshopper and

YASUNARI KAWABATA

Evaluating Fiction

vii

the

493

Writing Suggestions, 496

497 RICHARD connell

Game

The Most Dangerous

497

Student Writing, 512

Why

"The Most Dangerous Game"

ature,

Why

Is

Good

Is

Not Good

Liter-

513

"The Most Dangerous Game"

Literature,

514

WILLIAM FAULKNER Barn Burning 518 BHARATI MUKHERJEE The Management of Grief

Reading More Fiction

536

551

HENRY JAMES The Real Thing 551 CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN The Yellow Wallpaper

569

A Hunger Artist 581 MORDECAl RICHLER The Summer My Grandmother Was Supposed to Die 588 BOBBIE ANN MASON Shiloh 599 RICHARD FORD Great Falls 609 LYNNA WILLIAMS Personal Testimony 621 REGINALD MCKNIGHT Into Night 629 HA JIN In Broad Daylight 639 FRANZ KAFKA

POETRY Poetry: Reading, Responding, Writing ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

651

How Do

Thee? 652 JAROLD RAMSEY The Tally Stick 653 EZRA POUND The River-Merchant's Wife:

A Letter

655

I

Love

Contents

viii

To

MARY, LADY CHUDLEiGH

TOM WAYMAN

Wavmaii

On My

BEN JONSON

First

the Ladies

Love

in

657

658

Son

659

HOWARD NEMEROV The Vacuuni 662 SHARON OLDS The Glass

660

Fifth Grade Autobiography RITA DOVE ANNE SEXTON The Fim' of Overshoes

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

[Let

me

664 664

not to the mar-

669 To M\' Dear and Loving Hus-

riage of true minds]

ANNE BRADSTREET

band 669 EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

woman and

[\,

distressed]

GALWAY KINNELL

After

being born a

670

Making Love

670 LI-YOUNG LEE Persimmons

We

Hear

Footsteps

AUDRE LORDE ERIN

MOURE

Questions

Understanding the Text 1

TONE, 675

673

Thirteen Years

673

Writing Suggestions, 674

675

MARGE PIERCY

Barbie Doll

675 Leaving the Motel

w. D. SNODGRASS

LINDA PASTAN

love

poem

from the Hospital

676

679

Hard Rock Returns

ETHERlDGE KNIGHT Insane

671

Recreation

for the

to Prison

Criminal

681

London

WILLIAM BLAKE

682

684 MAXINE KUMIN Woodchucks ADRIENNE RICH Aunt Jennifer's Tigers

685

686 ALAN DUGAN Elegy 687 DOROTHY PARKER Comment The Author's Epitaph, SIR WALTER RALEGH Made By Himself 687 687 CAROLYN FORCHE Reunion 689 APHRA BEHN On Her Lo\ing Two Equally 689 ROBERT HAYDEN Those Winter Sunda\s

Daddy 690 You Didn't

SYLVIA PLATH

SUSAN MUSGRAVE JONATHAN SWIFT

Shower

A

Fit

692

Description of a City

693

THOMAS GRAY Churchyard

Elegv' Written in a

695

Country

Contents

The Tyger

WILLIAM BLAKE Glossary

2 SPEAKER,

701

ix

698

Writing Suggestions, 699

Questions

thomas hardy The Ruined Maid X. J. KENNEDY In a Prominent Bar One Day 703

701 in

Secaucus

adrienne rich Letters in the Family 705 ROBERT browning Soliloquy of the Spanish 707

Cloister

TESS GALLAGHER

Sudden Journey 710 A Certain Lady 711 A. R. AMMONS Needs 713 WILLIAM WORDSWORTH She Dwelt among Untrodden Ways 714 SHARON OLDS The Lifting 715

DOROTHY PARKER

HENRY REED tances ^''-

Lessons of the War: Judging Dis717

AUDRE LORDE

Hanging

JOHN BETJEMAN

Fire

In Westminster

Twenty-year Marriage

SYLVIA PLATH

718

The Changeling

JUDITH ORTIZ GOFER

Ai

the

Mirror

Abbey

719 719

721

721

GWENDOLYN BROOKS We Real Cool 722 SIR THOMAS WYATT They Flee from Me 722 ADRIENNE RICH [My mouth hovers across your breasts]

723

STEVIE SMITH

I

Remember

723

SEAMUS HEANEY The Outlaw 724 MARGARET ATWOOD Death of a Young Son by Drowning 724 WALT WHITMAN [I celebrate myself, and sing myself]

Glossary

3

SITUATION

AND

SETTING, 728

725

Questions

Cherrylog Road

JAMES DICKEY

JOHN DONNE RITA

DOVE

The

729

732

734

To

a

On

the Late Massacre in Pied-

Daughter Leaving

735

JOHN MILTON

mont

Flea

Daystar

LINDA PASTAN

Home

Writing Suggestions, 726

736

SYLVIA PLATH

Point Shirley

738

MATTHEW ARNOLD ADRIENNE RICH

Dover Beach 741 Walking down the Road

742

X T Contents

My

ROBERT BROWNING

Last

Duchess

Labor Day

LOUISE GLiJCK

743

745

RICHARD SNYDER A Mongoloid Child Handling Shells on the Beach 745 ELIZABETH ALEXANDER Boston Year 745 DOROTHY LiVESAY Green Rain 746 EMILY BRONTE The Night-Wind 747 APRIL BERNARD

Dweller

Praise

Psalm of the City-

748

ARCHIBALD LAMPMAN In November 748 SUSAN MUSGRAVE I Am Not a Conspiracy Everything Is Not Paranoid The Drug Enforcement Administration Is Not Everywhere 749 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

morning have

I

[Full

seen]

many

a glorious

750

JOHN DONNE The Good-Morrow 750 MARILYN CHIN Aubade 751 JONATHAN SWIFT A Description of the

Morning

752

SYLVIA PLATH

Glossary

Morning Song

A

Student Writing,

4

LANGUAGE, 759

752

Writing Suggestions, 753

Questions

Letter to an Author,

Precision and Ambiguity,

755

759

RICHARD ARMOUR Hiding Place 759 YVOR WINTERS At the San Francisco Air760

port

WALTER DE LA MARE Slim Cunning Hands 763 PAT MORA Centle Communion 763 BEN JONSON Still to Be Neat 765 ROBERT HERRICK Delight in Disorder EMILY DICKINSON ing

comes—

768

]

THEODORE ROETHKE

My

Papa's Waltz

Sex Without Love

SHARON OLDS

766

[After great pain, a formal feel-

769

770

GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS Pied Beauty 772 WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS The Red Wheelbarrow E. E.

772

CUMMINGS

[in Just-]

773 Foreign Language

RICARDO PAU-LLOSA SUSAN MUSGRAVE

EMILY DICKINSON

Hidden Meaning [I

774 774

dwell in Possibility—]

775

JOHN MILTON

from Paradise Lost

775

Contents t Metaphor and

778

Simile,

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE mayst

me

in

[That time of year thou

behold]

780

Marks

LINDA PASTAN

xi

782

My Father's Garden 783 ROBERT FRANCIS Hogwash 784 ROBERT BURNS A Red, Red Rose 786 ADRIENNE RICH TwO SongS 787 DAVID WAGONER

RANDALL JARRELL

Gunner

The Death

of the Ball Turret

789

HART CRANE Forgetfulness 789 CAROLYN FORCHE Taking Off My Clothes 790 AGHA SHAHiD ALi The Dacca Gauzes 790 JOHN DONNE

God

.

.

[Batter

]

ANONYMOUS

my

heart, three-personed

791

.

The Twenty-thifd Psalm

792

Symbol, 792

SHARON OLDS

Leningrad Cemetery, Winter of

793 JAMES DICKEY 1941

The Leap 795 JOHN CLARE Love's Emblem 798 WILLIAM BLAKE The Sick Rose 800

EDMUND WALLER Song [Go, lovely rose!] JOHN GAY [Virgins are like the fair Flower Lustre] (from

The

EMILY DICKINSON Rose



Beggar's Opera)

[Go not too near

ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON son Petal

Pocm [The

Now

One

.VarltoJ:

rose

Sleeps the Crim-

Perfect Rose

KATHA POLLITT TwO Fish Roo BORSON After a Death GEORGE PEELE A Farewell

POETRY, 810

House of

803

DOROTHY PARKER

5 THE SOUNDS OF

a

803

fades]

HOWARD NEMEROV Glossary

its

802

802

]

WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

:-c

801 in

Questions

803

804 804 to

Arms

The Town Dump

805 805

Writing Suggestions, 807

helen chasin The Word Plum 810 mona van duyn What the Motorcycle Said

812

KENNETH FEARING Dirge 813 ALEXANDER POPE Sound and Sense 815 SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE Metrical Feet

818

XII

Contents

WENDY COPE ANONYMOUS

Emily Dickinson

Song [Why

JOHN SUCKLING

fond Lover?]

Oldham

and wan,

the

Memory

of Mr.

820

GWENDOLYN BROOKS MICHAEL HARPER

Queen

of the Blues

821

Dear John, Dear Col-

824

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

[Like as the waves

towards the pebbled shore]

ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON Break

SO pale

819

To

JOHN DRYDEN

trane

named

819

Struther] SIR

819

[A Staid schizophrenic

make

825

Break, Break,

826

A

THOMAS NASHE

Litany in

Time

of

826

Plague

Our Bog is Dood 827 EDGAR ALLAN POE The Raven 828 GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS Spring and Fall JUDITH WRIGHT "Dove-Love" 831 MARGE PIERCY To Have Without Holding IRVING LAYTON The Way the World Ends STEViE SMITH

EMILY DICKINSON Grass]

831

832

833

[A narrow Fellow in the

833

To the Time 834 JEAN TOOMER Reapers ROBERT HERRICK

Virgins, to

Make Much

of

Glossary

6

INTERNAL STRUCTURE, 837

835

Writing Suggestions, 835

Questions

EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON Party

Mr. Flood's

837

HOWARD NEMEROV

The Goose Church Going

PHILIP LARKIN

PAT

MORA

840

843

846 Arrangements with Earth

Sonrisas

JAMES WRIGHT

Three Dead Friends 847 SHARON OLDS The Victims

ANONYMOUS T.S.ELIOT

Fish

Sir Patrick

848

Spens

851

Journey of the Magi

KARL SHAPIRO

Auto Wreck

852

853

ROO BORSON Save Us From 854 WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS The Dance PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

Wind

Ode

to the

West

856

MARGARET ATWOOD

Siren

for

Song

858

855

Contents LOUISE BOGAN

Cartography

Questions

Glossary

859

Writing Suggestions, 859

Student Writing, Structure and Language Victims" by Sharon Olds, 861

7 EXTERNAL FORM, 865

xiii

"The

in

Stanza Forms, 869

The Sonnet, 870

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Nuns

Fret

HENRY CONSTABLE

lady's

presence makes

the roses red]

[My

Not

870

871

On the Sonnet 873 WILLIAM WORDSWORTH The world JOHN KEATS

is

too

much

with us

874 HELEN CHASiN Joy Sonnet

in a

Random

Uni-

874 PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY verse

Ozymandias 875 London, 1802 875 Sonnet to a Negro in

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

HELENE JOHNSON Harlem 876 CLAUDE MCKAY The Harlem Dancer 876 JOHN MILTON [When I consider how my light spent]

is

877

ARCHIBALD LAMPMAN Winter Evening 877 SIR CHARLES G. D. ROBERTS The Potato Har878

vest

GWENDOLYN BROOKS Fiddle.

First Fight.

Then

878

The White House 878 [When Nature made her

CLAUDE MCKAY

SIR PHILIP SIDNEY

work, Stella's eyes]

[My

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE nothing

chief

879

like the sun]

mistress' eyes are

879

Sweep Me Through Your Many-Chambered Heart 880 EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY [What lips my lips DIANE ACKERMAN

have kissed, and where, and why]

880

Examples of Stanza Forms, 881

DYLAN THOMAS

Do Not Go GcnUe

Good Night 881 MARIANNE MOORE Poetry ELIZABETH BISHOP

ISHMAEL REED

poem

Sestina

beware

Way

882

883

do not read

this

884

ARCHIBALD MACLEISH The

:

into

a

Poem

Ars Poetica

Looks, 886

885

That

7

XIV

T Contents

FRANKLIN E. E.

Composed

ADAMS

P.

Room

ing

Compos-

in the

886

CUMMINGS

[Buffalo Bill

The

STEVIE SMITH

887

's]

Jungle Husband

889

GEORGE HERBERT

Easter Wings 890 ROBERT HERRiCK The Pillar of Fame 8go BARBARA HOWES Mirror Image: Port-au-

Prince

891

CUMMINGS [l(a] 891 NORA DAUENHAUER Tlingit Concrete

E. E.

Poem

892

JOHN HOLLANDER A State of Nature 893 EARLE BIRNEY Anglosaxon Street 893

8 THE WHOLE

TEXT,

897

Writing Suggestions, 894

Questions

Glossary

Elizabeth Jennings

Delay

897

ANONYMOUS Western Wind 900 ROBERT HERRICK Upon Julia's Clothes

901

AUDEN Musee des Beaux Arts 903 GEORGE HERBERT The Collar 904 ANNE SEXTON With Mercy for the Greedy 905 EMILY DICKINSON [My Life had stood — a Loaded

w. H.

Gun — 906 ROBERT FROST Design ADRIENNE RICH Living ]

[My

ANONYMOUS wit]

907 in Sin

907

love in her attire doth

show her

908

Questions Writing Suggestions, 908 Student Writing, Tragedy in Five Stanzas: "Woodchucks," 909

Exploring Contexts

9 THE AUTHOR'S WORK AS CONTEXT: JOHN KEATS, 91

917

Howard nemerov A Way of Life JOHN DONNE The Sun Rising 921

918

^^^^ ^^^^^

Q^

pj|.jj

Looking

Homer

On On

into

Chapman's

923

the Grasshopper and the Cricket

Seeing the Elgin Marbles

from Endymion (Book

Wlien

I

Have Fears

To Sleep 926 Ode to a Nightingale Ode on a Grecian Urn

925

I)

925

926

929

924

924

Contents

Ode on Melancholy To Autumn 932

xv

931

Passages from Letters and the Preface to

Endymion

933

Chronology

Writing Suggestion, 938

Ouestions

10 THE AUTHOR'S WORK IN CONTEXT:

ADRIENNE

RICH, 940

937

At a Bach Concert

942

Storm Warnings 942 Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law Orion

943

947

Leaflets

949 Planetarium 953 Dialogue

954 Diving into the Wreck

955

Power

957 Origins and History of Consciousness For the Record

Passages from Interviews and Essays

Chronology

960

968

Writing Suggestions, 969

Question

11

957

959

972

LITERARY TRADI-

Echo and

TION AS CONTEXT,

ANDREW MARVELL To His Coy Mistress 974 BEN JONSON Come, My Celia 975 MARIANNE MOORE Love in America? 975 HOWARD NEMEROV Boom! 976 ROBERT HOLLANDER You Too? Me Too— Why

971

Allusion,

Not? Soda Pop 978 WILLIAM BLAKE The Lamb

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE gilded

monuments]

Poetic "Kinds,"

979

[Not marble, nor the

979

980

CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE The Passionate Shepherd to His Love 981 SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE What Is an Epigram? 984 BEN JONSON Epitaph on Elizabeth, L. H. 984 MARTIAL [You've told me, Maro, whilst you live] 985 [Fair, rich, and young? How rare is her perfection]

985

JOHN GAY My Own Epitaph 985 RICHARD CRASHAW An Epitaph upon Married Couple, Dead and Buried Together 985

a

Young

xvi

Contents

KENNEDY Epitaph for a Postal Clerk 986 COUNTEE CULLEN For a Lady Know 986 V. CUNNINGHAM History of Ideas 986 WENDY COPE Another Christmas Poem 987 WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR The Georges 987

X.

).

1

J.

Epigram

PETER PINDAR

987 Epigram: Political

HOWARD NEMEROV Reflexion

EDNA

987 VINCENT MILLAY

ST.

Fig 988 Second Fig 988 FRANCES CORNFORD Parting First

Imitating

SIR

Right

CUMMINGS

PETER DE

Raleigh

to the

Was

990

statues]

[(ponder,darling,these busted

991 VRIES

To

His Importunate Mis-

992

KENNETH KOCH

Variations on a

liam Carlos Williams

DESMOND SKIRROW marized

Ode

Theme

by Wil-

995 on a Grecian Urn Sum-

993

ANTHONY HECHT The Dover Bitch WENDY COPE [Not only marble, but toys]

988

The Nvmph's Reply

Shepherd 989 WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

tress

Wartime

and Answering, 988

WALTER RALEGH

E. E.

in

994 the plastic

994

Mythology and Myth, 995

JOHN HOLLANDER SUSAN DONNELLY

Adam's Task 996 Eve Names the Animals CHRISTINA ROSSETTI Eve 998 lOOO ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON Ulysses 1002 JAMES HARRISON Penclope MIRIAM WADDiNGTON UKsses Embroidered

EDNA

ST.

ture

1002

VINCENT MILLAY

LANGSTON HUGHES Rivers

An Ancient Ges-

1003

The Negro Speaks

of

1004

JUNE JORDAN Something Like a Sonnet 1004 Phillis Miracle Wheatley

MAYA ANGELOU

Africa

IOO5

for

997

Contents

xvii

DEREK WALCOTT A Far Cry from Africa 1005 ISHMAEL REED I Am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra 1006 JUDITH ORTIZ GOFER How to Get a Baby ioo8 ALBERTO ALVARO RIOS Advice to a First Cousin

1009

DUNCAN CAMPBELL SCOTT The Onondaga Madonna 1010 CATHY SONG A Mehinaku Girl in Seclusion

1010

LOUISE ERDRICH

12 HISTORY AND

RAYMOND

CONTEXT, 1016

lOll

Writing Suggestions, 1013

PATTERSON

R.

Brave

CULTURE AS

Jacklight

Questions

Glossary

You Are

the

1018

THOMAS HARDY

Channel Firing

SANDRA GILBERT Journal

The

Sonnet:

1019

Ladies'

Home

1021

Times, Places, and Events, 1024

IRVING LAYTON From Colony to Nation CLAUDE MCKAY America 1025 LANGSTON HUGHES Harlem (A Dream Deferred)

1024

1025

ROBERT HAYDEN Frederick Douglass 1026 THOMAS HARDY The Convergence of the Twain 1026 WILFRED OWEN Dulce ct Decorum Est 1028 RICHARD EBERHART The Fury of Aerial Bombardment 1028 ROBERT BRINGHURST For the Bones of Josef Mengele, Disinterred June 1985 1029 Welcome to Hiroshima JO SALTER WILLIAM STAFFORD At the Bomb Testing

MARY

Site

1031

DUDLEY RANDALL Al

1030

Ballad of

Birmingham

Riot Act, April 29, 1992

1031

1032

Ideas and Consciousness, 1034

ANNA LAETITIA BARBAULD Washing-Day MARGE PIERCY What's That Smell in the Kitchen?

ELIZABETH

1036

When Was

KATHERiNE PHILIPS Awbrey 1037

EDNA

ST.

1034

I

Fair

L'amitie:

and Young

To

Mrs.

1036

M.

VINCENT MILLAY [Women have loved I love now] 1037

before as

xviii

Contents Married Love LIZ ROSENBERG 1038 ADRIENNE RICH Delta IO39 IO39 JUDITH ORTIZ GOFER Ulispoken SHARON OLDS The Elder Sister 1040 ERIGA JONG Penis En\7 1040 DOROTHY PARKER Indian Summer 1041

Annunciation

KAY SMITH

PAULETTE

3 THE PROCESS OF CREATION, 1046

1043

Writing Suggestions, 1043

Questions

1

1042

Paper Matches

JILES

RIGHARD wilbur This World

Love Calls Us

to the

Things of

1047

JOHN KEATS [Bright

would

star!

art!]

1049

La Belle

Dame

I

were

thou

stedfast as

sans Merci:

A

Ballad

1050

ALEXANDER POPE Ode on Solitude 1052 ANONYMOUS [O where ha' you been, Lord Ran-

my

dal,

son?]

1054

MARIANNE MOORE Poetry 1056 EMILY DIGKINSON [Safe in their Alabaster Chambers—] 1056 WILLIAM BLAKE The Tyger 1057

Evaluating Poetry

1059 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE [Th' expense of spirit in waste of shame] 1063 WENDY GOPE [The expense of spirits is a crying shame]

1065

JOHN DONNE

Song [Go, and catch

IRVING LAYTON

Street Funeral

REGINA BARREGA

GEOFFREY HILL Fraser

1069

Nighttime Fires In

Memory

1070

of Jane

1071

GALWAY KINNELL

Blackberry Eating

Sky—]

1071

[The Brain — is wider than the

EMILY DIGKINSON 1072

Questions

w. H.

a falling

1066

star]

Reading More Poetry

a

Writing Suggestions, 1072

1075 AUDEN

In

Memory of W. B. Yeats The Armadillo 1077

1075

ELIZABETH BISHOP

SAMUEL TAYLOR GOLERIDGE Vision in a

Dream

1078

Kubla Khan:

or, a

Contents t

HART CRANE To Emily Dickinson Exile

CUMMINGS

town]

1080

[anyone lived in a pretty

how

1081

No

WARING CUNEY H. D.

1079

1080

Episode of Hands E. E.

xix

Images

1082

(HILDA DOOLITTLE)

Sea Rose

1082

Garden

1083

EMILY DICKINSON [Because

could not stop for Death

I



1084

]

reckon— when I count at all — 1084 [My life closed twice before its close — [We do not play on Graves — 1085 [Wild Nights-Wild Nights!] 1085 [I

]

1085

]

]

[She dealt her pretty words

like

1086 Blades-] [The Wind begun to knead the Grass



1086

]

JOHN DONNE

The Ganonization

1087

[Death, be not proud, though

some have

called

1088

thee]

A Valediction:

Forbidding Mourning

DOVE Parsley 1090 JOHN DRYDEN [Why should

1089

RITA

vow]

We Wear the

PAUL LAWRENCE DUNBAR

Mask T. s.

1092

The Love Song

ELIOT

frock

a foolish marriage

1092

of

J.

Alfred Pru-

1093

ROBERT FROST Range-Finding

1096

The Road Not Taken Stopping by Woods on ning

1097 a

Snowy Eve-

1097

THOMAS HARDY The Darkling Thrush

1098

During Wind and Rain GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS 1100 God's Grandeur

1099

The Windhover 1100 LANGSTON HUGHES Theme English B 1101 BEN JONSON To Penshurst A.

M. KLEIN

Heirloom

for

1105

1102

XX

Contents

To Amarantha, that She Would Dishevel Her Hair 1105 ROBERT LOWELL Skunk Hour 1106 ANDREW MARVELL The Garden 1108 RICHARD LOVELACE

1110 JOHN MILTON Lycidas MICHAEL ONDAATJE King Kong Meets Wallace

Stevens

1115

SYLVIA PLATH

Black Rook in Rainy Weather

Lady Lazarus

1116

1117

EZRA POUND

The Garden

1119

In a Station of the

Metro

JOHN CROWE RANSOM Daughter 1119

1119

John Whiteside's

Bells for

THEODORE ROETHKE The Dream 1120 I Knew a Woman 1122 The Waking

MURIEL RUKEYSER Reading Time

Myth

Minute 26 Seconds

1

:

1121

1122

1123

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE [Hark, hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings]

[Two

1124

loves

have of comfort and

I

despair]

1124

Spring

1124

Winter

1125

WALLACE STEVENS Anecdote of the

The Emperor

Jar

1126

of Ice-Gream

1126

Sunday Morning 1127 ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON Tears, Tears

DYLAN THOMAS Fern Hill In

JEAN

1130

My Craft or TOOMER

the Voice

Sullen Art

A 1133

Galifornia's

1137

Hear America Singing

A Noiseless

1132

Poet Recognizing the

WALT WHITMAN Facing West from Shores

1132

Song of the Son

DIANE WAKOSKi

I

Idle

1130

Patient Spider

1137 1138

Echo of

Contents t WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS Say

This

xxi

Just to

Is

1138

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Composed

Lines

a

Few

Miles above Tintern Abbey on Revisiting the

Wye During

Banks of the 1798 W.

B.

a

Tour, July

13,

1139

YEATS

Easter 1916

1142

The Second Coming

1145

Leda and the Swan Sailing to Byzantium

Among

1145

1146

School Children

Byzantium

1147

1150

DRAMA Drama: Reading, Responding, Writing

The Black and White

HAROLD PINTER SUSAN GLASPELL

Student Writing,

Understanding the Text CHARACTERIZATION, 1180

1297

Trifles,

1 1

76

marsha norman Cetting Out HENRiK IBSEN Hedda Gabler Questions

hellman

Glossary

Hamlet

The

Questions

1187

1234

Writing Suggestions, 1293

william Shakespeare LILLIAN

1160

1163

118O

Glossary

2 STRUCTURE,

Trifles

Writing Suggestions, 1174

Questions

1

1155

1306

Foxes

Little

1405

Writing Suggestions, 1457

Student Writing, The Play's the Thing: Deception Hamlet 1461

3 THE WHQLE

TEXT,

1466

Bernard SHAW Questions

Exploring Contexts

4 THEAUTHQR'S WQRKAS CONTEXT: ANTQN CHEKHQV, 1548

Pygmalion

1467

Writing Suggestions, 1545

1548

anton chekhov The Bear 1553

On

the Injurious Effects of

The Cherry Orchard Passages from Letters

Questions

Tobacco

1567

1607

Writing Suggestions, 1609

1564

in

2

xxii

T Contents

5 LITERARY CONTEXT:

TRAGEDY

AND COMEDY,

SOPHOCLES Oedipus the King 1614 OSCAR wiLDE The Importance of Being Earnest

1655

Questions

1611

6 CULTURE AS CONTEXT: SOCIAL

AND

HISTORICAL

Writing Suggestions, 1701

SHARON pollock Blood Relations august wilson Fences 1751

1710

Writing Suggestions, 1802

Questions

SETTING, 1703

Evaluating

Drama

1805 ARTHUR MILLER

Death of a Salesman

A Midsummer

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Dream

i8l^

Night's

1885

Student Writing, Dream of a Salesman, 1942

Reading More Dranna

1946

SOPHOCLES Antigone TENNESSEE WILLIAMS Desire

1946

A

Streetcar

Named

1979

CARYL CHURCHILL

Top

2046

Girls

WRITING ABOUT LITERATURE INTRODUCTION, 2107

REPRESENTING THE LITERARY TEXT, 2108

Copying, 2108 Paraphrase, 2109

Summary, 2109

REPLYING TO THE

Imitation

TEXT, 2112

Re-creation and Reply, 21 13

EXPLAINING THE

Description,

TEXT, 2115

Analysis,

and Parody, 21

1

2115

2116

Interpretation, 21 17

Principles

and

Procedures, 2117

Reading and Theme Making,

2118

Opinions, Right and Wrong, 2120

Reader and Text, 2122

Contents Objectivism, 2126

CRITICAL

APPROACHES, 2126

Formalism, 2126

NEW

CRITICISM, 2126

Structuralism, 2127 Post-Structuralism, 2128

DECONSTRUCTION, 2129 Subjectivism, 2130

Psychological Criticism, 2130

FREUDIAN CRITICISM, 2130 LACANIAN CRITICISM, 2130 JUNGIAN CRITICISM,

2131

Phenomenological Criticism, 2131 Reader-Response Criticism, 2131

2132

Historical Criticism,

Dialogism, 2132

SOCIOLOGICAL CRITICISM, 2133 MARXIST CRITICISM, 2134 FEMINIST CRITICISM, 2135

New

Historicism, 2136

Pluralism,

2137

Further Reading on Critical Approaches, 2137

WRITING ABOUT FICTION, POETRY,

DRAMA, 2139

Narrative,

2139

Dramatization, 2141

Words, 2142

Sample Topics and

Titles,

2143

Fiction, 2143 Poetry, 2144

Drama, 2144 Intergeneric Topics, 2L45

Creative Topics, 2145

DECIDING

WHAT

TO WRITE ABOUT,

Having Something to Say, 2147

Choosing a Topic, 2148

2147 Considering Your Audience, 2150

FROM TOPIC TO ROUGH DRAFT,

Gathering Evidence, 2152 Organizing Your Notes, 21 55

2152 Developing an Argument, 2156 Writing the First Draft, 2158

FROM ROUGH

Revising,

DRAFT TO COMPLETED PAPER,

Reviewing Your Work and Revising Again, 21 60

2159

2159

xxiii

xxiv

Contents

A SUMMARY OF THE PROCESS, 2164

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES, Al INDEX OF AUTHORS, A43 INDEX OF TITLES

AND

FIRST LINES,

A51

INDEX OF LITERARY TERMS, A59

FOREWORD TO THE SIXTH EDITION Reading

is

action.

Even though it is often done quietly and alone, reading is and a vigorous and demanding one. There is noth-

a profoundly social activity,

ing passive about reading;

it

requires attention, energy, an act of will. Texts have

the potenHal for meaning, implication, response, and result; but the reader activate

them, give them

must

and turn them from quiet print into a lively interReading makes things happen, usually in the mind

life,

play of ideas and feelings.

and imagination, but sometimes

in the larger

world as well, for the process of

reading involves not just the consciousness of the self but an awareness of the

other— what is beyond the self Reading doesn't just happen to you; you have to do it. and doing it involves decision, reaching out, discovery, awareness. Reading is an act of power, and learning how to get the most out of its possibilities can be an invigorating activity. For all its association with quietness, solitude, and the sedentary life, reading involves— at its deepest level — action and interaction. Through six editions, The Norton Introduction to Literature has been committed to helping students learn to read and enjoy literature. This edition, like those before

it,

offers

many

different ways of building

and reinforcing the

of reading; in addition to studying literature in terms of

emphasizes reading works tural.

We

in different

contexts— authorial,

have strengthened our offering of

new Form

edition with the addition of four

Border Stories" and "Literary

texts in

skills

elements, our book

its

historical,

and

cul-

contextual groups in this

chapters: to fiction, "Culture as Contexts:

Context:

as

The

Short Short Story"; to

"The Author's Work in Context: Adrienne Rich"; and to drama, "The Author's Work as Context: Anton Chekhov." Also, we have strengthened the poetry,

connection between reading and writing

The

introductory chapters to each genre

at several points

throughout the book.

— fiction, poetry, drama— first treat the

reading experience generally, then work to involve students in examining their

own

responses as a

first

step toward writing about literature.

New student papers,

roughly three for each genre, offer a variety of responses to selected writing suggestions.

And

as in previous editions,

we have provided many new

But the Sixth Edition remains more than

selections.

good things to read. The book offers in a single volume a complete course in reading and writing about literature. It is both an anthology and a textbook — a teaching anthology— for the indispensable course in which college student and college teacher begin to read literature, and to write about it, seriously together.

The works ture.

a grab-bag of

are arranged in order to introduce a reader to the study of litera-

Each genre

is

approached

in three logical steps. Fiction, for

example,

is

introduced by Fiction: Reading, Responding, Writing which treats the purpose

and nature of

fiction, the

reading experience, and the

first

steps

one takes

to

T Foreword to the Sixth Edition

xxvi

begin writing about

fiction.

Understanding the Text,

in

This

is

which

followed by the seven-chapter section called

stories are

analyzed by questions of

craft,

so-called elements of fiction; this section ends with a chapter entitled

Whole

Text," which makes use of

all

or

most of the analytical

the

"The

aids offered in

them together to see the work as a whole. The Exploring Contexts, suggests some ways of seeing a work of litera-

the previous chapters, putting third section,

ture interacting with

its

temporal and cultural contexts and reaching out beyond

the page.

The

sections

on reading, analyzing, and placing the work

in context are

followed, in each genre, by guidance in taking that final and extremely difficult step

— evaluation.

Evaluating Poetry, for example, discusses

about assessing the merits of two poems, not litmus

test,

how one would go

to offer definitive

judgments, a

show how one goes about modifying, articulating, and negotiating

or even a checklist or formula, but to

bringing to consciousness, defining,

one's judgments about a work of literature.

Ending each genre, Reading More for

facilitate

the

the reader's

is

a reservoir of additional examples,

The book's arrangement seeks to movement from narrower to broader questions, mirroring

independent study or

a different approach.

way people read — wanting to learn more as they experience more. offer a full section on Writing about Literature. In it we deal both with

We

the writing process as applied to literary works

— choosing

a topic, gathering

evidence, developing an argument, and so forth— and with the varieties of a reader's written responses, pretation:

we

from copying and paraphrasing

to analysis

and

inter-

explore not merely the hows, but the whats and whys as well.

In this section

we

also offer a discussion of critical approaches, designed to

provide the student with a basic overview of contemporary critical theory, as well as an introduction to

The

its

terminology.

Sixth Edition includes 52 stories, 17 of

of which are new; and 18 plays,

5

which

are new; 389

poems, 100

of which are new.

In fiction, we have added new stories by Rudolfo Anaya, Margaret Atwood, Toni Cade Bambara, Charles Baxter, Angela Carter, Denise Chavez, Kate Chopin, Julio Cortazar, Richard Dokey, Ernest Hemingway, Ha Jin, Yasunari Kawabata, Margaret Laurence, Reginald McKnight, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Eudora Welty, and Lynna Williams. The poetry section has been similarly infused with selections familiar and fresh, with newly included works by Ai, Elizabeth Alexander, Agha Shahid Ali,

Anna

Laetitia Barbauld, April Bernard, Earle Birney, Elizabeth Bishop, Louise

Bogan, Roo Borson, Emily Bronte, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mary, Lady Chudleigh, Judith Ortiz Gofer, Wendy Cope, Hart Crane, H. D., T. S. Eliot, Louise Erdrich, Carolyn Forche, John Gay, Louise Gltick,

Thomas

Gray, Barbara

Howes, Erica Jong, Archibald Lampman, Irving Layton, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, Erin Moure, Susan Musgrave, Ricardo Pau-Llosa, Katherine Philips, Alberto Alvaro Ri'os, Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, Muriel Rukeyser, Duncan Campbell Scott, Richard Snyder, Derek Walcott, Edmund Waller, and

Walt Whitman.

New

selections to the

drama

section include

Anton Chekhov's The Cherry

Foreword

to the Sixth Edition

xxvii

Orchard, Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, Marsha Norman's Getting Out, Bernard

Shaw's Pygmalion, and Sophocles' Antigone. Certain editorial procedures that proved their usefulness in earlier editions

have been retained.

First of all, the

works are annotated, as

is

customary in

Norton anthologies; the notes are informational and not interpretative, for the aim is to help readers understand and appreciate the work, not to dictate a

meaning

or a response. In order to avoid giving the impression that

selection

all

literature

same time, we have noted at the right margin after each the date of first book publication (or, when preceded by a p, first peri-

was written

at the

when

odical publication or,

the date appears at the

left

margin, the year of

composition). In

all

our work on

this edition

we have been guided by

English departments and in our own, by students of the textbook they were using, and by those class as their teachers:

you

a solid

we hope

that with

and stimulating introduction

We

Acknowledgments in the love of literature

patience as

we

and

would

able to approach us after

are learning

from them

for their

example

our students,

for their

thank our teachers,

to

to offer

experience of literature.

in the art of sharing that love;

wives and children, for their understanding

made

who were

teachers in other

wrote us as the authors

such help we have been able

to the

like to

who

be better teachers of

when

literature;

our

the work of preparing this text

seem less than perfectly loving husbands and fathers. would also like to thank our colleagues, many of whom have taught our book and evaluated our efforts, for their constant encouragement and enlightenment. Of our colleagues at Emory University and the University of Chicago, we would like especially to thank Jim Boyle, John Bugge, Louis Corrigan, William B. Dillingham, Larry Eby, Mark Sanders, Ron Schuchard, Deborah Sitter, John us

We

Sitter, Sally

ert

Wolff King and Emily Wright (Emory) and Jonathan Martin, Rob-

von Hallberg, Michelle Hawley, Anne Elizabeth Murdy, Janel Mueller,

Vicky Olwell, Richard

Strier,

and John Wright (Chicago). For their help in we would like to thank Geneva Ballard,

selecting papers by student writers,

Theresa Budniakiewicz, Rebecca

S. Ries,

and Avantika Rohatgi, of Indiana Uni-

and Thomas Miller, Tilly Warnock, Goodman, Brendan McBryde, and Ruthe Thompson, at the University of Arizona. We also thank the students whose papers we include: Daniel Bronson, Geoffrey Clement, Teri Garrity, Meaghan E. Parker,

versity—Purdue University

at Indianapolis,

Lisa-Anne Culp, Loren

Sara Rosen, Sherry Schnake, Kimberly Smith, hac, and Caryl Zook. For their work

on the

Thaddeus Smith,

Instructor's

Guide,

Jeanette Sper-

we thank Gayla

McClamery and Bryan Crockett, Loyola College in Baltimore. And we thank also Elizabeth Alkagond, Columbia College; M. Bakersfield College; Marjorie Allen, LaSalle University; Preston Allen,

Dade Community Washington

State

Allen,

Miami-

College; Sally Allen, North Georgia College; Bruce Anawalt, University;

Anne Andrews,

Mississippi

State

University;

Charles Angel, Bridgewater State College; Booker Anthony, Fayetteville State University; Robert Arledge, Southern University at

son, University of Cincinnati; Janet Auten,

New Orleans;

American

Michael Atkin-

University; Sylvia Baer,

T Foreword to the Sixth Edition

xxviii

Counh

Gloucester

College;

Ravmond

Baile\,

Bishop State

Communitv Col-

Lee Baker, High Point College; Harold Bakst, Minneapolis Community' College; Nancv Barendse. Christopher Newport College; Chris Barkle\ Palomar College; Linda Barlow, Fayetteville State Uni\ersit}-; William Barnette, lege;

,

Prestonsburg Communit)' College; Dr. Barney, Citrus College; E. Bamton, Cal-

Maine; Shawn Hokkaido Universih; Nancy Beers, Temple University; Linda BenselMevers, Uni\ersit\ of Tennessee, Knoxville; Lawrence Berkoben, California State Universit}-; Tracey Besmark, ,-\shland Communit\- College; Barbara Bird, ifornia State University', Bakersfield; Harr\ E. Batty, University of

Beaty,

St.

Petersburg

Community

College; Lillian Bisson,

Marymount

College; Clark

Blom, Universit) of British Columbia; Roy L. Bond, Universitv of Texas at Dallas; Steven Bouler, Tuskegee University; Veleda Boyd. Tarleton State University; Helen Bridge, Chabot College; Sandra Brim,

Blaise, University of Iowa; T. E.

North Georgia College: Loretta

Brister,

Tarleton State Universit)

Patrick Brod-

;

Rosa Junior College; Robert Brophy, California State University,

erick, Santa

Long Beach; Theresa Brown,

Tufts Universit); William Brown, Philadelphia

College of Textiles and Science; Virginia Brumbach, Eastfield College; C. Bryant,

Colb) College; Edward Burns, William Paterson College of

Daniel Cahill, Universih of Northern Iowa; Martha Campbell,

New

St.

Jersey;

Petersburg

Tarpon Springs; William Campbell, Monroe CommuCommunity College; Nathan Garb, Rowan College of New Jersey; Roger Carlstrom, Yakima Valley Community College; Martha Carpentier, Seton Hall Uni\ersity; Anne Carr, Southeast Communih College; Conrad Carroll, Northern Kentucky Universit)'; Gisela Casines, Florida Internahonal University Ahwadhesh Chaudhan-, Texas College;

Community College

at

nih College; D. Cano, Santa Monica

;

Dr. Clark, Citrus College; John Glower, Indiana Universit)'-Purdue University at Indianapolis;

lege;

Steven Cole,

Temple

Universit)';

Cindy

Collins, Fullerton Col-

Kathleen Collins, Creighton University; Marianne Gonroy, McGill Uni-

versity;

Pat Conner,

Memphis

State

University;

Martha Cook, Longwood

College; Hollv Cordova. Contra Costa College; Susan Cornett,

Communitv College

St.

Petersburg

Tarpon Springs; Brian Corrigan, North Georgia College; Betty Goruni, Owensboro Community College; Beverly Cotton, Cerritos College; Delmar Crisp, Weslexan College; Virginia Critchlow, Monroe Community College; Carol Cunningham-Ruiz. Bakersfield College; Lennett Daigle, at

North Georgia College; Christopher Dark, Tarleton State University; Vivian Davis, Eastfield College; Hugh Dayvson, Universit) of San Francisco; Martha Dav. Richard Bland College; George Diamond, Moravian College; Helen

DiBona, North Carolina Central Universit); Sister Mar)' Colleen Dillon, College; Marvin Diogenes. Universit)' of -Arizona; Frank Dobson,

Thomas More

.

Minna Doskow Rowan Donald Dowdey, Virginia Wesleyan College; Bonnie Duncan. Upper Iowa University; Timoth) D)kstal, Auburn Universit)'; Wayne Indiana University'-Purdue Universit)'

College of

New

,

Jersey;

Eason, University of North Carolina

North Carolina

at Indianapolis;

at Charlotte;

Marv

at Charlotte;

Eiser,

Paula Eckard. Universit)' of

Kauai Communit)' College; Marianne

Eismann. Wake Forest Universit); Joyce Ellis, North Carolina Central UniverReed Ellis. St. John's Community College; Pegg) Endel, Florida Interna-

sit);

Foreword

to the Sixth Edition

t xxix

James Erickson, Wichita State University; Dessagene Ewing, Delaware County Community College; Jim Ewing, North Georgia College;

tional Universit)';

Sasha Feinstein, Indiana University; Charles Feldstein, Florida

Norman

Community

York University; Jean Fields, Lindenwood College; Mildred Flynn, South Dakota University; Eileen Foley, UniCollege

at Jacksonville;

Feltes,

versity of

Maine; Dolores Formicella, Delaware County Community College;

Ann

Gaines, North Georgia College; Dennis Gaitner, Frostburg State Uni-

Elsa

Reloy Garcia, Creighton University; Joseph Glaser, Western Kentucky

versity;

University;

Andrea Glebe, University of Nevada; Karen Gleeman, Normandale College; C. Golliher, Victor Valley College; Douglas Gordon,

Community

Christopher Newport College;

ham, Virginia Polytechnic

College of Philadelphia;

nit}'

Donna Gormly,

Institute

Ann

and

Eastfield College; Kathryn Gra-

Grob, Rice University; Lynda Haas, Hillsborough lege;

New

Mexico; Alan

Community

College; Flor-

Grigsby, University of

ence Halle, Memphis State University;

Commu-

State University; Pat Gregory,

Western Oregon State ColSydney Harrison, Manatee Community College; Joan Hartman, William Jerry Harris,

Patterson College; Charles Hatten, Bellarmine College; Bruce Henderson, Fullerton College;

Nancy Henry,

SUNY

College; Robert Herzog,

field

Clemson

University;

David

at

Binghamton; David Hernandez, East-

Monroe Community

Hill,

SUNY

College

at

College; Laura Higgs, Oswego; Robert Hipkiss,

California State University; David Hoegberg, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis;

Eartha Holley, Delaware State University; R. C. Hoover,

Wenatchee Valley College; Roger Horn, Charles County Community College; L.

C. Howard, Skyline College; Erlene Hubly, University of Northern Iowa;

William Hudson, Radford University; David Hufford, Iowa Western College; Deirdre Hughes, Fullerton College; Dr.

nit)'

Kathryn

lege;

Commu-

Humphrey, Citrus Col-

Montgomery Hunter, Northwestern

University

Medicine; Lisa Hunter, University of Wisconsin Medical School;

School P.

of

Hunter,

Los Angeles Valley College; Edelina Huntley, Appalachian State University; Robert Huntley, Washington and Lee University; Sharon

Irvin, Florida Institute

of Technology; Sylvia Iskander, University of Southwestern Louisiana; Eleanor

James,

Montgomery County Community College; Anne Johnson,

Jacksonville

State University; Christopher Johnson, Missouri Valley College; Craig Johnson,

Hillsborough Communit)- College; Darryl Johnson,

St.

Cloud

State University;

Dolores Johnson, Seattle University; Karen Johnson, Indiana University-Purdue

Owensboro Cloud State University; Frank KasKenney, Colby College; Don King, Central

University at Indianapolis; Dr. Jones, Citrus College; Grace Jones,

Community tor,

College; Walter Kalaidjian,

Wichita State University; E.

St.

University; Andrew Kirk, University of California, Davis; John KliIdaho State University; William Klink, Charles County Community ColMichael Krasny, San Francisco State University; Anne Krause, Yakima

Washington jinski,

lege;

Valley

Community

Onondaga Community ColMuhlenberg College; Donald Lawler, East Carolina Uni-

College; Harold Kuglemass,

lege; Stuart Kurland,

Lynn Lewis, Memphis State LJniversity; Vincent J. Liesenfeld, University Oklahoma; Jun Liu, California State University, Los Angeles; Travis Living-

versity;

of

ston, Tarleton State University; Lillian Liwag-Sutcliffe,

Old Dominion Univer-

XXX T Foreword to the Sixth Edition sih;

Man

Lo\\e-E\ans, Uni\ersit\ of West Florida; Michael Lund, LongAvood

Thomas Mack,

College; Kathleen Lyons, Bellarmine College;

Universitx of

South Carolina; Patricia MacN'augh, Lehigh Count) Community College; Emor}- Maiden, Appalachian State Universit); Christina Malcolmson, Bates College; Dexter Marks, Jersey Cit\ State College; William Martin, Tarleton State Universitx

.\rkansas

;

Frank Mason, Universit) of South Florida;

Communit\

College; Laura May,

St.

Petersburg

Pam

Mathis, North

Communit\

College;

Katherine Ma\Tiard, Rider College; R. Mc.\llister, Victor \ alley College; Kathleen McClov, Shoreline

Communit)

College; Bett\

J.

McCommas, Ouachita

McDonnell, Neumann College; Frank McLaughlin, Ramapo College; Thomas McLaughlin, Appalachian State Uni\ersit\; William McMahon, Western Kentucky Universit); Terrence McNally, Northern Kentucky Universit); Man McNarie, Universit)- of Hawaii; N\an McNeill, Foothill Baptist Universit}; Clare

College; Jay Meek, Universit)' of North Dakota; Ivan Melada, Universit)- of NewMexico; Donna Melancon, Xavier Unixersit)-; Linda Merions, LaSalle Universit\;

lege;

Darlene Mettler, Wesleyan College; R. Metzger, Los .\ngeles

Valle)-

Brian Michaels, Diane Middlebrook (Stanford Universit))

Community

Col-

John's

St.

College; Daniel Miller, Northern Kentucky Universit); George

Miller, Universit) of Delaware;

Ron

Miller, Universit) of

West

Florida; Leslie

Mittelman, California State Universit) Long Beach; Rosa Mizerski, West X'alley ,

Rosemary Moffett, Elizabethtown Communit) College; Warren Moore, Loyola College; Mike Moran, Universit) of Georgia; Dean Morgan, 01)Tnpic College; William Morgan, Illinois State Universit); William Morris, Universih of South Florida; Sharon Morrow, Universit) of Southern Indiana; Renate Muendel, West Chester Universit); Gordon Mundell, Universit)- of Nebraska; David Murdoch, Rochester Institute of Technolog) Carol Murphy,

College;

;

Roanoke College; Thomas Murra) Trenton ,

State College; Joseph Nacca,

Com-

munit\ College of Finger Lakes; Joseph Nasser, Rochester Institute of Technolog); Mar\ Neil, Eastfield College; Kay Nelson, St. Cloud l'ni\ersit)-; Dorothy

Newman, Southern

Universit);

Lee Nicholson, Modesto Junior College; Mimi

Nicholson, Universit)- of Southern Indiana; Elizabeth Nollen, West Chester Universitx; Dale Norris, Des Moines Communit) College; Robert Ochsner, Universit)- of

Mar) land

at

Baltimore; Sarah Oglesby, Madison\ ille

Community

College; Francis Olley, Saint Joseph's Universit) .\nn Olson, Central Washing;

ton Universih Regina Oost, Wesleyan College; Mildred Orenstein, Drexel Uni;

versit\;

Kathleen O'Shea, Monroe Communit) College; Thornton Penfield, Christopher Penna, Universit) of Delaware; Rita Perkins,

Southern

Universit)-;

Camden

Count)' College; Donald Peterson, City College of San Francisco;

Ste\en Phelan, Rollins College; Randall Popken, Tarleton State Uni\-ersity; Robert Post, Universit) of Washington; Pamela Postma, Universit) of North Carolina at Greensboro; Linda

Ray

Pratt,

Universit)

Columbia College; Richard Quaintance, Rutgers

Coe

of Nebraska; Ross Uni\ersit);

Primm,

James Randall,

College; Rosemary- Ra)-nal, Davidson College; Mar) Rea, Indiana Univer-

sit)--Purdue Universit)

at

Indianapolis;

Thomas Redshaw,

Thomas; Ron Reed, Hazard Communit) College; Donna

Communit)

Universit)- of St.

Reiss,

Tidewater

College; -Man Richardson, Boston College; .\nn Richey. X'irginia

Foreword

to the Sixth Edition

xxxi

Pol>iechnic Institute and State University; Joan Richmond, Tarleton State University;

Harold Ridley,

Community

LeMoyne

College; Leonard Roberts, Northampton Area

College; Douglas Robinson, University of Mississippi;

J.

Robinson,

Palm Beach Adantic College; Ruben Rodriguez, Tarleton State University; Owen Rogal, St. Ambrose University; Eva Rosenn, Wesleyan College; William Rossiter, Flathead Valley College; Connie Rothwell, University of North Carolina; Don Rud, Texas Tech University; Don Russ, Kennesaw State College; Charles J. Rzepka, Boston University; Christina Savage, Long Beach City College; Vicki Scannell, Pierce College; Paul Schacht, SUNY College at Geneseo; Steven Scherwatzky, Merrimack College; Marie Schiebold, Skyline College; Ronald Schleifer, University of Oklahoma;

Victor Valley College; Beate Rodewald,

Linda Schmidt, Iowa Western State College;

Community

College; Roger Schmidt, Idaho

Michael Schoenecke, Texas Tech University; Jane Schultz, Indi-

ana University-Purdue University

at Indianapolis; Lucille Schultz, University

of

Cincinnati; Carolyn Segal, Lehigh University; JoAnn Seiple, University of

North Carolina;

Bill Senior,

Broward Community College; Pat

Shalter,

Reading

Community

College; Lewis Sheffler, Missouri Valley College; Richard

Siciliano, Charles

County Community College; Odette Sims, Modesto Junior

Area

College; Judy Jo Small, North Carolina State University; Louise Smith, Universit)'

of Massachusetts; Peter Smith, Wesleyan College; Stephen Smith, LaSalle

University;

Thomas

Sonith,

Widener

University; B. Spears, Victor Valley Col-

lege; Dr. Spencer, California State University, Bakersfield;

Georgia College;

Ann

souri Valley College;

Rich Sprouse, North

Spurlock, Mississippi State University; David Stacey, Mis-

Nancy

Stahl, Indiana University-Purdue University at

Indianapolis; Jamie Steckelberg, University of North Dakota; James Stick,

Moines Community College; Bruce

Stillians,

University of Hawaii;

Des

McKay

Sundwall, East Carolina University; Kathryn Swanson, Augsburg College; John Taylor, College of Marin; Judith Taylor, Northern Kentucky University; David

Thibodaux, University of Southwestern Louisiana; Victor Thompson, Thomas Nelson Community College; Charles Thornbury, College of St. Benedict; Mike Thro, Tidewater College;

Community

College; Kathleen Tickner, Brevard

Community

Edna Troiano, Charles County Community College; Cail Tubbs,

Washington College; Richard Turner, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis; Teresa Tweet, Augustana College; D. Unrue, University of Nevada; Margaret Vail, Xavier University; Diana Valdina, Cayuga County Community College; Kenneth Vandover, Lincoln University; Eleanor Vassal, St. Petersburg

Community

College;

Tim

Viator, North Georgia College; Richard

Victor, Saddleback College; Jeanne Walker, University of Delaware; Cynthia

Wall, University of Virginia; Leslie Wallace, DeAnza College; W. Wallis, Los Angeles Valley College; R. Warkentin, California State University, Dominguez Hills; David Weekes, Eastern Washington University; Edwin Weihe, Seattle

Ronald Wendling, Saint Joseph's University; Agnes Whitsel, Mercer Henderson Community College; Inga Wiehl, Yakima Valley College; Waller Wigginton, Idaho State University; Arthur Williams, University;

University; Keith Wicker,

Louisiana School for Mathematics, Science and the Arts; Jack Williams, California

State

University;

James Wilson, University of Southwestern Louisiana;

xxxii

T Foreword to the Sixth Edition

Sharon Wilson, Fort Hays State Universit\-; Sandra Witt, Universit\' of Northern Iowa; Susan Wolstenholme, Cayuga Count\- Communit}- College; Strohn Woodward, Uni\ersit\- of Maine; James Wyatt, Lindsey Wilson College; Linda Yakle,

St.

Petersburg Communit)- College; and Dr. Zounes, Los Angeles Valley

College.

We would like to thank our friends at W. W. the late John Benedict and the late Barry

Norton

Wade,

to

& Company, especially

whom we

dedicate this

and also .\llen Clawson, Carol Hollar-Zwick, Kate Lovelady, John Mardirosian, Fred McFarland, Diane O'Connor, Nancy Palmquist, David Sutter, Ann Tappert, and Candace Watt. revision,

J.B..

J.P.H.

The Norton Introduction

to

LITERATURE SIXTH EDITION

i

V V V

FICTION

V V V

Reading,

Fiction:

Responding, Writing

SPENCER HOLST The Zebra Once upon

Storyteller

a time there was a Siamese cat

who pretended

to

be a Hon and

spoke inappropriate Zebraic.

That language is whinnied by the race of striped horses in Africa. Here now: An innocent zebra is walking in a jungle and approaching from another direction

is

the

little cat;

they meet.

"Hello there!" says the Siamese cat in perfectly pronounced Zebraic. certainly

is

a pleasant day, isn't

it?

The sun

"It

shining, the birds are singing, isn't

is

the world a lovely place to live today!"

The

zebra

why— he's So the

is

just little

so astonished at hearing a

fit

to

be

Siamese cat speaking

like a zebra,

tied.

cat quickly hes

him

up,

kills

him, and drags the better parts of

the carcass back to his den.

The filet

ties

cat successfully

hunted zebras many months in this manner, dining on night, and fi-om the better hides he made bow neck-

mignon of zebra every and wide

belts after the fashion of the

decadent princes of the Old Siamese

court.

He began

boasting to his friends he was a lion, and he gave

them

as

proof

the fact that he hunted zebras.

The

delicate noses of the zebras told

neighborhood.

The zebra

deaths caused

them

there was really

many to avoid the

no

lion in the

region. Superstitious,

they decided the woods were haunted by the ghost of a lion.

Spencer Hoist

4

One

day the

stotyteller of the zebras

plots for stories to

and he

amuse

said, "That's

our language!

Just then the

ant day today,

The

tell a

I'll

it!

What an

cat

when suddenly

make 'em

his

mind

ran

his eyes brightened,

who

about a Siamese cat

story

idea! That'll

Siamese

was ambhng, and through

the other zebras,

learns to speak

laugh!"

appeared before him, and

said,

"Hello there! Pleas-

isn't it!"

zebra storyteller wasn't

fit

be

to

tied at

hearing a cat speaking his lan-

guage, because he'd been thinking about that very thing.

He

took a good look at the

something about killed

and he didn't know why, but there was

cat,

he didn't

his looks

he kicked him with

like, so

a

hoof and

him.

That

the function of the storyteller.

is

1971

The

Zebra

for the ries

be

Though

unexpected.

When

in

the extraordinary occurs

— like a

alone

able to protect his tribe against the unheard-of.

Other them,

it,

and he

George

hopes and

fears (such

in their everyday lives, so

Eliot's novel

Adam

Bede, Hetty

being paid admiring attention by the young squire, and she dreams of

is

elopement, marriage, will

sto-

being preyed on by the ghost of

and shows them what they can actually expect

that they can prepare themselves. In

Sorrel

spinning

the function of fiction less extraordinar)'. According

fiction enables readers to avoid projecting false

as the zebras' superstitious belief that they are

a lion)

just

prepare us

prepared because he has already imagined

is

make

storytellers

to

Siamese cat speaking

— the storyteller

to

is

is

order to amuse, his stories prove to

Zebraic is

stories

the stor)teller thinks he

own imagination

out of his

practical.

purpose of

Stor)1:eller" suggests that the

all sorts

of vague pleasures.

She does not dream

that she

be seduced, made pregnant, abandoned. Her imagination has not been

trained to project any "narrative" other than her dreams: "Hett\a novel,"

George

Eliot tells us, "[so]

how

had never read

could she find a shape for her expec-

tations?"

We

are

all stor\1:ellers,

then, of one stripe or another. VVTienever

the future or ponder a decision,

through narrative. Whether we

we

are telling stories

tell stories

we plan

— projecting expectations

or read them,

we

are educating our

imaginations, either extending our mental experience in the actual, as Hetty

might have done by reading novels, or preparing ourselves and unexpected,

The fiction.

actual

like the

and the

extraordinar)' suggest

Sometimes we want

places, experiences,

for the extraordinar)'

zebra stor\teller.

to read

and ideas

two different uses readers make of

about people

that are familiar

like ourselves, or

about

and agreeable. Most of us

ini-

The Zebra tially

American

prefer

remote

in

we can

before

lives

literature

and twentieth-century

time or place. Indeed, find

them

literature to literature

must somehow be

stories

Storyteller t 5

matter what our literary experience and

most of us

taste,

story that

mentions our hometown or neighborhood or the name of the

of the

many

like us,

walk along on our way

to

things that fiction

world around

escape.

On

we want

thing

last

must be relevant enough

If fiction

speaking Zebraic.

own

It

different, strange

So, in addition to

What

many

stories

do not

own background and

must

experience,

own time and last

own. place,

century, a few

few written about worlds that have not

a

shows us or teaches us we may

a story

it

(yet) exist.

we were unaware

These perceptions may be the messages boil

"Hurting people

down

is

if

message— an

much

to agree with

we had

less

what

those eyes

Western

what

it's

discover that

in everybody,"

seems"

— messages

literature, to deliver.

a story says or

and were

as

we soon

it

objective,

We gradually

with perceptions.

good and bad not what

is

means

life

stories deal

translated into messages, but

wrong," and "Everything

we do not have

its

much what

to things like "There's

not need Western Union,

are convinced that

call

of before reading the story.

Rather than abstract or "objective" truths,

Indeed,

us,

perhaps, as a Siamese cat

about approximately our

and

like

to

ourselves, out of the confining vision

learn, however, that stories tell us not so

we do

meaningfully to

to relate

includes a sprinkling of stories written in the

universal truth that

like.

one

like our-

and places and times

lives,

conditioned by our

is

written in vastly different cultures, existed or

about people

a story

is

that there are ways of looking at the world other than our

this collection

street

that

learning about ourselves and the

is

— as strange,

must take us out of

which

eyes,

and show us

No one would deny

such occasions we want (or are accused of wanting)

be "irrelevant,"

of our

"for"

experiences like those of our everyday

here and now.

also

may be

to school.

us.

But occasionally the selves,

way

relate in a special

about people

we used

No

experiences like our own, and especially to a

to stories

that

own

related to our

intellectually or emotionally meaningful.

shows so long

there, this

is

as

we

what we might

see.

Whenever we can beyond the

able to see a ing that

were

say yes,

limitations of our

new

we can

we

are convinced, then

own

world, or the

vision,

is

see things differendy,

too often the case,

face value;

we have been

we

own

same old world

we

fixed, objective entities "out there,"

Or, as

our

we have been

past

in a

able to go

and conditions.

new

way.

And by

We

are

recogniz-

realize that things

we used

were fixed only

our perceptions.

realize that

in

we have been accepting

to think

things at

perceiving what habit and convention have told us

is

6

Elizabeth Tallent

"really there." Stories, then, inav

example,

"know"

\vc

niond-shaped. eertain angle table top

we

We

a table top

if

we were

when

v\c look at

though we'\e always "known"

angle, but

it

from

it

Wc

a tabic top

as one. 'I'he story has not onl\-

it

we mav be

that

mean

How

has helped us to sharpen our

a

square,

own

vision,

so

each projects a future. The

wc cannot

less in

tell

which projection

own

the middle of our

future, both jack

li\es.

is

stor\',

right.

she has

ity,

and the narrator learn through

futures.

George

now

And

so

Eliot's Hetty, projecting a

at least

we

are

their storytelling that

dream

more

or

not get to know the

than one scenario of the future can be projected. Even as naive as

in the present,

Like the characters,

may

actu-

from another

and Jack are

however, remains

'I'hough they

do

that

our own experience.

In the stor\' that follows, both the eighteen-year-old narrator stor)-tellers:

that the

we recognize

realit\-

a

often

ue mav have never

allowed us to see

dia-

it is

from

a certain angle?

look again, and

is

told

to look at the table top

would appear diamond-shaped. But doesn't

it

look at a table top from that angle?

ally seen

look at things for ourselves. For

to

square, but in a stor\

understand that

square only

is

awaken ns

is

if

we

more

think the narrator

rather than a possible real-

"read Jack's novel," so she knows there are alternative

do we.

ELIZABETH TALLENT

No One's my

For little

eighteenth birthdav Jack gave

key, light as a dime.

I

was

a

me

Mystery a fivc-)ear diar\' with a latch

sitting beside

him

and

a

scratching at the lock, which

seem to want to work, when he thought he saw his wife's Cadillac in the coming toward us. He pushed me down onto the dirtv' floor of the pickup and kept one hand on my head while I inhaled the musk of his cigarettes in the dashboard ashtrax' and sang along w ith Rosanne Cash on the tape deck. We'd been drinking tequila and the bottle was between his legs, resting up against his crotch, where the seam of his Levi's was bleached linen-white, though the Lev i's were nearly new don't know why his Le\ i's always bleached didn't

distance,

.

like

that along the seams and

I

at the knees. In a

curve of cloth his zipper glinted,

gold. "It's

her,"

he

"She keeps the

said.

single habit in a

woman

was going

still

to stay

that irritates

he took

his

lights

on

in the

me more

daytime.

than that."

I

cant think of

When

hand from m\- head and ran

it

he saw that

through his

a I

own

dark hair.

"Wliy docs she?"

"She thinks

it's

I

said.

safer.

Wh\' does she need

to

be safer? She's driving exactlv

No One's fift)-five craft.' It

Mystery t 7

a

miles an hour. She beheves in those signs: 'Speed Monitored by Air-

up and see

doesn't matter that you can look

move,

"She'll see your lips

know

Jack. She'll

that the sky

is

empty."

you're talking to someone."

"She'll think I'm singing along with the radio."

He his

didn't

his head, just raised the fingers in salute while the pressure of

lift

palm steadied the wheel, and

was driving

stitched into the leather

I

heard the Cadillac honk twice, musically; he

an hour.

easily eighty miles

The

studied his boots.

I

elk heads

were bearded with frayed thread, the toes were scuffed,

a compact wedge of muddy manure between the heel and the same boots he'd been wearing for the two years I'd known him. On the tape deck Rosanne Cash sang, "Nobody's into me, no one's a mystery." "Do you think she's getting famous because of who her daddy is or for her-

and there was sole

— the

self?" Jack said.

"There are about little

"No

hundred pop tops on the floor, did you know on one of these. Jack."

Some

that?

kids get into this truck except for you."

little

"How come you "

a

kid could cut a bare foot

'How come,'

into the seat

let

it

get so dirt}?"

he mocked. "You even sound

if

you want. She's not going

now,

"

You can

like a kid.

to look over

get back

her shoulder and see

you."

"How do you know?" "I just It's

know," he

in the air. Like

"What

will

I

said.

be writing?"

to look at the butterfly

ming was dazzling

I

know

you'll

I'm going to get meat loaf for supper.

be writing

in that diary."

my side of the seat and craned around on my jeans. Outside the window Wyo-

knelt on

I

of dust printed

in the heat.

smoothly by the thin

hidden

"Like

know what

I

dirt road.

I

The wheat was fawn and could smell the water

yellow and parted

in the irrigation ditches

in the wheat.

"Tonight

you'll write,

can't imagine

'I

love Jack. This

is

my

anybody loving anybody more than

birthday present from him. I

love Jack.'

I

"

"I can't."

"In a year you'll write, I

spent so

many

something about "I

'I

wonder what

ever really saw in Jack.

I

days just riding around in his pickup. sex.

It's

true there wasn't ever

much

It's

else to

true

do

in

I

wonder why

he taught

me

Cheyenne.'

"

won't write that."

"In two years you'll write, 'I wonder what that old guy's name was, the one with the curly hair and the filthy dirty pickup truck and time on his hands.' " "I

won't write that."

"No?" "Tonight I'll write, 'I love Jack. This is my birthday present from him. imagine anybody loving anybody more than I love Jack.' " "No, you can't," he said. "You can't imagine it." "In a year

I'll

write, 'Jack

should be

my

grandmother's linen and her old from the wedding— but I don't know Navarra

to

make

lo\e to him.'

"

home any minute now. The I

can't

table's set— and the yellow candles left over can wait until after the trout a la

silver if

I

8

Elizabeth Tallent

must have been

"It

"In two years for his supper.

I'll

He

a fast divorce."

should be home by now. Little Jack is hungry word today besides "Mama" and "Papa." He said

write, 'Jack

said his

first

"kaka."

"He was probably trying when you heard him say it."

Jack laughed.

room

wall

"In three years

Rosamund.'

write,

I'll

"

'My nipples

are a

little

with kaka on the bath-

sore from nursing Eliza

"

"Rosamund. Every

30

to finger-paint

little girl

'Her breath smells

should have

like vanilla

a

middle name she hates."

and her eyes are

just Jack's

color of blue.'

"

"That's nice," Jack said.

"So, which one do you like?" "I like 35

yours," he said. "But

doesn't matter.

"It

"Not

in

I

I

believe mine."

believe mine."

your heart of hearts, you don't."

'Tou're wrong." "I'm not wrong," he said. "And her breath would smell like your milk, and

(

it's

kind of a bittersweet smell,

if

you want

to

know

the truth."

1985

Since Jack and the narrator are not zebras but people you

maybe even people somewhat

real,

take sides.

the

One

may

think of as

feel in a position to

of the pleasures of reading and one of the ways of penetrating

meaning and

effectiveness of stories

which often begin with your rooting ing one character or the other.

Our

is

through your emotional responses,

identifying with, admiring, or despis-

for,

wishes and

and the kind of world we imagine

tions,

you may

like yourself,

our expectations and emo-

fears,

that the characters inhabit

the major register of our emotional responses to fiction.

moves from reading

to writing

about

fiction

may

And one

make up

of the

first

well involve this "partisan-

ship."

Some

of your emotional responses to a story will

or second-hand experience. that in

"No One's

in a situation

somewhat

a Mystery" (as the narrator, the wife, or Jack),

were

in the triangle

story.

Or,

if

You may have been

come from your own

you are

may have something a cat-lover with four

to

kittens,

like

and who you

do with how you respond

Siamese

first-

to the

you may not be able

fully to identify with the zebra stor)1:eller.

There are two views emphasized ters

you might

may

identify or side with.

in

"No One's

How

do you

a Mystery,"

feel

two main charac-

about the narrator? You

think she's a fool for getting involved with a married man, or immoral,

and so perhaps you

feel bitter

about her projections of a married

life

with Jack,

No One's and believe they

will

her dreams poignant true),

while Jack

the truth

lies

somewhere

You

with others.

early paper in

Or you may

argue for the

right, or that

story's third

your

elicit

of a story like this in essay form before

then have a record of your uninfluenced,

will

may be

unchallenged view. Later, you

mates do not agree with you. But

may

An

the projections into the future of Jack

argue that both are wrong, both

down your view

sympathy. Try writing it

to

between.

and find

identify with her,

you think they might come

who, though not embodied, may nevertheless

character, the wife,

discussing

in

(if

as either realistic or cynical.

may have you defend

You may wish

or the narrator.

Or you may

true.

hopeless) or uplifting

(if

may be viewed

course

a literature

come

never

Mystery t 9

a

some of your

surprised to find that

in discussing or arguing for

class-

your views you

discover not only that there are reasonable differences of opinion, but that

what one believes about the future beyond the

A second paper may be

that person.

position or a composite or

with classmates.

And you may want

These ideas

They

show

for papers are

also suggest

else's

discussion and exchange

what you learned about yourself

to look at

stovf.

meant

to

be more than suggested writing assign-

one way of writing about

that writing about a story

something about

story reveals

an argument with someone

new view based on your

from your arguments about the

ments.

either

literature

not some special or arcane

is

and art

are

but

meant

just a

to

some-

what more formal, responsible, committed way of talking about what you have read.

Think of the

last

discussing the film.

them

If

carefully, think

time you saw a movie with a friend and

you were

call

it

put such responses

about them a

convincing, you've taken the

could even

to

first

bit,

and

try to

and

real

about them,

the theater

paper, look at

make vour views

or responses

You

literary criticism. stories as if

happenings, and writing about your responses is

left

step toward writing about literature.

Writing about the characters and events in ple

down on

only one kind of writing about literature.

they were real peoto

and opinions

You can

only write

such a paper after you have read the whole story and formed an opinion, and your "argument" will involve going back to the story seeking out details to support your position, and, perhaps, situating

where you are coming from

in

terms

of personal experience, moral or religious views, and so on. But reading a story is

not

first

just

of

all

something

argue or even think about after you have read

to

an experience

— made

up of thoughts and

feelings

it.

It is

— that happens

while you are in the very act of reading.

One story

is

of the things most of us do

to anticipate or interpret:

a given character?

how

is

when we

what

will

are actively

engaged

in reading a

happen next? what kind of person

the world of the story related to the world as

I

know

is

10 T Elizabeth Tallent

what kind of a

it?

story

is it?

will

the world, and

nouns

take the

may be thought

end happily or not? You

it

One

aspects to such anticipation.

will notice

of as referential or representational; that

to refer to real things

— the word

up

table calls

more

a

concrete image of a table— and from the words describing characters ine

more

or less real people

actually real.

We

and

and choices

their actions

have discussed "No One's a Mystery"

as

Jack were real people living in the real world, specifically aspect

literary.

is

We

pay attention

just to

even play with these referential and

from one aspect

shifting

literary aspects of

The

to another.

astonished, and the words say "he's just

of speech, and

We up.

are surprised, then,

when

be

to

Wyoming. The other to their

the story does: "So the

are aware that a story

though we

end not

This

little

with

a story

is

tell stories is

a

was

common

figure

referentially.

cat quickly ties

him

that telling a story involves certain

imagine them

as

happening

known. Different kinds of stories,

and sometimes other

"Once upon

stories,

in the past tense,

kind of present, with the

woman

stories

own

have their

"The Zebra

conventions:

Storyteller,"

ghost stories and certain other

a time"; in

and comic

in a

too,

fantasies, like

almost always a beautiful young

adventure

and

— for example, stories are generally written

like to

yet

fairy tales

title

of the story that follows,

inherited? Our ence—how we anticipation

guide

us,

is

anticipation

threatened by danger; these

almost always end happily, and so on.

"The

jewelry,"

channeled by

triggered by the

title.

we

first-

start: will it

if

we

tells

are to anticipate

title,

ration of the entire story.

but soon,

us that

we

read

lost? stolen?

life

experi-

do not come with

titles

and understand. Perhaps not

we begin

Based on our own

to anticipate a

real

stor)-,

but always connected to

it

as

titles to

are significant, worth as early

shape or configu-

experiences and what we've

project a vague shape early on, frequently adjusting

through the

be

or second-hand

Life experiences

but our reading experience

our reading of the

we

there

stories,

think jewelry functions in "the real world." Notice that this

paying attention to

read,

is

begin

scan,' stories

Anticipation begins at the beginning— or even earlier. As soon as

as

can

.

We

the

them,

words, surprising us by

words "seriously" or

to take the

sounds,

like

jewels. Stories

did not

tied."

not

if

." .

conventions

is

we do not expect

who

zebra

fit

or less

we imag-

the narrator and

words that look or sound

what they denote — tables or Cadillacs or

we

is,

as potentially if

words themselves,

to the

their connotations, their relation to other

and not

two

involves our experience, direct or indirect, in

we

read on.

it

as

we proceed

With the

first

sen-

— "Having met the girl one evening, at the house of the tence of "The Jewelry" office-superintendent, M. Lantin became enveloped in love as in a net" — we begin casting our

own

net.

The

story will involve love.

What do we know

or

1

The Jewelry t believe about love? about different kinds of love? about the possible

of falling in love?

What

not yet prepared to define that connection, but tions about

it.

Though

outcomes

We

the connection between love and jewelry?

is

the

sentence

first

we may have

1

are

tentative expecta-

may be summarized

in "real" or expe-

riential terms as "M. Lantin has fallen (deeply) in love," the precise words in

the sentence that describe falling in love are

Does

net."

merely emphasize

this

how

"became enveloped

in love as in a

deeply he has fallen in love or

is

there

something uncomfortable, painful, even ominous about the words— note, about the words

what the our

story

— "enveloped as in a net"? How we anticipate and

"means" or

about

"says

life" will

experience, by such literary "devices" as the

life

interpret

be conditioned throughout by title,

by the precise words

of the story, and by our experience with kinds of stories and what usually hap-

pens and eventuates in such tions,

however, and alert

to

We

stories.

must remain

tentative in our expecta-

changes and modifications;

for

when

example,

fourth paragraph of this story concludes with "and [he] married her,"

abandon the love-and-courtship

new

story

we

the

we must

anticipated and imagine an entirely

set of possibilities.

GUY DE MAUPASSANT The Jewelry^ Having met the

girl

one evening,

at the

house of the office-superintendent, M.

Lantin became enveloped in love as in a net.

She was the daughter of a Afterward she had

come

country-tutor,

to Paris

several bourgeois families of the

who had been dead for several years. who made regglar visits to

with her mother,

neighborhood, in hopes of being able

daughter married. They were poor and respectable, quiet and gende.

seemed

girl

man dreams shyness;

to

be the very ideal of that pure good

of entrushng his future.

and the

woman

to

Her modest beauty had

slight smile that always

dwelt about her

lips

to get

her

The young

whom

every young charm of angelic seemed a reflection a

of her heart.

Everybody sang her gets her will

M.

be lucky.

Lantin,

praises; all

No one

who was then

who knew

her kept saying: "The

could find a nicer

girl

man who

than that."

chief clerk in the office of the Minister of the

Interior, with a salar)' of 3,500 francs a year,"

demanded her hand, and married

her. 1.

Translated by Lafcadio Hearn,

$30,000 today.

2.

A

midlevel bureaucratic wage, perhaps about $25,000-

Guy de Maupassant

12 T

He

v\as

seemed

to live in luxury-.

conceive of any attentions, tendernesses,

pla\-fiil

home

with an economy would be impossible to caresses which she did not lav-

unutterably liapp\ with her. She ruled his

so adroit that they really

It

upon her husband; and such was the charm of her person that, six years after he married her, he loved her even more than he did the first day. There were only two points upon which he ever found fault with her — her ish

love of the theater,

Her

and her passion

for false jewelrv.

lad\-friends (she was acquainted with the wives of several small office

holders) were always bringing her tickets for the theaters;

whenever there was a had her loge secured, even for first performances; and she would drag her husband w ith her to all these entertainments, which used to tire him horribly after his day's work. So at last he begged her to go to the theater w ith some lady-acquaintances who would con-

performance that made

home

sent to see her

a sensation, she always

She refused

afterward.

for quite a

not look very well to go out thus unaccompanied

she yielded,

Now

just to please

him; and he

her sweet grace, her

charm from

evoked

remained simple, always

toilette

while

in

in

it

would

her therefor.

her the desire of dress.

good

taste,

e\er smiling and shy,

irresistible grace,

— thinking

her husband. But finally

felt infinitely grateful to

this passion for the theater at last

was true that her

b\-

It

but modest; and

seemed

to take fresh

the simplicit\ of her robes. But she got into the habit of suspending

in her pretty ears

two big cut pebbles, fashioned

in imitation of

diamonds; and

she wore necklaces of false pearls, bracelets of false gold, and haircombs studded with paste-imitations of precious stones.

Her husband, w ho felt shocked bv this lo\ e of tinsel and show would often say— "My dear, when one has not the means to afford real jeweln, one should appear adorned with one's natural beautv and grace only— and these gifts are ,

the rarest of jewels."

But she would smile sweetly and answer: "WTiat does things

— that my is

o\'er again. I've

little

whim.

I

know you

are right; but

it

matter?

I

like those

one can't make oneself

always lo\'ed jewelr)' so much!"

And then she would roll the pearls of the necklaces between her fingers, and make the facets of the cut cr\stals flash in the light, repeating: "Now look at them — see how well the work is done. You would swear it was real jewelr\-."

He would

then smile

in his turn,

and declare

to her:

"You have the

tastes of

a regular Gvpsy."

Sometimes, would rise and

in the evening,

when

they were having a chat by the

fire,

she

morocco box in which she kept her "stock" (as M. Lantin called it) — would put it on the tea-table, and begin to examine the false jewelry with passionate delight, as if she experienced some secret and mysterious sensations of pleasure in their contemplation; and she would insist on putting one of the necklaces round her husband's neck, and laugh till she couldn't laugh anv more, crying out: "Oh! how funn\ vou look!" Then she would rush into his arms, and kiss him furiously. One w inter's night, after she had been to the Opera, she came home chilled through, and trembling. Next day she had a bad cough. Eight days after that, she died of pneumonia. fetch the

The Jewelry t 13 Lantin was ful that in

ver\'

nearly following her into the tomb. His despair was so fright-

one single month

He wept from morning

his hair turned white.

till

haunted by the

night, feeling his heart torn by inexpressible suffering— ever

memon,' of her, by the smile, by the voice, by all the charm of the dead woman. Time did not assuage his grief Often during office hours his fellow-clerks went off to a corner to chat about this or that topic of the day— his cheeks might to swell up all of a sudden, his nose w rinkle, his eyes fill with water— he would pull a frightful face, and begin to sob. He had kept his dead companion's room just in the order she had left it, and he used to lock himself up in it every evening to think about her— all the furniture, and even all her dresses, remained in the same place they had been on the

have been seen

last

day of her

But

amply

life.

became hard

life

sufficed for

all

for

him. His

household needs,

salary,

which, in

now proved

his wife's hands,

had

scarcely sufficient to supply

own few wants. And he asked himself in astonishment how she had managed him with excellent wines and with delicate eating which he could not now afford at all with his scanty means. He got a little into debt, like men obliged to live by their wits. At last one

his

always to furnish

morning

that

whole week

he happened

to wait before

to find

himself without a cent in his pocket, and a

he could draw

his

monthly

he thought of

salar)',

and almost immediately it occurred to him to sell his wife's "stock" — for he had always borne a secret grudge against the flash-jewelry that used to annoy him so much in former days. The mere sight of it, day after day,

selling something;

somewhat spoiled the sad pleasure of thinking of his

He left

tried a

long time to

behind her— for up

buying them, bringing

make

a choice

to the very last

among

day of her

home some new

darling.

the heap of trinkets she had life

she had kept obstinately

thing almost every night— and finally

he resolved to take the big pearl necklace which she used to like the best of all, and which he thought ought certainly to be worth six or eight francs, as it was really very nicely

He vards,

put

it

mounted

for

an imitation necklace.

and walked toward the office, follow ing the boulesome iewelr,-store on the way, where he could enter with

in his pocket,

and looking

for

confidence.

went in; feeling a little ashamed of thus exposing and of trying to sell such a trifling object. "Sir," he said to the jeweler, "please tell me what this is worth." The jeweler took the necklace, examined it, weighed it, took up a magnifying glass, called his clerk, talked to him in whispers, put down the necklace on the counter, and drew back a little bit to judge of its effect at a distance. Finally he saw a place and

his misery,

M. Lantin, feeling ver}' much embarrassed by mouth and began to declare — "Oh! I know when the jeweler interrupted him saying: his

"Well,

cannot

sir,

bu\'

it

that

is

worth between twelve and

unless you can let

me know

all it

these ceremonies, can't be worth

fifteen

exactK' how^

opened

much"

.

thousand francs; but

\ou came by

.

.

I

it."

The widower's eves opened enormoush, and he stood gaping— unable to Then after a while he stammered out: "You said? Are vou sure?"

understand.

.

.

.

"

14 T Guy de Maupassant

The jeweler, misconstruing tone— "Go elsewhere if you very most if

would

you can't do

M. a

I

and see

like,

it is

if

Come

for

back and see

The

it.

me

again,

better."

confused desire to find himself alone and

moment he found

and he muttered

him

you can get any more

thousand.

fifteen

Lantin, feeling perfectly idiotic, took his necklace and departed; obeying

But the

^o

give for

the cause of this astonishment, rephed in a dr\

at his

to himself:

word. Well, well!

chance

to get a

to think.

himself in the street again, he began to laugh,

"The

—a

fool!

jeweler

— oh!

who

what

can't

a fool; If

I

had only taken

paste from real jewelr\'!"

tell

And he entered another jewel r)'-store, at the corner of the Rue de la Paix. The moment the jeweler set eyes on the necklace, he examined — "Hello! know that necklace well — it was sold here! M. Lantin, very nervous, asked: I

"What's "Sir,

I

it

worth?"

sold

it

thousand francs.

for twenty-five

again for eighteen thousand legal presciptions,

how you came

sir. I

The

always thought imtil

"Certainly.

me

now

your name,

My name

of the Interior.

I

live at

is

No.

The merchant opened sent to the address of

And

willing to

buy

it

back

that

it

"Well

said:

was

.

.

.

was

.

.

.

M. Lantin

but please look

at

it

false."

jeweler said:

"Will you give

35

am

into possession of it"— This time,

was simply paralyzed with astonishment. He again,

I

— if you can prove to me satisfactorily, according to

the tuo

men

sir?"

Lantin; 16,

I

Rue

am employed

at the office of the

Minister

des Mart)'rs."

the register, looked, and said: "Yes; this necklace was

Madame

Lantin, 16

Rue

des Martyrs, on July 20th, 1876."

looked into each other's eyes

— the clerk wild with surprise;

the jeweler suspecting he had a thief before him.

The

jeweler resumed:

"Will you be kind enough to lea\e this article here for t\vent\-four hours

40

only— I'll give you a receipt." M. Lanhn stuttered: "Yes-ah!

certainh."

And he went

out folding up the

which he put in his pocket. Then he crossed the street, went the wrong way, found out his mistake, returned bv way of the Tuileries, crossed the Seine, found out he had taken the wrong road again, and went back to the Champs-Elysees without being able to receipt,

get

one clear idea

into his head.

He

tried to reason, to understand. His wife

could never have bought so valuable an object as

that.

Certainly not. But then,

must have been a present! ... A present from whom? What for? He stopped and stood stock-still in the middle of the avenue. She? But then all tho.se A horrible suspicion swept across his mind. Then it seemed to him other pieces of jewelr)' must have been presents also! it

.

.

.

.

.

that the falling

ers

.

.

.

his feet; that a tree, right in front of

toward him; he thrust out his arms instincti\cly, and

fell

him, was

senseless.

rcco\cred his consciousness again in a drug-store to which some bystandhad carried him. He had them lead him home, and he locked himself into

He

45

ground was heaving under

.

The Jewelry t 15 Until nightfall he cried without stopping, biting his handkerchief to keep

himself from screaming out. Then, completely worn out with grief and fatigue,

he went

A

to bed,

and

leaden sleep.

slept a

awakened him, and he rose and dressed himself slowly to go to the office. It was hard to have to work after such a shock. Then he reflected that he might be able to excuse himself to the superintendent, and he wrote to him. Then he remembered he would have to go back to the jeweler's; and ray of sunshine

shame made

He remained

his face purple.

thinking a long time.

he could

Still

not leave the necklace there; he put on his coat and went out. It

make

was it

a fine day; the sky

smile. Strollers

extended

all

blue over the

city,

were walking aimlessly about, with

and seemed to hands in their

their

pockets.

"How

Lantin thought as he watched them passing:

have fortunes! With

money

man

a

lucky the

men

are

who

can even shake off grief— you can go where

you please — travel — amuse yourself! Oh! if I were only rich!" He suddenly discovered he was hungr}'— not having eaten anything since the

50

evening before. But his pockets were empty; and he remembered the necklace.

Eighteen thousand francs! Eighteen thousand francs!

— that

was

a

sum — that

was!

He made

his

way

to the

Rue de

la

Paix and began to walk backward and

forward on the sidewalk in front of the store. Eighteen thousand francs! Twenty times he started to go Still

in;

brusque resolve, and crossed the have time

street

to think over the matter;

As soon

as

almost

jeweler said: "Sir,

ready to pay you

and he rushed

Even

down

made

I

the price

the clerks

I

inquiries;

He made one

not to

let

himself

into the jeweler's.

came forward lips.

and

if

who

signed a

you are

still

so disposed,

am

I

certainly."

jeweler took from a drawer eighteen big to Lantin,

a

to stare at Lantin,

offered you."

"Why, yes— sir,

clerk stammered:

them out

a cent.

at a run, so as

with gaiety in their eyes and smiles about their

The The

back.

he saw him, the merchant hurried forward, and offered him

chair with smiling politeness.

The

him

but shame always kept

he was hungry— very hungry— and had not

little

receipt,

55

bills, ^

and

counted them, and held

thrust the

money

feverishly

into his pocket.

Then,

as

he was on the point of leaving, he turned

chant, and said, lowering his eyes:

which came

to

me

in the

"I

have some



I

to the ever-smiling

mer-

have some other jewelry,

same — from the same inheritance. Would you pur-

chase them also from me?"

The merchant bowed, and answered: "Why,

One as

sir— certainly.

." .

.

hard as he could. Lantin, impassive, flushed and serious, said:

And he

When 3.

certainly,

of the clerks rushed out to laugh at his ease; another kept blowing his nose

"I will

bring

them

to you."

hired a cab to get the jewelry.

he returned

French paper money

to the store,

an hour

60 later,

he had not yet breakfasted.

varies in size; the larger the bill, the larger the

denomination.

16 T Guy de Maupassant the jewelry— piece by piece — putting a value on each. XearK had been purchased from that very house. Lantin, now, disputed estimates made, got angry, insisted on seeing the

They examined all

books, and talked louder and louder the higher the estimates grew.

The

diamond

big

earrings were worth 20,000 francs; the bracelets, 35,000;

the brooches, rings and medallions, 16,000; a set of emeralds and sapphires, 14,000; solitaire,

suspended

to a gold

neckchain, 40,000; the

total

value being

estimated at 196,000 francs.

65

The merchant observed with mischievous good nature: "The person who owned these must have put all her savings into jewelr\'." Lantin answered with gravity: "Perhaps that is as good a way of sa\'ing mone\' as any other." And he went off, after having agreed with the merchant that an expert should make a counter-estimate for him the next day.

When

he found himself

dome'^ with the desire

to

to play leapfrog over the

He

in the street again,

climb

it,

as if

were

it

a

he looked

May

— up there

Emperor's head

at the

He

pole.

blue

in the

Column Ven-

felt jolly

enough

sky.

breakfasted at Voisin's' restaurant, and ordered wine at 20 francs a bottle.

Then he

hired a cab and drove out to the

Bois.*^

He

looked

at the carriages

passing with a sort of contempt, and a wild desire to yell out to the passers-by:

am

rich, too

The



I

am!

I

recollection of the office suddenly

came back

to

walked right into the superintendent's private room, and give you

my

resignation.

sand francs."

them

all

"I

have 200,000 francs!"

I

have

just

come

him.

He

drove there,

said: "Sir,

into a fortune of three

I

come

to

himdred thou-

Then he shook hands all round with his fellow-clerks; and told for a new career. Then he went to dinner at the Cafe

about his plans

Anglais.

Finding himself seated

70

at the

same

table with a

man who seemed

quite genteel, he could not resist the itching desire to air

tell

him, with

to

him

a certain

of coquetry, that he had just inherited a fortune of four hundred thousand

francs.

For the

first

time in his

life

he went

to the theater

without feeling bored by

the performance; and he passed the night in revelry and debauch. Six

months

after

he married again. His second wife was the most upright of

spouses, but had a terrible temper.

She made

Stories are not always written. Ballads still

ing,

are

and even epics were sung, plays are

acted out on the stage, and most cultures have or had oral storytellers. Writ-

however, makes a difference. Oral or dramatic "readings" or performances

communal,

the responses tend to be uniform (though there's always the

person in the audience

who

laughs at the wrong time), and their purpose

Famous column with a statue of Napoleon at known and high-priced restaurant. 6. Large 4.

his life very miserable.

the top. Parisian park

5.

is

Like the Cafe Anglais below, a well-

where the

rich took their outings.

Questions and Writing Suggestions t 17

more

overtly to

move

They have

or persuade the group or communit)'.

a closer

relation to classical rhetoric, political speeches, or concerts than written narrative does.

We

read, usually, alone,

most of the time

silently,

and

if

there are



and there usually are — emotions, they are deeply personal, not shared. There is

and

a tendency, then, in literary criticism,

in reading for

and discussing

liter-

ature in class, to stress interpretation, the "ideas" in literary texts, or the formal structures,

and

to slight

somewhat the emotional

essentially solitar)' literary experience.

or affective aspect of our

But though

it

may be

difficult to

the vocabulary needed to talk about literature— we have to get it"

and

it"— we must never forget the deeply

"I didn't like

literature

engenders and the differences

beyond

stirring

develop "I liked

response that

and depths of response that

in kinds

different works stimulate.

QUESTIONS 1.

What

elry" alert

specific

you

words or phrases

in the first

to the possibility that all

may

two paragraphs of "The Jew-

not be as

it

seems?

How

What new

expectations or fears allayed in the next few paragraphs?

are these

fears or

expectations are aroused very soon thereafter? 2.

in

Since the story

such convenient

How

is

called

titles,

"The Jewelry" and

you may come

does your attitude toward

life

does not

come wrapped M.

to suspect the truth before

Lantin.

him change?

WRITING SUGGESTIONS 1.

Copy "The Zebra

Storyteller."

Exchange papers with

Can you

proofread each other's papers.

fully

a classmate. Care-

believe you could have

made

errors in simple copying? 2.

Stop "The Zebra Storyteller"

in five to ten paragraphs, write 3.

and

paragraph

5

(".

.

.

fit

to

be tied") and,

ending. it

the

same

another recent song.

Write a two- or three-page scene of Jack (from "No One's a Mystery")

his wife at 5.

own

Write a parody or imitation of "No One's a Mystery" giving

title as

4.

after

your

home.

Write an "off-stage" scene that shows

more pieces

of the jewelry.

how

Lantin's

first

wife got one or

^ ^ ^

Understanding the Text PLOT

1

"The Zebra

In

stor\

Story'teller"

you can see the skeleton of the

plot or plot structure. Plot simplv

means

topical short

the arrangement of the

action, an imagined event or a series of such events.

Action usuall) invoKes conflict, a struggle between opposing forces, and often

falls

into

something

like the

same

fi\e parts that

ue

The

tion, rising action, turning point (or climax), falling action, conclusion.

conflict in this

the zebra

little tale is

stor)'teller.

The

between the Siamese cat and the zebras, especially

first

part of the action, called the exposition, intro-

duces the characters, situation, and, usually, time and place. here

is

achieved in three sentences: the time

Africa, the characters a

zebra,

and the

Siamese cat

who

situation their meeting.

plot, the rising action: events that

is

"once upon

is

We

new

ones.

The

first

who

over in a hurry— the zebra

and the zebras' growing

fears

cat's

event here

storyteller: until

change. stor\'

From

is

and consequent

the third part of the

now the

this

are untangled

cat has

had

it

all

stor\',

his

cat.

is "fit

That to

18

for

the meet-

be tied"

con-

is

tied

superstitious belief that

The turning point

or

the appearance of the zebra

wa\ but his luck ,

point on the complications that grew in the

— the zebra stor)teller,

is

initial

continuing success in killing

the ghost of a lion haunts the region preving on zebras.

climax of the action

place

then enter the second part of the

up and eaten. Complications build with the zebras,

exposition

speaks Zebraic and an innocent

ing between an innocent zebra and the Zebraic-speaking

of zebra and cat

The

a," the

complicate the situation and intensif} or

complicate the conflict or introduce

flict

it

find in a play: exposi-

example,

is

is

about

first

to

part of the

not surprised

when

19

Plot

he meets a Siamese cat speaking Zebraic, "because he'd been thinking about that very thing"; this falling action.

which the

The

the fourth part of the

is

ends

story

situation that

was destablized

the Zebraic-speaking cat appeared)

movement

or

conclusion: the point at

beginning of the story (when

at the

becomes

the reverse

stor)',

at the fifth part, the

once more: Africa

stable

once

is

again free of cats speaking the language of zebras.

This typical arrangement of the action of

composing

a story

a narrative or for critical analysis;

on your responses

lectual effect

diately begin building

it

The

as reader.

hme and

images of the

is

not

also has

just a

its

formula

for

emotional and

intel-

imme-

exposition invites you to

place of the action, the people,

the situation, and the issues involved, and even to identify with or root for one or

more of the

participants.

You choose

Siamese cat (though your choice

is

to

be on the side of the zebras or the

guided by the language and

story: the cat speaks "inappropriate" Zebraic, the zebra

cent").

As the situation becomes more complicated during the

you are led

to

guys," are going to get out of the increasingly

more and more (as in

how

be increasingly concerned with

zebras), or,

if

bad situation (the cat eating

rative,

M. Lantin

you become more and more concerned about what

to turn things

around

even

(for

if

sciously

to

cations will unravel,

how

stories grant this sequential

events chronologically.

it

affects

unfolding of

same

has been changed.

When

historical order

historical events,

The

to last).

events but is

one

its

the compli-

the order in

which

many do

crihc's

"The queen died

Most

not describe is

created.

example,

after the

is

not a

king died"

but the order in which they are reported

reader of the

first

sentence focuses on the king

said, the difference in focus

meaning

While

first;

essentially the

and emphasis changes the

as well.

structured into plot.

has

is

disturbed, a plot

died," to use

effect and, in the broadest sense, the

The

how

out.

the reader of the second sentence focuses on the queen.

same thing has been

in nar-

in real life— knock

Consciously or uncon-

you the reader

life's

has not been "tampered with."

includes the

"The Jew-

actions occur one after the other, sequentially.

"The king died and then the queen plot, for

come

everything will

life,

in

going to happen

in the story, trying to anticipate

Another aspect of structure that the events are told. In

and even

in stories

be true or too good

you become involved

is

you do not know about turning points

you know that sometimes things

on wood — seem too good

rising action,

"your" zebras, the "good

the complications of the rising action are positive

the marriage and prosperity and happiness of

elry"),

details of the

introduced as "inno-

is

The

history has

been m-i

ordering of events, then, provides stories with structure and plot, and

consequences

in effect

and meaning. The

first

opportunity' for structur-

20

Plot

ing a story

is

at the

beginning, and beginnings are consequently particularly

Why does

and important.

sensitive

least since the

Big Bang)

a stor}' begin

where

a true beginning; your

is

it

own

you were born and even before you were conceived. So author has to make a selection, the beginning

is

to indicate that for the

a given point rather than

wife.

That

in love as in a net."

and "innocent" way

natural

to

But why not begin with

modified paragraph

a slightly

faults:

her love of the theater, and her passion for

."?

After

father, her

move

happy with

perfectly

all, this last

that gives the story

5:

"M. Lantin was

and smiled

his wife

at

He

false jewelry.

Or

if

how

ing, responding,

the story.

and

It

is

his

emphasized

in the

income; the

girl's

for a

might be useful

the details in these

first

to explain

in this chapter, begins,

from Minneapolis

in

seems

"To begin

point at which a

structure.

ing cat)

A typical

— destabilizes

of one or

typical

when

time, for

as

it

now

for her; Lantin's falling

on your own or

events,

in

an

and "meaning" of

at the

11,

it is

beginning, the airplane

traveling East ran into heavy

when

the

Weeds

are preparing to

baby-sitter; or even, with a

the baby-sitter opens the door and

with their encounter that the story

stor)'

more

ends

is

also a sensitive

and meaningful aspect of

beginning— first sentence (Lantin meets the

discriminated occasion (the

life

15,

would

we might

truly to begin.

The its

girl's

never

eight paragraphs affect your read-

go out on the evening on which Francis meets the

first

beginning

husband

which Francis Weed was

few adjustments, with paragraph

is

why John Cheever's "The Country

weather," rather than with, say, paragraph

Francis sees her for the

shocked

beauty, modest)', respect-

to consider

and understanding of the people,

Or you might want

Husband,"

little

felt

in the unstructured history they

and her mother's search

into a "net."

assigned essay

and so

and what

learn

stands: the class of Lantin

in love as

her two

then "his wife.") These are the earliest events

girl" first,

In searching for a reason for Maupassant's beginning,

ability, poverty,

sen-

the story could begin with the death of the

come

we

first

with her mother to Paris, and so on. (Note that she

in the exposition,

look at what

new

9, inserting a

mentioned first.

envel-

sentence would immediately introduce the jewelry

its title.

given a name, just "the

one

girl

sentence of "The ]ewelr\'" seems a perfectly

first

"M. Lantin was

.

this story

begin a story that will involve Lantin and his

tence:

.

(at

begin a story the

to

purposes of

M. Lantin became

perfecdy happy in his marriage"? or with paragraph

by

event

story begins before

any other. "Having met the

evening, at the house of the office-superintendent,

oped

No

does?

life

first

girl)

or

first

encounter of a zebra with the Zebraic-speak-

the history; something happens that changes the ordinary

characters

and

sets off a

new

course of events, the

ending either reestablishes the old order (no more

story.

A

cats eating zebras.

Plot T 21

no more romantic escapades

for Francis

Weed)

or establishes a

new one

(Lan-

tin remarried). Endings, like beginnings, affect the reader and suggest mean-

ing.

And

like beginnings,

all stories

more

(or

they are arbitrary structures that interrupt history, for

precisely, histories)

about individuals end the same way,

Margaret Atwood somewhat cynically suggests

Mary if

die.

John and Mary

you equate the

ward

as far as

Not

John and Mary die." That

die.

all stories

as

"Happy Endings": "John and is

only true, of course,

story with the history, for the history not only extends back-

you can see but

why

the story. (And

in

not the

also forward to the

lives

end of the

lives

of those in

of their children, grandchildren, and so on?)

end with the deaths of the characters who

interest us; in fact, of

the stories in this and the introductory chapters only Atwood's ends with the

deaths of both

major characters, while "The Zebra Storyteller" ends with

its

Where

the death of the Zebraic-speaking cat.

determining

how

it

a story

and what we make of

affects us

ends goes a long way to

it.

ends with the triumph of the zebra over the Siamese feeling that

good guys win, and with

meaning of the

"No One's

story.

pushes us back into our

who

is

own

about the

moral that leads us

a

Storyteller"

with the

to the "point" or

a Mystery" leaves us without an answer

experiences and beliefs to judge

wrong about the couple's

All questions

"The Zebra

cat, leaving us

who

is

and

right

effect or

from an assumption that we must

meaning of beginnings and endings follow

now

recognize: that there are reasons for the

structures of the narrative, indeed, that in a short story, in part because of brevity, everything

must "count." One

the wall at the beginning of a story,

of events or details the plot, for most

is

and

future.

it

writer has said that

must be

fired

if

there

is

The

by the end.

a

its

gun on

relevance

not limited, however, merely to future action, events in

seem

to

"The Country Husband,"

have relevance in other ways. In paragraph 9 of for

example, Francis

Weed

listens to "the

evening

sounds of Shady Hill." These include a door slamming, the sound of someone cutting grass— which do not lead to events but

may

establish the nature of the

suburban setting— and the sound of someone playing (badly) Beethoven's

"Moonlight Sonata," which may on the one hand, because of the nature of the piece, reinforce into the story,

Weed's thoughtful or dreamy mood or introduce "romance"

and on the other hand, because of the petulant and

performance, show

why Weed

is

dissatisfied with the

ban neighbors, and perhaps suburban in the previous sentence.

The

life.

Notice the "may" and the "perhaps"

relevancy of a detail to a story

is

not always as

simple and incontrovertible as the inevitable shooting of the gun.

ought to

to

be

alert as to

how

self-pitying

shallowness of his subur-

Though you

the details function in affecting you or contributing

your visualization or understanding of the people, incidents, and issues of

22 T Plot the story, there

is

not necessarily a precise answer to the question of how a

Cheever's

detail functions. In cals!

.

.

.

my

Avaunt and quit

would be

lost

without

You may

it?

why does Mr. Nixon shout

stor\,

see the effects

from your classmates; indeed you may not gate at

why

readers respond

or of choosing all

is

and meaningful

or inventing affective

Atwood

details,

"who done

says, the plot

ilar stories,

happened

there

is

"A Rose

earlier; in

an ending that forces us

ending

necessar)', so the

in the fact that

we

of earlier events,

it

know

did not

Sometimes, howe\er, the

tory,

is

its

own

a scene that

"Sonnv's Blues," for example, there

by the word "safe"

There

is

mother. This

is,

many

that

is



what

it

tells

us but

instead of

told.

making you think

order, reaches back into the hisfictional pres-

such a replay or flashback

the

followed by another scene

the end-

we had not been

last



lor

scene from the past triggered

(par. 79), the narrator recalling his father's

is

storv

of the details

happened before the

a ver\ brief

then leads to a specific dramatized scene his

the

realize reinterpretation

anUhing that

we expect

stor)'

a surprise not only in

there was

actually breaks into

rather a series of flashbacks).

one

"just is

to the crime, but to all

to reinterpret

mo\es back;

stor\

and presents or dramatizes

ent. In

is

that

Emily," however, and sim-

for

went before, though while reading we did not

would be

when

At the end, when the detective

in the plot.

you must think back not only

the hints or clues that you have been given. In such a ing to explain what

it,

forced to think back to prior events. In a detec-

is

and not

it,"

on

but also of order-

example, the crime has usually been committed before the

begins, in the history-

that

light

not just a matter of choosing where to begin or end

sometimes the reader

tive story, for

What

differently

understand, and judge stories differently.

to,

the events in between. Sometimes, as

explains

add?

this detail to interro-

thing after another, a what and a what and a what." Even case,

it

and implications

chosen

ha\'e

"Varmints! Ras-

does

These differences of selection and explanation may shed

all.

Structuring a story

ing

What

sight!" at the squirrels?

words, which

time the narrator talked

to

the narrator's conversation

with Sonnv after their mother's funeral. This scene of course follows the previ-

ous one but past,

in

terms of where the

and therefore

tional present for tle

Grace died

is

some time — "I

in the fall

narrator for t\vo weeks,

One

.

.

and

."

it

make

power of curiosit)',

— when

know what

for

stor\-

it is

return to the

Sonny has been

histon,' into plot

the reader read on. This can be

to

fictional present)

the

in the fic-

living with the

proceeds from that point to the end.

the reader's expectations of what will

osity—the desire

Nor does

read about Sonny's trouble in the spring. Lit-

(par. 177)

reason for structuring the

attention, to

began (the

stor\'

in fact a flashback.

is

is

to

engage the reader's

done not only by arousing

happen next but

also by generating curi-

happening or has happened.

example, that keeps us reading intensely

It is

the sheer

when we know

Plot T

Watson or Sherlock Holmes himself at

as little as

But

"case."

not only the detective

it is

m's Blues" begins, antecedent

read about

"I

repeated seven times in the

is

vou

at this point to

w

more than

ill

first

examine what

is

likelv

have framed

.

"it"

it's

up

to the ston' to

make

Perhaps stronger than

is

or

how

Zebra

it

Zebraic

is

with

us curious

curiosit)'

and

will develop,

Even

enough

up

or

which

make 'em

is

suspense— that

and doubt about what

so on).

Even

"The

as

"The Rock-

particular kind of expecta-

is

going to happen next like,

is

be— at

laugh!" he

tells

himself.

possibilities did

(as

what the theme

in reading a little fable like

a cat speaking Zebraic

How many

happen next?

may

a story; after that,

"The

work: a cat speaking

comes up with

killing zebras; the zebra storyteller thinking of plots

idea! That'll

such

a title,

to pick

It

he does, getting

Enormous Wings,"

our minds are— or should

the idea of a story in

will

Man

from expectations about what a character

Stor}'teller"

and you

refer to,

keep us engaged.

tion involving anticipation of

differentiated

might

how and where

reason that Baldw in begins

this

ing-Horse Winner," can

stop. If

for yourself sexeral possible answers.

in the ston', so that \'ou will read on.

"A Very Old

iwo sen-

first

going on in your mind, you more than

be in part for

Stor)'teller,"

"Son-

curiosit)'.

that "it" without

and

two paragraphs and

\ou engaged Zebra

upon our

,"

.

.

paragraph and

first

vou are asking yourself what

find that

likel)- will

paper

Read those

tences of the second paragraph. tr\-

in the

it

the beginning of a stor\ or

that plays

stor\'

23

is

"What an

killing zebras:

Then he meets

cat— what

the

you or can you anticipate? Even

though you now know the ending, vou could go back

to this point in the stor\-

and, recalling vour expectations, reconstruct or reinvent the rest of the story.

Sometimes the suspense happens within the

storv as

when

example,

elry," for

not the end; something eral

pages

and

left

is

generated and defined not so

by what we expect from

it is

going

stories

happen

to

he goes

He

to sell a

is

stor\',

do not go on unless something

is

in her

going bankrupt, he looks over his wife's

piece he finds

it is

"The Jew-

we know

this

going

room

.

.

jewelr\',

not mere costume jewelr\

,

happen.

to .

but

will

her

and when

real.

How

much

sooner than Lantin himself do vou realize the source of the jewelr\?

There

is

a certain satisfaction in seeing the truth before

do vou expect

you expect the If

you were

to

happen next?

story to to

Do

vou anticipate

his

he does. But then what

debauching?

How

did

end?

pause

just before

sant story

and consciously explore

are based

on both

fictional

probablv assume the

is

or be revealed because there are sev-

But what? Lantin grieves so intensely, locks himself ghost return?

by what

stories. In

Lantin's wife dies so early in the

is

much

stor\'

reading the final paragraph of the Maupas-

\'Our expectations,

you would see that these

and actual conventions — indeed, most of us would

could have ended with the word "debauch," without

24

Plot

the final brief paragraph, and that the

within our conventional moral terms

but he will soon

The

can accept

this

even

— he may get bitter pleasures for a time, undone by them.

does not contradict, deepens the irony:

if it

has a truly "upright" wife— and he

now he

We

been betrayed.

of such pleasures or be

tire

paragraph, however,

final

would end with the irony of Lan-

stor\'

tin's getting pleasure out of his having

is

miserable.

Our

conventional

expectations that morality brings happiness, that infidelity and debaucher\ lead

wrenched

to various kinds of ruin, are

but

ery,

immoral? the ston'

into question.

he

better off leading a moral life?

Do

good guys

is

we need

fiilK

We

finish last?

to call

Is

He

has tired of debauch-

the world amoral

do not have

— or even

to believe this,

but to read

our perhaps more optimistic and conventional

views into question. In order to

keep you engaged and

what

tions about

vou must be

a stor\

happen

will

what

or

alert, a stor)

will

at crucial points in the stor\-

is

engaged

your reading

in

for

One

is

to is

you — it gives two versions of what

ends, without resolution.

stor)

fully to

does the pausing and the conscious

stop*-

what might happen next

might happen and then the

respond

and consciously explore what you think

coming. In "No One's a Mystery" the specification of

To

and guess along with the author.

alert to the signals

way of seeing whether and how \our mind pause

must make you ask ques-

be re\ealed next.

(Though not with-

out point; for to suggest that both naivete and cynicism are merely attitudes,

and

that neither

lenge, even fiction

is

Like

is

if it is

an

is

an insight and

not, strictly speaking, a resolution.)

a guessing all

infallible clue to the future,

At

least in

a chal-

one

aspect,

game.

guessing games, from quiz shows to philosophy, the plot

fiction has certain guidelines.

A

game

offering at appropriate points all the necessar}' indications or clues to

happen last

next, not just springing

new and

minute ("Meanwhile, unknown

other side of the well-structured

hill

.

.

."). It is

this

stor}- satisfying or,

stories also offer a

number

to

essential information

playing

when you

fair that

it,

inevitable.

is

to end, in

And though

keeping you

in

many

there

is

though

ine\ita-

usually an overarching action from

is

answered another comes forth

as to the final

— anticipating the outcome

to replace

it,

outcome.

Unlike most guessing games, however, the reward guess

Most

stories there are layers of expectation or suspense,

one question

doubt

the

on the

of reasonable but false signals (red herrings) to get

off the scent, so that in a well-structured stor\' the ending,

so that as soon as

at

just

makes the ending of a

look back on

ble,

beginning

what w ill

on you

our hero, the Marines were

you

also surprising.

in

well-structured plot will play fair with you.

is

not for the right

before the final paragraph

— but for the

num-

25

Plot T

number

ber of guesses, right and wrong, that you make, the

respond

to. If

you are misled by none of the

story— by Sonny's friend saying,

" 'Listen.

" (par. 36), for

start all

over again'

"right,"

but you have missed

pages of a

him out and then

They'll let

example— you may be

many

of signals you

false signals in the early

it'll

just

closer to being

of the implications of the

story. But,

more

important, you have missed the pleasure of learning the "truth" a story has to offer,

and you know how

to learn for yourself,

much

less

through your

meaningful

own

be told something than

to

it is

experience. Fiction

is

way of transmit-

a

ting not just perception but experience.

Though

plot

consequence

is

sant's

in the

can involve meaning

The ending

of

storytelling.

matic change, some revelation. Here

dents tify

ries

human conduct and

We

some kind

usually expect

we may expect

of dra-

Francis to run off with the

and have a violent confrontation with Clayton Thomas. (Many

seem

to

be on the side of Francis and

Anne— until

Cheever

says, in effect,

should not be

like that.

not only that

Though

life is

not like

expectations based

stu-

they are asked to iden-

Francis not with themselves or with story heroes but, say, with their

fathers!)

we

"The Country Husband" may upset your expectations

based on the conventions of

baby-sitter

as well as action, as

worldview suggested by the ending of "The Jewelry." Maupas-

ending upsets our conventional thinking about

morality.

or

happening, and the expectation, surprise, and percep-

tion surrounding plot structure

have seen

outcome

the structuring of events, an event can be an

as well as a

on

that,

own

but that

sto-

social, moral, or

lit-

erary conventions that support the ordinary are not so consciously aroused as

by action and adventure— the kind of expectation described

are those aroused

by the term suspense— their fulfillment, modification, or contradiction nificant it is

aim and

effect of

not merely a game.

many

Many

stories.

Fiction

is

stories seek to give

in part a guessing

new

insights into

ception, experience, meaning, or at least to challenge our sciously held beliefs.

They

truths— even though they resented. But

first

strive to tell truths

"lie"

more

is

a sig-

game, but

human

or less

per-

uncon-

— new, subjective truths, but

about the actuality of the people and events rep-

they have to get your attention, and one way

is

by arousing

your curiosity and exciting your anticipation. That

is

one of the primary func-

what

is

to

tions of plot. Alertness to signals, anticipating

come

next,

and remem-

bering what has been said and signaled earlier are essential to fully appreciating and understanding stories and their structures. That

should function

as a reader

of plot.

is

how you

26

Margaret Atwood

MARGARET ATWOOD Happy Endings John and Mary meet. Wliat happens next? If

A.

you want

a

happy ending,

try A.

John and Man,' fall in love and get married. They both have worthwhile and remunerative jobs which they find stimulating and challenging. They buy a charming house. Real estate values go up. Eventually, when they can afford

The

have two children,

live-in help, they

lenging sex

They

retire.

whom

they are devoted.

and worthwhile friends. They go on fun vacations together. They both have hobbies which they find stimulating and chal-

life

lenging. Eventually they die. This

B.

to

children turn out well. John and Mar)' have a stimulating and chal-

Mar)'

falls in

the

is

end of the

love with John but John doesn't

story.

fall in

love with Mary.

He

and ego gratification of a tepid kind. He comes to her apartment twice a week and she cooks him dinner, you'll notice that he doesn't even consider her worth the price of a dinner out, and after he's eaten the dinner he fucks her and after that he falls merely uses her body

for selfish pleasure

asleep, while she does the dishes so

he won't think

she's untidy,

having

all

those dirty dishes lying around, and puts on fresh lipstick so she'll look

good when he wakes up, but when he wakes up he doesn't even notice, he puts on his socks and his shorts and his pants and his shirt and his tie and his shoes, the reverse order from the one in which he took them off. He

them

doesn't take off Mary's clothes, she takes she's

dving

for

it

off herself, she acts as

but she wants John

to think

she does because

come

surely he'll get used to her, he'll

to

if

they do

later

he turns up

it

enough

often

depend on her and they

married, but John goes out the door with hardly so

and three days

if

every time, not because she likes sex exactly, she doesn't,

much

as a

will get

good-night

and they do the whole thing

at six o'clock

over again. Mar\' gets run-down. Crying and so does Mary but she can't tell

her John

can't believe nicer.

from

is it.

a box, a pit

for

will

emerge

from a prune,

if

your face, ever\one knows that at work notice. Her friends good enough for her, but she

People

he

isn't

Inside John, she thinks,

is

another John,

like a butterfly

the

first

John

is

evening John complains about the food.

about the food before. Mary

Her

bad

stop.

a rat, a pig, a dog,

This other John

One

is

friends

tell

is

is

a

who

is

much

cocoon, a Jack

only squeezed enough.

He

has never complained

hurt.

her they've seen

woman, whose name

from

Madge.

It's

him

in a restaurant with

not even

Madge

another

that finally gets to

Happy Endings Mary:

it's

Mary them and

the restaurant. John has never taken Mar}' to a restaurant.

collects all the sleeping pills a half a bottle of sherry. fact that

27

it's

and

can

aspirins she

You can

see

and

find,

what kind of a

takes

woman

she

by the

is

not even whiskey. She leaves a note for John. She hopes he'll

discover her and get her to the hospital in time and repent and then they

can get married, but

this fails to

happen and she

dies.

John marries Madge and everything continues C.

John,

who

is

an older man,

out.

She sleeps with him even though

him

at

work. She's in love with

he's worried

is

about his hair

who

called James,

only

falling

him. She met

she's not in love with

someone

who

Mary, and Mary,

in love with

falls

him because

twenty-two, feels sorry for

as in A.

twenty-two

is

and not yet ready to settle down. John on the contrary settled down long ago: this is what him. John has a steady, respectable job and is getting ahead also

but Mary

in his field,

who

impressed by him, she's impressed by James,

isn't

motorcycle and a fabulous record collection. But James his motorcycle,

being

free.

Freedom

isn't

the

same

is

bothering

is

has a

away on the mean-

often

for girls, so in

time Mary spends Thursday evenings with John. Thursdays are the only days John can get away.

John is married to a woman called Madge and they have two children, charming house which they bought just before the real estate values went up, and hobbies which they find stimulating and challenging, when they

a

have the time. John

tells

his wife

on about

more than

this

Mary how important she

because a commitment

he can't leave

is

necessary and

is

a

is

Mary

to

him, but of course

commitment. He goes

finds

it

boring, but older

men can keep it up longer so on the whole she has a fairly good time. One day James breezes in on his motorcycle with some top-grade Caliand James and Mary get higher than you'd believe possible and they climb into bed. Everything becomes very underwater, but along comes John, who has a key to Mary's apartment. He finds them stoned and entwined. He's hardly in any position to be jealous, considering Madge,

fornia hybrid

but nevertheless he's overcome with despair. Finally he's middle-aged, in he'll be bald as an egg and he can't stand handgun, saying he needs it for target practice — this

two years

the plot, but

it

can be dealt with

later

— and

it.

is

He

purchases a

the thin part of

shoots the two of

them and

himself.

Madge,

man

after a suitable

called Fred

period of mourning, marries an understanding

and everything continues

as in A,

but under different

names.

D.

Fred and

and

are

Madge have no

good

at

problems.

working out any

charming house

is

They

tidal

that

may

arise.

by the seashore and one day a giant

approaches. Real estate values go down.

caused the

get along exceptionally well

little difficulties

The

rest

wave and how they escape from

of the story it.

They

do,

is

But

their

wave about what tidal

though thou-

John Cheever

28

sands drown, but Fred and Madge are \irtuous and lucky. Finally on high ground they clasp each other, wet and dripping and grateful, and continue as in A.

Yes, but Fred has a bad heart.

E.

The

rest of the story

understanding they both are until Fred

dies.

work until the end of A. If you like, and confused," and "bird watching."

to charity "guilt)-

F.

If

you think

this

is all

it

and see how far end up with A, though

about

kind and

and Mary

a revolutionary

a counterespionage agent

that gets you.

Canada. You'll

in

still

how

devotes herself

can be "Madge," "cancer,"

make John

too bourgeois,

is

Then Madge

Remember,

between you may get a

brawling saga of passionate involvement, a chronicle of our times, You'll have to face

same however you

the endings are the

it,

deluded by any other endings, they're malicious intent to deceive, or

just

all

slice

this

is

lustful

sort

of

Don't be

it.

fake, either deliberately fake, with

motivated by excessive optimism

if

not by

downright sentimentality.

The

only authentic ending

John and Mary

die.

So much

for endings.

ever, are

known

is

the one provided here:

John and Mary

die.

John and Marj'

die.

Beginnings are always more fun. True connoisseurs, howbetween, since

to favor the stretch in

it's

the hardest to do

anything with. That's about after another, a

Now

tr\'

all

that

can be said

what and

How

a

for plots,

what and

which an\-way are

one thing

just

a what.

and Why. 1983

JOHN CHEEVER The Country Husband To begin at the beginning, Weed was traveling East ran witli the

the airplane from Minneapolis in which Francis into heavy weather.

The

sky

had been

a hazv' blue,

clouds below the plane lying so close together that nothing could be

seen of the earth.

The

into a white cloud of

mist began to form outside the windows, and they flew

such

densit)' that

it

reflected the exhaust

fires.

The

color

of the cloud darkened to gray, and the plane began to rock. Francis had been in

heavy weather before, but he had never been shaken up so much.

in the seat beside

smiled killer

at his

him pulled

neighbor, but the

with anyone.

crying.

The

a flask

air in

The man

out of his pocket and took a drink. Francis

man

The plane began

looked away; he wasn't sharing his pain to

drop and flounder wildly.

the cabin was overheated and stale, and Francis'

A

left

child was foot

went

The Country Husband

He

to sleep.

read a

book

a paper

from

little

that he

but the violence of the storm divided his attention.

The

exhaust

fires

had bought

at the airport,

was black outside the

ports.

blazed and shed sparks in the dark, and, inside, the shaded

window curtains gave the cabin an atmosphere of Then the light flickered and went out. "You

the stuffiness, and the

lights,

It

29

t

intense and misplaced domesticity.

know what

I've

man

always wanted to do?" the

beside Francis said suddenly.

New

Hampshire and raise beef cattle." The stewardess announced that they were going to make an emergency landing. All> but the children saw in their minds the spreading wings of the Angel of Death. "I've

always wanted to buy a farm in

The

pilot

could be heard singing

got sixpence to

I've

last

The loud groaning

me

faintly, "I've got sixpence, jolly, jolly sixpence.

my

all

there was a shrieking high in the

on

flat

forward howled,

."' .

There was no other sound.

.

air, like

pilot's

song,

at the back, letting in the

hit

man up

an old

so violently that

"Me kidneys! Me kidneys!" The stewardess flung open

and someone opened an emergency door

and

automobile brakes, and the plane

and shook them

belly in a cornfield

its

life

of the hydraulic valves swallowed up the

the door,

sweet noise

of their continuing mortality— the idle splash and smell of a heavy rain. Anxious for their lives, they filed

out of the doors and scattered over the cornfield in

all

Nothing happened. When it was clear that the plane would not burn or explode, the crew and the stewardess gathered the passengers together and led them to the shelter of a barn. They directions, praying that the thread

were not

far

into the city.

did.

It

little while a string of taxis took them someone said, but there was surprisingly suspiciousness with which many Americans regard their

from Philadelphia, and "It's just like

relaxation of that

little

would hold.

in a

the Marne,^"

fellow travelers. In Philadelphia,

Francis-Wesd got

New

a train to

journey, he crossed the city and caught just as

commuting

He

sat

train that

he took

five nights a

with Trace Bearden. "You know,

It

was a day

Trace listened

to pull out the

Shady

in

was in that plane that in a field

.

.

."

Hill.

just

crashed

He had

traveled

New York was sunny and shapely as an apple. but how could he get excited? Francis had no powers September,

in late

to the story,

as fragrant

him re-create a brush with death— particularly in the atmosphere commuting train, journeying through a sunny countryside where already,

would

of a

home

than the newspapers or the rain, and the weather in

and mild. that

I

to his

"We came down

outside Philadelphia," he said. faster

week

York. At the end of that

was about

it

let

slum gardens, there were

in the

and Francis was

left

signs of harvest.

the platform at Shady Hill and drove in his

Blenhollow neighborhood, where he

Trace picked up

He

his

newspaper,

good night to Trace on secondhand Volkswagen up to the

alone with his thoughts.

said

lived.

The Weeds' Dutch Colonial house was larger than it appeared to be from the driveway. The living room was spacious and divided like Gaul,^ into three parts.

1.

Around an

ell to

the

Song popular with Allied troops

taxicabs

mans.

were requisitioned 3.

to

left as

in

World War

move

Ancient France (Gaul)

one entered from the vestibule was the long

is

II.

troops to the

2.

On

Marne

so described by Julius

September

8, 1914,

over 1,000 Paris

River to halt the encircling Ger-

Caesar

in

The Gallic War.

30 T John Cheever and a bov\l of fruit in the center. The sounds and came from the open kitchen door were appetizing, for Julia Weed was a good cook. The largest part of the living room centered on a fireplace. On the right were some bookshelves and a piano. The room was polished and tranquil, and from the windows that opened to the uest there was some late-summer table, laid for six, with candles

smells that

and as clear as water. Nothing here was neglected; nothing had not been burnished. It was not the kind of household where, after prying open a stuck cigarette box, \'ou would find an old shirt button and a tarnished

sunlight, brilliant

nickel.

The

hearth was swept, the roses on the piano were reflected in the polish

of the broad top, and there was an

Weed,

a pretty girl of nine,

album of Schubert waltzes on

the rack. Louisa

was looking out the western windows. Her young

brother Henry was standing beside her. Her

still

younger brother, Toby, was

studying the figures of some tonsured

of the woodbox. Francis, taking

monks drinking beer on the polished brass off his hat and putting down his paper, was not

consciously pleased with the scene; he was not that reflective. his creation,

and he returned

to

it

It

was

his

element,

with that sense of lightness and strength with

which any creature returns to his home. "Hi, ever\'body," he said. "The plane ." from Minneapolis Nine times out of ten, Francis would be greeted with affection, but tonight the children are absorbed in their own antagonisms. Francis had not finished his sentence about the plane crash before Henry plants a kick in Louisa's behind. Louisa swings around, saying, "Damn youl" Francis makes the mistake of scolding Loui.sa for bad language before he punishes Henrv. Now Louisa turns on her father and accuses him of favoritism. Henrys is always right; she is persecuted and lonely; her lot is hopeless. Francis turns to his son, but the son .

.

him on the ear, which is She hit him on the ear, and she meant to hit him on the ear, because he messed up her china collection. Henry says that this is a lie. Little Toby turns away from the woodbox to throw in some evidence for Louisa. Henr)- claps his hand o\'er little Toby's mouth. Francis separates the two boys but accidentally pushes Toby into the woodbox. Toby begins to cry. Louisa is already crying. Just then, Julia Weed comes into that part of the room where the table is laid. She is a prett\', intelligent woman, and the white in her hair is premature. She does not seem to notice the fracas. "Hello, darling," she savs serenelv to Francis. "Wash your hands, ever\one. Dinner is ready." She strikes a match and lights the six candles in this \ale of tears."* This simple announcement, like the war cries of the Scottish chieftains, only refreshes the ferocity of the combatants. Louisa gives Henr)- a blow on the shoulder. Henr)', although he seldom cries, has pitched nine innings and is tired. He bursts into tears. Little Tob\' discovers a splinter in his hand and begins to howl. Francis says loudly that he has been in a plane crash and that he is Hred. Julia has justification for the kick— she hit

dangerous. Louisa agrees with

appears again from the kitchen and, upstairs

4.

and

Common

tell

Helen

him

first;

she hit

this passionately.

still

that c\er\ thing

is

figurative reference to earthly life (\ale

ignoring the chaos, asks Francis to go ready. Francis

is

valley),

though

is

happy

to go;

it is

liere the tears are literal

like

The Country Husband t

He

31

tell his oldest daughon her bed reading a True Romance magazine, and the first thing Francis does is to take the magazine from her hand and remind Helen that he has forbidden her to buy it. She did not buy it, Helen replies. It was given to her by her best friend, Bessie Black. Everybody reads True Romance. Bessie Black's father reads True Romance. There isn't a girl in Helen's class who doesn't read True Romance. Francis expresses his

getting back to headquarters

company.^

about the airplane crash, but Helen

ter

detestahon of the magazine and then

from the sounds downstairs

Neither Louisa nor Henry has

down on

lying face

plane crash

on

seem

come

and

up the

that

Toby

is

starts to

to the table

is

stairs to his

go

after

Toby is still howling, "Daddy was in a hear about it?" Toby goes

him

Toby. Don't you want

you don't come

to

gently:

now, Toby," Francis

The

send you to bed without any supper."

says,

is ready— although Helen follows him down the

to the table. Little

the floor. Francis speaks to

this afternoon,

crying. "If

look, flies

so.

has seated herself in the candlelight and spread a napkin over her

stairs. Julia

lap.

lying

her that dinner

tells

doesn't

it

planning to

is

is

little

boy

says, "I'll

rises, gives

him

have

to

a cutting

bedroom, and slams the door. "Oh, dear,"

Julia

him. Francis says that she will spoil him. Julia says

ten pounds underweight and has to be encouraged to eat. Winter

coming, and he

will

spend the cold months

Julia goes upstairs. Francis

sits

down

at

in

bed unless he has

the table with Helen. Helen

from the dismal feeling of having read too intently on

room

a fine day,

his dinner. is

suffering

and she gives

She doesn't understand about the plane Shady Hill. Julia returns with Toby, and they all sit down and are served. "Do I have to look at that big, fat slob?" Henr)' says, of Louisa. Everybody but Toby enters into this skirmish, and it rages up and down the table for five minutes. Toward the end, Henry puts his napkin over his head and, tr)'ing to eat that way, spills

her father and the

a jaded look.

crash, because there wasn't a drop of rain in

spinach

dinner lay

over his

all

shirt.

earlier. Julia's

two

tables.

She

Francis asks Julia

guns are loaded

if

for this.

the children couldn't have their

She

cook two dinners and panorama of drudgery in

can't

paints with lightning strokes that

which her youth, her beauty, and her wit have been lost. Francis says that he must be understood; he was nearly killed in an airplane crash, and he doesn't like to

come home

every night to a battlefield.

Now

Julia

is

deeply concerned.

Her voice trembles. He doesn't come home every night to a battlefield. The accusation is stupid and mean. Everything was tranquil until he arrived. She stops speaking, puts down her knife and fork, and looks into her plate as if it is a gulf. She begins to cry. "Poor Mummy!" Toby says, and when Julia gets up from the

table, drying

Mummy,"

he

says.

her tears with a napkin,

"Poor

Mummy!" And

Toby goes

they climb the

to her side.

"Poor

stairs together.

The

other children drift away from the battlefield, and Francis goes into the back

garden for a cigarette and some

It

air.

was a pleasant garden, with walks and flower beds and places

sunset had nearly burned out, but there was

5.

That

is,

like

escaping from combat to relative

safetv'

still

behind the

plenty of

lines.

light.

to

sit.

The

Put into a

32 T John Cheever thoughtful

mood

by the crash and the

sounds of Shady rels in his

bird-feeding station. "Avaunt and quit

Someone was to play the

battle, Francis listened to the

"Moonlight

He

Sonata."''

tempo out the window and played

beneath the

trees like

housemaid— some

to

an appeal

fresh-faced,

it

sight!"

A

door slammed.

lived at the corner,

He

did this nearly every night.

began

threw the

nibato' from beginning to end, like an

lonesomeness, and self-pit\— of ever\'thing

tearful petulance,

was Beethoven's greatness not

my

Donald Goslin, who

cutting grass. I'hen

outpouring of

evening

"Varmints! Rascals!" old Mr. Nixon shouted to the squir-

Hill.

know. The music rang up and down the for love, for tenderness,

homesick

girl

aimed

some

at

from Galwav, looking

it

street

lovelv

snap-

at old

shots in her third-floor room. "Here, Jupiter, here, Jupiter," Francis called to the

Mercers' retriever. Jupiter crashed through the tomato vines with the remains of a felt hat in his

mouth.

Jupiter was an anomaly. His retrieving instincts

of place in

Shady

Hill.

rakehell face. His eyes

He was

and

his

high

spirits

were out

as black as coal, with a long, alert, intelligent,

gleamed with mischief, and he held

his

head high.

It

was

and that used to appear on umbrella handles and walking sticks. Jupiter went where he pleased, ransacking wastebaskets, clotheslines, garbage pails, and shoe bags. He broke up garden parties and tennis matches, and got mixed up in the proces-

the fierce, heavily collared dog's head that appears in heraldr,', in

sional at Christ

Church on Sunday, barking

men

at the

tapestr\-,

in red dresses.^

He

crashed through old Mr. Nixon's rose garden two or three times a day, cutting a

wide swath through the Condesa de lighted his barbecue fire

on Thursday

Sastagos,''

and

nights, Jupiter

as

soon as Donald Goslin

would

get the scent. Noth-

and stones and rude commands only moved him to the edge of the terrace, where he remained, with his gallant and heraldic muzzle, waiting for Donald Goslin to turn his back and reach for ing the Goslins did could drive

the

salt.

fire,

Then he would

him away.

Sticks

spring onto the terrace,

and run away with the Goslins' dinner.

Wrightsons'

Even

German

old Mr.

lift

the steak lightK' off the

Jupiter's days

were numbered. The

gardener or the Farquarsons' cook would soon poison him.

Nixon might put some arsenic

in the

garbage that Jupiter loved.

"Here, Jupiter, Jupiter!" Francis called, but the dog pranced in his

white teeth. Looking

at the

windows of

off,

shaking the hat

his house, Francis

saw that

Julia

had come down and was blowing out the candles. Julia and Francis Weed went out a great deal. Julia was well liked and gregar*

and her love of parties sprang from a most natural dread of chaos and She went through the morning mail with real anxiet\', looking for invitations, and she usuallv found some, but she was insatiable, and if she had gone out seven nights a week, it would not have cured her of a reflecti\e look — the look of someone who hears distant music — for she would always suppose that there was a more brilliant party somewhere else. Francis limited her to two ious,

loneliness.

6.

Beethoven's Sonata Quasi una Fantasia (1802), a famous and frequently sentimentalized piano

composition. 9.

Rather

7.

With

uncommon

intentional

deviations

from

strict

yellow and red roses difficult to grow.

tempo.

8.

Probably the choir.

The Country Husband t 33 week-night the

parties, putting a flexible interpretation

weekend Hke

were

to

a

dory in a gale.

The day

on Friday, and rode through

Weeds

after the airplane crash, the

have dinner with the Farquarsons.

Francis got home late from town, and Julia got the sitter while he dressed, and then hurried him out of the house. The party was small and pleasant, and Francis settled down to enjoy himself A new maid passed the drinks. Her hair was dark, and her face was round and pale and seemed familiar to Francis. He had not developed his memory as a sentimental faculty. Wood smoke, lilac, and other such perfumes did not

appendix— a

escape the past;

it

He might

fully.

taking a walk

stir

him, and

vestigial repository. It

was perhaps

at

on Sunday afternoons, but

memory now. Her

or Irish

— but

it

memory was something

his limitation at all to

his limitation that

have seen the maid

ing his

his

was not

he had escaped

like his

be unable to it

so success-

other parties, he might have seen her in either case

he would not be search-

face was, in a wonderful way, a

was not beautiful enough

to

account

moon

face

— Norman

for his feeling that

he had

she was. Nellie said that the maid had

He come

Normandy — a

small

seen her before, in circumstances that he ought to be able to remember. asked Nellie Farquarson

who

home was Trenon,

through an agency, and that her

in

place with a church and a restaurant that Nellie had once visited. While Nellie

on about her

where he had seen the end of the war. He had left a replacement depot with some other men and taken a three-day pass in Trenon. On their second day, they had walked out to a crossroads to see the public chastisement of a young woman who had lived with the German commandant during the talked

woman

before.

It

travels abroad, Francis realized

had been

at the

Occupation. It

was a cool morning in the

onto the

dirt crossroads a very

could see

how

fall.

The

and poured down They were on high land and

sky was overcast,

discouraging

light.

one another the shapes of the clouds and the hills were as The prisoner arrived sitting on a three-legged farm cart. She stood by the cart while the Mayor read the accusation like

they stretched off toward the sea. stool in a

and the sentence. Her head was bent and her face was set in that empty half smile behind which the whipped soul is suspended. When the Mayor was finished, she undid her hair and let it fall across her back. A little man with a gray mustache cut off her hair with shears and dropped it on the ground. Then, with a bowl of soapy water and a straight razor, he shaved her skull clean. A woman approached and began to undo the fastenings of her clothes, but the prisoner pushed her aside and undressed herself. When she pulled her chemise over her head and threw it on the ground, she was naked. The women jeered; the men

There was no change in the falseness or the plaintiveness of the prisThe cold wind made her white skin rough and hardened the nipples of her breasts. The jeering ended gradually, put down by the recognition of their common humanity. One woman spat on her, but some inviolable granwere

still.

oner's smile.

deur in her nakedness lasted through the ordeal. she turned

— she

black shoes and stockings, lage.

The round

When

the crowd was quiet,

cry— and, with nothing on but a pair of worn walked down the dirt road alone away from the vil-

had begun

to

white face had aged a

little,

but there was no question but that

34 T John Cheever maid who passed his cocktails and later sened Francis woman who had been pimished at the crossroads. The war seemed now so distant and that world where the

tell

torture so long ago. Francis

have been a social as well as living

war of

room seemed united

— that there

human The

a

human

this

in the

Farquarsons'

claim that there had been no

was no danger or trouble

arrangements,

The people

error.

in their tacit

place, but the atmosphere of lite.

cost of partisanship

had lost track of the men who in Vesey. He could not count on Julia's discretion. He could anyone. And if he had told the story now, at the dinner table, it would

had been death or had been with him not

dinner was the

his

the

languid;

went

dilated. Julia

it

no

extraordinary meeting would have fallen into

Shady

made

Hill

the

memory unseemly and impo-

prisoner withdrew after passing the coffee, but the encounter

cis feeling

past,

in the world. In the recorded history

had opened

his

memon' and

his senses,

and

left

Fran-

left

them

into the house. Francis stayed in the car to take the sitter

home. Expecting to see Mrs. Henlein, the old lady

who

usually sta)ed with the

opened the door and came out onto the lighted stoop. She stayed in the light to count her textbooks. She was frowning and beautiful. Now, the world is full of beautiful young girls, but Francis saw here the difference between beaut) and perfection. All those endearing flaws, moles, birthmarks, and healed wounds were missing, and he experienced in his consciousness that moment when music breaks glass, and felt a pang of children, he was surprised

when

a

young

girl

recognition as strange, deep and wonderful as anything in his

hung from him she came down

life. It

her frown, from an impalpable darkness in her face—-a look that impressed as a direct appeal for love.

When

opened the car door. and shut the door.

the steps and

She got

in

she had counted her books,

In the light, he saw that her cheeks were wet.

"You're new," Francis said.

Henlein is sick. I'm Anne Murchison." "Did the children give you any trouble?" "Oh, no, no." She turned and smiled at him unhappily "Yes. Mrs.

light.

Her

to set

it

light hair

caught on the collar of her

jacket,

in the

dim dashboard

and she shook her head

loose.

"You've been

cr\'ing."

"Yes." "I

hope

"It's

no

was nothing that happened

it

"No, no,

Everybody

secret.

just called

me

in the village

our house."

in

your house." Her voice was bleak.

knows. Daddy's an alcoholic, and he

me a piece of his Weed came back."

from some saloon and gave

He

I'm immoral.

in

was nothing that happened

it

called just before Mrs.

mind.

He

thinks

"I'm sorry."

"Oh, Lordl" She gasped and began he took her

in his

embrace, and

this

arms and

let

her

to cry. ct\'

movement accentuated

on

layers of their clothing felt thin,

to diminish,

was so

much

like a

tvirned toward Francis,

She shook

in

and his

his sense of the fineness of her flesh

and bone. The it

She

his shoulder.

and when her shuddering began lost his head

paroxysm of love that Francis

The Country Husband t 35 and pulled her roughly against him. She drew away. "I live on Belleview Avenue," she said. "You go down Lansing Street to the railroad bridge." "All right."

"You turn

on toward the

The

He

started the car.

left at

that traffic light.

.

.

.

Now you turn

and go

right here

straight

tracks."

road Francis took brought

him out

of his

own neighborhood,

across the

and toward the river, to a street where the near-poor lived, in houses whose peaked gables and trimmings of wooden lace conveyed the purest feelings of pride and romance, although the houses themselves could not have offered much privacy or comfort, they were all so small. The street was dark, and, stirred tracks,

by the grace and beauty of the troubled have

come

he saw

a

into the deepest part of

porch

light burning.

It

light into a

clothes tree. "Well, here

we

he seemed,

in turning into

it,

to

In the distance,

was the only one, and she said that the house

with the light was where she lived.

beyond the porch

girl,

some submerged memory.

When

he stopped the

car,

he could see

dimly lighted hallway with an old-fashioned

are,"

he

said,

conscious that a young

man would

have said something different.

She did not move her hands from the books, where they were

folded,

and

she turned and faced him. There were tears of lust in his eyes. Determinedly—

not sadly— he opened the door on his side and walked around to open hers.

He

took her free hand, letting his fingers in between hers, climbed at her side the

two concrete

steps,

dahlias, marigolds,

and went up a narrow walk through a front garden where and roses— things that had withstood the light frosts— still

bloomed, and made

a bittersweet smell in the night air.

her hand and then turned and kissed

him

swiftly.

At the

Then

steps,

she freed

she crossed the porch

and shut the door. The porch light went out, then the light in the hall. A second later, a light went on upstairs at the side of the house, shining into a tree that was still covered with leaves. It took her only a few minutes to undress and get into bed, and then the house was dark. Julia was asleep when Francis got home. He opened a second window and

shut— as soon as he had dropped off to sleep— the girl entered his mind, moving with perfect freedom through its shut doors and filling chamber after chamber with got into bed to shut his eyes on that night, but as soon as they were

her

light,

her perfume, and the music of her voice.

with her on the old Mauretania^ and,

woke from

his

later, living

He was

crossing the Atlantic

When he open window. something he desired to

with her in Paris.

dream, he got up and smoked a cigarette

Getting back into bed, he cast around in his mind for

at the

would injure no one, and he thought of skiing. Up through the dimness rose the image of a mountain deep in snow. It was late in the day. Wherever his eyes looked, he saw broad and heartening things. Over his shoulder, there was a snow-filled valley, rising into wooded hills where the trees do

that

in his

mind

dimmed

the whiteness like a sparse coat of hair.

but the loud, iron clanking of the

lift

The cold deadened The light on the

machinery.

all

sound

trails

l.The original Mauretania (1907-1935), sister ship of the Lusitania, which was sunk by mans in 1915, was the most famous transatlantic liner of its day.

was

the Ger-

30

36 T John Cheever blue, and

it

was harder than

turns, harder to judge

it

had been

a

minute or two

earlier to pick the

— now that the snow was all deep blue — the crust, the Down

ice,

mountain he swung, matching his speed against the contours of a slope that had been formed in the first ice age, seeking with ardor some simplicity of feeling and circumstance. Night fell then, and he drank a Martini with some old friend in a dirt\- country'

the bare spots, and the deep piles of dr\' powder.

the

bar.

In the morning, Francis' snow-covered

mountain was gone, and he v\as left He had been bitten

with his vivid memories of Paris and the Mauretania. gravely.

He washed his The

body, shaved his jaws, drank his coffee, and missed the

out just as he brought his car to the station, and the longing he felt for the coaches as they drew stubbornly away from him reminded him of the humors of love. He waited for the eight-two, on what was now an empts platform. It was a clear morning; the morning seemed thrown like a gleaming bridge of light over his mixed affairs. His spirits were feverish and high. The image of the girl seemed to put him into a relationship to the world that was mysterious and enthralling. Cars were beginning to fill up the parking lot, and he noticed that those that had driven down from the high land seventv-thirty-one.

train pulled

above Shady Hill were white with hoarfrost. This thrilled

down cars

him. .\n express train— a night

first

clear sign of

autumn

from Buffalo or Albany— came

train

the tracks between the platforms, and he saw that the roofs of the foremost

were covered with

a skin of ice. Struck

by the miraculous physicalness of

everything, he smiled at the passengers in the dining car,

who could

be seen

mouths with napkins as thev traveled. The sleepingcar compartments, with their soiled bed linen, trailed through the fresh morning eating eggs and wiping their

rooming-house windows. Then he saw an extraordinan- thing; at one of the bedroom windows sat an unclothed woman of exceptional beauty, combing her golden hair. She passed like an apparition through Shady Hill, combing and combing her hair, and Francis followed her with his eyes until she was out of sight. Then old Mrs. Wrightson joined him on the platform and like a string of

began

to talk.

"Well,

I

me

guess you must be surprised to see

my window

here the third morning in a

becoming a regular commuter. The curtains I bought on Monday I returned on Tuesday, and the curtains I bought Tuesday I'm returning toda\ On Monday, I got exactly what I wanted — it's a wool tapestry with roses and birds— but when I got them home, I found the\ were the wrong length. Well, I exchanged them yesterday, and when I got them home, I found they were still the wrong length. Now I'm praying to high heaven that the decorator will have them in the right length. because you know my house, you know my living-room windows, and you can imagine what a problem they present. I don't know what to do with them." "I know what to do with them," Francis said. "What?" "Paint them black on the inside, and shut up." There was a gasp from Mrs. Wrightson, and Francis looked down at her to be sure that she knew he meant to be rude. She turned and walked awav from row," she said, "but because of

curtains I'm

.

The Country Husband him, so damaged as

light

if

in spirit that she limped.

A

37

wonderful feeling enveloped him,

were being shaken about him, and he thought again of Venus combing

and combing her hair as she drifted through the Bronx. The realization of how many years had passed since he had enjoyed being deliberately impolite sobered him. Among his friends and neighbors, there were brilliant and gifted people — he saw that— but many of them, also, were bores and fools, and he had made the mistake of listening to them all with equal attention. He had confused a lack

seemed general and

of discrimination with Christian love, and the confusion

He was

destructive.

grateful to the girl for this bracing sensation of indepen-

dence. Birds were singing— cardinals and the

of the robins.

last

The

sky shone

enamel. Even the smell of ink from his morning paper honed his appetite

like

and the world

for life, If

that

was spread out around him was plainly a paradise.

some hierarchy of

Francis had believed in

love

— in

armed with

spirits

hunting bows, in the capriciousness of Venus and Eros^— or even in magical potions, philters,

and

stews, in scapulae

and quarters of the moon,' it might spirits. The autumnal

have explained his susceptibility and his feverish high

middle age are well publicized, and he guessed that he was face

loves of

with one of these, but there was not a trace of

wanted the

to sport in the

autumn

in

what he

to face

felt.

He

green woods, scratch where he itched, and drink from

same cup.

morning— she went to a psychiatrist came in, Francis wondered what advice

His secretary, Miss Rainey, was late that three mornings a

would have

a psychiatrist life

something

lead

him

week— and when

like the

for

she

him. But the

girl

promised

sound of music. The realization

to

bring back into his

that this

straight to a trial for statutory rape at the countr}'

music might

courthouse collapsed

The photograph of his four children laughing into Gay Head reproached him. On the letterhead of his

on

his happiness.

the camera

the beach at

firm there was

a

drawing of the Laocoon,'^ and the figure of the

of the snake appeared to

He had lunch friends

him

to

priest

and

his sons in the coils

have the deepest meaning.

with Pinky Trabert. At a conversational level, the mores of his

were robust and

come down on them

all

elastic,

— on

but he knew that the moral card house would

Julia

and the children

as well



if

he got caught

taking advantage of a baby-sitter. Looking back over the recent history of Shady

some precedent, he found

There was no turpitude; had not even been a breath of scandal. Things seemed arranged with more propriety even than in Hill for

there was none.

there had not been a divorce since he lived there; there

the

Kingdom

of Heaven. After leaving Pinky, Francis went to a jeweler's and

How happy this clandestine purchase made him, how and comical the jeweler's clerks seemed, how sweet the women who passed at his back smelled! On Fifth Avenue, passing Atlas with his shoulders

bought the

girl a bracelet.

stuffy

The Roman name for the goddess of love (Greek Aphrodite) and the Greek name for her son (Roman Cupid). 3. Love-inducing and predictive magic. Scapulae: shoulderblades or bones of the back. 4. Famous Greek statue, described here, now in the Vatican museum; the "meaning" 2.

for

Weed seems

to reside in the physical struggle, not in the

legend

wooden

horse).

sons were punished for warning the Trojans about the

(in

which the

priest

and

his

John Cheever

38

bent under the weight of the world,"" Francis thought of the strenuousness of containing his physicalness within the patterns he had chosen.

He

40

pocket

her in the

door

know when he would see the girl next. He had the bracelet in when he got home. Opening the door of his house, he found hall. Her back was to him, and she turned when she heard the Her smile was open and loving. Her perfection stunned him like a

did not

his inside

close.

dav— a dav

fine

after a

He

thunderstorm.

seized her and covered her lips with

and she struggled but she did not have to struggle for long, because just then little Gertrude Flannen, appeared from somewhere and said, "Oh, Mr. his,

Weed

..."

Gertrude was a did not have

who

did not

it

know

was the child of a This was not

She had been born with

stra\'.

her to center her

in

a taste for exploration,

and she

with her affectionate parents. People

the Flanner\s concluded from Gertrude's behavior that she

famih, where drunken quarrels were the

bitterly di\ided

true.

life

The

fact that little

rule.

Gertrude's clothing was ragged and thin

was her own triumph over her mother's struggle

to dress

her warmly and neatly.

Garrulous, skinny, and unwashed, she drifted from house to house around the

BlenhoUow neighborhood, forming and breaking alliances based on an attachment to babies, animals, children her own age, adolescents, and sometimes adults. Opening vour front door in the morning, you would find Gertrude sitting on your stoop. Going into the bathroom to sha\e, you would find Gertrude using the

toilet.

Looking

into your son's crib,

you would find

looking further, \ou would find that Gertrude had pushed

She was

riage into the next village.

him

it

empt\-, and,

baby carand loyal. go arrived, she was in his

helpful, pervasive, honest, hungrv',

She never went home of her own choice. When the time to indifferent to all its signs. "Go home, Gertrude," people could be heard saying in one house or another, night after night. "Go home, Gertrude. It's time for you to go home now, Gertrude." 'Tou had better go home and get your supper, Gertrude." "I told you to go home twenty minutes ago, Gertrude." "Your mother will be worrying about you, Gertrude." "Go home, Gertrude, go home." There are times when the lines around the human eye seem like sheKes of eroded stone and when the staring eye

animal feeling that we are

itself .strikes

us with such a wilderness of

The look Francis ga\e the little girl was ugl\ He reached into his pockets — his hands were "Go home, Gertrude, go home, and don't tell

at a loss.

and queer, and it frightened her. shaking— and took out a quarter.



He choked and ran into the living room as Julia down to him from upstairs to hurry and dress. The thought that he would drive Anne Murchison home later that night ran

anyone, Gertrude. Don't

"

called

like a to,

golden thread through the events of the part) that Francis and Julia went

and he laughed uproariously

told

him about

grunted

like

man

anv other

bracelet was in his pocket.

5.

In

at dull jokes, dried a tear

when Mabel Mercer

the death of her kitten, and stretched, yawned, sighed, and

Greek legend the Titan

with a rendezvous at the back of his mind.

.\s

he

sat talking, the

Atlas supfwrted the heavens

depicted as bearing the globe; the statue

is

The

smell of grass was in his nose,

on

his shoulders but has

at Rockefeller Center.

come

to

be

The Country Husband t 39 arid

he was wondering where he would park the

car.

Nobody hved in the old Townsend Street last house. The old lane

Parker mansion, and the driveway was used as a lovers' lane.

was a dead end, and he could park there, beyond the that used to

connect

walked there with

brushwoods

to

Elm

Street to the riverbanks

his children,

and he could

was overgrown, but he had

drive his car

deep enough into the

be concealed.

The Weeds were the last to leave the party, and their host and hostess spoke own married happiness while they all four stood in the hallway saying

of their

good

night. "She's

my

girl," their

sky. After sixteen years,

I

host said, squeezing his wife. "She's

bite her shoulders.

still

She makes

me

my

blue

Hanni-

feel like

bal crossing the Alps.^"

The Weeds drove home and

sat

still,

in silence. Francis

brought the car up the driveway

with the motor running. "You can put the car in the garage," Julia

Murchison

said as she got out. "I told the

girl

she could leave at eleven. Some-

one drove her home." She shut the door, and Francis be spared nothing then,

it

seemed, that

a fool

sat in

jealousy, this hurt to his feelings that put tears in his eyes,

could see clearly the image he

wheel and

head buried

his

in

now

them

He would

even scorn— for he

presented, his arms spread over the steering for love.

Francis had been a dedicated Boy Scout

bering the precepts of his youth, he

the dark.

was not spared: ravening lewdness,

when he was young,

left his office early

and,

remem-

the next afternoon

and

played some round-robin squash, but, with his body toned up by exercise and a

shower, he realized that he might better have stayed at his desk.

It

was a

frosty

home. The air smelled sharply of change. When he stepped into the house, he sensed an unusual shr. The children were in their best clothes, and when Julia came down, she was wearing a lavender dress and her diamond sunburst. She explained the stir: Mr. Hubber was coming at seven to take their photograph for the Christmas card. She had put out Francis' blue suit and a tie with some color in it, because the picture was going to be in color this night

when he

year. Julia ft

got

was lighthearted

at

the thought of being photographed for Christmas,

was the kind of ceremony she enjoyed.

Francis went upstairs to change his clothes. He was tired from the day's work and hred with longing, and sitting on the edge of the bed had the effect of deepening his weariness. He thought of Anne Murchison, and the physical need to express himself, instead of

ing table, engulfed him.

being restrained by the pink lamps of Julia's dress-

He went

to Julia's desk,

took a piece of writing paper,

." No and began to write on it. "Dear Anne, I love you, I love you, I love you one would see the letter, and he used no restraint. He used phrases like "heavenly bliss," and "love nest." He salivated, sighed, and trembled. When Julia .

called

him

opened Julia

6.

so

to

come down,

wide that he

the abyss between his fantasy and the practical world

felt

it

affected the muscles of his heart.

and the children were on the

The Carthaginian

.

stoop,

general (274-183 B.C.) attacked the

considered impregnable, with the use of elephants.

and the photographer and

Romans from

his

the rear by crossing the Alps,

45

40 T John Cheever had

assistant

set

up

a

double

batten, of floodlights to

show the family and the

who had come home Weeds being photographed for their

architectural beauty of the entrance to their house. People

on

a late train slowed their cars to see the

A

Christmas card.

few waved and called

smiling and wetting their lights

made an

lips

to the family.

It

took half an hour of

Hubber was satisfied. The heat of the frost)' air, and when they were turned off,

before Mr.

unfresh smell in the

they lingered on the retina of Francis' eyes. Later that night, while Francis and Julia were drinking their coffee in the

room, the doorbell rang. Julia answered the door and let in Clayton Thomas. He had come to pay for some theatre tickets that she had given his mother some time ago, and that Helen Thomas had scrupulously insisted on paying for, though Julia had asked her not to. Julia invited him in to have a cup living

won't have any coffee," Clayton said, "but

of coffee.

"I

minute."

He

and

awkwardly

sat

I

will

come

in for a

followed her into the living room, said good evening to Francis, in a chair.

Cla\ton's father had been killed in the war, and the young man's father-

50

surrounded him

lessness

an element. This

like

may have been conspicuous

in

because the Thomases were the only family that lacked a piece; all the other marriages were intact and productive. Clayton was in his second or third year of college, and he and his mother lived alone in a large house, which

Shady

Hill

she hoped to

Clayton had once

sell.

made some

some money and run away; he had

stolen

trouble. Years ago,

he had

got to California before they caught

up with him. He was tall and homely, wore hornrimmed glasses, and spoke in deep voice. "When do you go back to college, Clayton?" Francis asked. "I'm not going back," Clayton said. "Mother doesn't have the money, and there's no sense in all this pretense. I'm going to get a job, and if we sell the

a

house, we'll take an apartment in

"Won't you miss Shady "No," Clayton 55

"Why

said. "I don't like

lot

here

I

don't approve of," Clavton said gravely. "Things

club dances. Last Saturday night,

Mr. Granner trying

"It

it."

not?" Francis asked.

"Well, there's a like the

drunk.

New York."

Hill?" Julia asked.

to

disapprove of so

I

I

looked

in

toward the end and

put Mrs. Minot into the trophy case.

much

saw-

They were both

drinking."

was Saturday night," Francis

said.

"And the way people clutter up their lives. I've thought about it a lot, and what seems to me to be really wrong with Shady Hill is that it doesn't have any future. So much energy is spent in perpetuating the place — in keeping out undesirables, and so forth — that the only idea of the future anyone has is just more and more commuting trains and more parties. 1 don't think that's healthy. I think people ought to be able to dream big dreams about the future. I think people ought to be able to dream great dreams." "And

"It's

60

"I

all

the dovecotes are phony," Clayton said.

too bad you couldn't continue with college," Julia said.

want

to

go

to divinit}' school,"

Clayton

said.

The Country Husband t 41 "What's your church?" Francis asked. "Unitarian, Theosophist, Transcendentahst, Humanist,"' Clayton said.

"Wasn't Emerson a transcendentalist?" Juha asked. "I

mean

the

Enghsh transcendentahsts," Clayton

said. "All the

American

transcendentalists were goops."

"What kind

of job do you expect to get?" Francis asked.

65

work for a publisher," Clayton said, "but everyone tells me there's nothing doing. But it's the kind of thing I'm interested in. I'm writing a long verse play about good and evil. Uncle Charlie might get me into a bank, "Well,

and

that

forming

ought

I'd like to

would be good

my

character.

vows of

to take

for I

me.

silence.

pline myself. I've thought of teries,

but

I

I

need the

have some I

discipline.

terrible habits.

ought

making

to try not to

a retreat at

I

I

have a long way to go in

much.

talk too

I

think

I

speak for a week, and disci-

one of the Episcopalian monas-

don't like Trinitarianism."

"Do you have any

friends?" Francis asked.

girl

"I'm engaged to be married," Clayton said. "Of course, I'm not old enough

enough

or rich I

have

to

my engagement

bought a simulated emerald

cutting lawns this

observed or respected or anything, but

Anne Murchison

for

summer. We're going

to

money

with the

be married

as

soon

as

I

made

she finishes

school."

Francis recoiled at the mention of the

seemed chairs

to

emanate from

his spirit,

— in their true colorlessness.

"We're going

rummy, and

I've

to

It

girl's

was

like a bitter turn of the

have a large family," Clayton

had

my

name. Then

a dingy light

showing everything— Julia, the boy, the said.

"Her

hard times, and we want to have

lots

weather.

father's a terrible

of children.

70

Oh,

Mr. and Mrs. Weed, and we have so much in common. We same things. We sent out the same Christmas card last year without planning it, and we both have an allergy to tomatoes, and our eyebrows grow she's wonderful, like all the

together in the middle. Well, goodnight." Julia

went

to the

door with him.

When

she returned, Francis said that Clay-

ton was lazy, irresponsible, affected, and smelly. Julia said that Francis

seemed

Thomas boy was young and should be

given a

to

be getting intolerant; the

chance. Julia had noticed other cases where Francis had been short-tempered. "Mrs. Wrightson has asked everyone in Shady Hill to her anniversary party but us," she said.

"I'm sorry, Julia."

"Do you know why

they didn't ask us?"

"Why?" "Because you insulted Mrs. Wrightson."

"Then you know about

75

it?"

"June Masterson told me. She was standing behind you." Julia

knew,

walked

7. All are deviations

though tended

in front of the sofa with a small step that expressed, Francis

a feeling of anger.

to

to be more man- than God-oriented, American transcendentalists (see below)

from orthodox Christianity and tend

their differences hardly

seem

reconcilable; the

change the emphasis from the study of thought

to belief in "intuition."

John Cheever

42

did insult Mrs. Wrightson, Julia, and

"I

and I'm glad she's dropped "What about Helen?"

80

"How

come

does Helen

I

meant

to.

I've

never liked her

us."

parties,

into this?"

"Mrs. Wrightson 's the one

who

decides

who

'Tou mean she can keep Helen from going

goes to the assemblies." to the

dances?"

"Yes."

hadn't thought of that."

"I

85

"Oh. this

knew you hadn't thought

I

chink of his armor. "And

it

of

Julia cried, thrusting hiltdeep into

it,"

me

makes

furious to see this kind of stupid

thoughtlessness wreck everyone's happiness." don't think I've wrecked anyone's happiness."

"I

"Mrs. Wrightson runs Shady Hill and has run don't

know what makes you

ever)'

impulse you have

toward the

you, Francis

be insulting, vulgar, and offensive."

Weed!"

worked hard

in the face. "I've I

I

said, trying to give the

evening a turn

light.

"Damn

90

to

have very good manners," Francis

"I

for the last forty years.

it

think that in a communit\- like this you can indulge

Julia cried,

won't stand by and see you wreck

settled here that

you couldn't expect

"I've got to express

my

likes

"You can conceal your like a child.

and the

for the social position

and

dislikes.

spit of

him

her words struck

we enjoy

in this place,

and

You must have understood when you

it.

bear in a cave."

to live like a

dislikes."

You

don't have to

meet everything head on, It's no accident that we

Unless you're anxious to be a social leper.

It's no accident that Helen has so many friends. How would you like to spend your Saturday nights at the movies? How would you like to spend your Sunday raking up dead leaves? How would you like it if your daughter spent the assembly nights sitting at her window, listening to the music

get asked out a great deal!

How would

from the club? all,

you

like

it—"

He

did something then that was, after

not so unaccountable, since her words seemed to raise up between them a

wall so

deadening that he gagged. He struck her

full in

the face. She staggered

and then, a moment later, seemed composed. She went up the stairs to room. She didn't slam the door. When Francis followed, a few minutes he found her packing "Julia, "It

95

doesn't matter," she said.

don't know.

"I

York.

"You "I

a suitcase.

I'm very sorry."

"Where do you

New

I'll

She was

crying.

think you're going?" I

just

looked

at a timetable.

There's an eleven-sixteen into

take that."

can't go, Julia."

can't stay.

I

know

that."

"I'm sorry about Mrs. Wrightson, Julia, and I'm 100

"It

doesn't matter about Mrs. Wrightson. That

"What

their later,

is

the trouble?"

"You don't love me." "I do love you, Julia."

—"

isn't

the trouble."

The Country Husband t 43 "No, you don't." "Julia, I do love you, and and dark— but now there are "You hate me." "I

I

would

so

many

like to

be

as

we were— sweet and bawdy

105

people."

don't hate you, Julia."

"You have no idea of how much you hate me.

I

think

it's

subconscious.

You

don't realize the cruel things you've done."

"What cruel things, Julia?" "The cruel acts your subconscious

drives

you

to in order to express

your

no

hatred of me."

"What, Julia?" "I've never complained." "Tell me."

"You don't know what you're doing." "Tell me." "Your clothes." "What do you mean?" "I mean the way you leave your dirty clothes around subconscious hatred of me." "I

don't understand."

"I

mean your

and your

dirty socks

dirty shirts!"

She

115

in order to express

your

and your dirty pajamas and your dirty underwear from kneeling by the suitcase and faced him,

rose

her eyes blazing and her voice ringing with emotion. "I'm talking about the fact that you've never learned to

hang up anything. You

just leave

over the floor where they drop, in order to humiliate me.

She

fell

on the bed, sobbing. he said, but when she

"Julia, darling!"

"Leave closet

me

alone," she said.

and came back with

"I

have

felt his

to go."

a dress. "I'm not taking

your clothes

You do

it

all

on purpose!"

hand on her shoulder she got She brushed

past

him

to the

any of the things you've given

me, she said. "I'm leaving my pearls and the fur jacket." "Oh, Julia!" Her figure, so helpless in its self-deceptions, bent over the "

suit-

She did not understand how desolate her life would be without him. She didn't understand the hours that working women have to keep. She didn't understand that most of her friendships existed within the framework of their marriage, and that without this she would find herself alone. She didn't understand about travel, about hotels, about money. "Julia, I can't let you go! What you don't understand, Julia, is that you've come to be dependent on me." She tossed her head back and covered her face with her hands. "Did you say that I was dependent on you?" she asked. "Is that what you said? And who is it that tells you what time to get up in the morning and when to go to bed at night? Who is it that prepares your meals and picks up your dirty clothes and invites your friends to dinner? If it weren't for me, your neckties would be greasy and your clothing would be full of moth holes. You were alone when I met you, Francis Weed, and vou'll be alone when I leave. When Mother asked vou for a case

made him

nearly sick with pity.

120

44 T John Cheever list

send out invitations to our wedding,

to

how

names

nian\

did \ou have to

give her? Fourteen!"

my home, Julia." "And how many of your friends came "Cleveland wasn't my home, Julia." "Cleveland wasn't

125

to the

church? Two!"

"Since I'm not taking the fur jacket," she said quietly, "you'd better put

it

back into storage. There's an insurance policy on the pearls that comes due in Januar\'. The name of the laundry and maid's telephone number— all those things are in

nothing bad

my will

desk.

hope you won't drink too much, Francis. 1 hope to you. If you do get into serious trouble, you can

1

happen

that call

me."

"Oh,

He

"I

130

mv

darling,

I

can't let

you go!" Francis

said. "I can't let

you go,

Julia!"

took her in his arms. guess

Riding the coach. in the city,

I'd

to

and take care of you

better stay

work

He was

in the

morning, Francis

surprised;

while longer," she

walk

down

said.

the aisle of

he hadn't realized that the school she went

to

was

but she was carrying books, she seemed to be going to school. His

surprise delayed his reaction, but then aisle.

for a little

saw^ the girl

Several people had

he got up clumsily and stepped

come between them, but he could

into the

see her ahead of

someone to open the car door, and then, as the train swer\ed, hand to support herself as she crossed the platform into the next car. He followed her through that car and halfway through another before call— "Anne! Anne!" — but she didn't turn. He followed her into still ing her name another car, and she sat down in an aisle seat. Coming up to her, all his feelings warm and bent in her direction, he put his hand on the back of her seat— even this touch warmed him — and leaning down to speak to her, he saw that it was not Anne. It was an older woman wearing glasses. He went on deliberately into another car, his face red with embarrassment and the much deeper feeling of having his good sense challenged; for if he couldn't tell one person from another, what evidence was there that his life with Julia and the children had as^ much reality as his dreams of iniquity in Paris or the litter, the grass smell, and him, waiting

for

putting out her

the cave-shaped trees in Lovers' Lane.

Late that afternoon, Julia called to remind F^rancis that they were going out for dinner.

A few minutes later. Trace

"I'm calling for Mrs. Thomas.

seem able



Bell

I

to get a job,

know

Charlie would "Trace,

I

I

called. "Look, fellar,"

that

boy of

wondered if you could help. If you'd you — and say a good word for the

It's

said.

call

kid,

Charlie I

think

—"

hate to say this," Francis said, "but

The

kid's worthless.

Any kindness done

for

him would

I

know

it's

I

don't feel that

I

can do any-

a harsh thing to say, but

it's

a

backfire in everybody's face. He's just a

worthless kid. Trace, and there's nothing else to be done about

got

Trace

hers, doesn't

he's indebted to

thing for that boy. fact.

and

Bearden

You know? Clayton,

it.

Even

if

we

he wouldn't be able to keep it for a week. I know that to be a fact. an awful thing. Trace, and know it is, but instead of recommending that

him

a job,

kid, I'd feel obligated to

I

warn people against him — people who knew

his father

The Country Husband t 45 and would naturally want them. He's a thief.

The moment

to step in

and do something.

I'd feel

obliged to warn

." .

this

conversation was finished, Miss Rainey

came

in

and stood

work for you any more, Mr. Weed," she said. "I can stay until the seventeenth if you need me, but I've been offered a whirlwind of a job, and I'd like to leave as soon as possible." She went out, leaving him to face alone the wickedness of what he had done to the Thomas boy. His children in their photograph laughed and laughed, by his desk. "I'm not going

to

be able

to

all the bright colors of summer, and he remembered that they had met a bagpiper on the beach that day and he had paid the piper a dollar to play them a battle song of the Black Watch. ^ The girl would be at the house when he got home. He would spend another evening among his kind neighbors, picking and choosing dead-end streets, cart tracks, and the driveways of abandoned

glazed with

houses. There was nothing to mitigate his feeling— nothing that laughter or a

game

of softball with the children would change

— and,

thinking back over the

new maid, and Anne Murchison's difficulties with her drunken father, he wondered how he could have avoided arriving at just where he was. He was in trouble. He had been lost once in his life, coming back from a trout stream in the north woods, and he had now the same bleak realization that no amount of cheerfulness or hopefulness or valor or perseverance could help him find, in the gathering dark, the path that he'd lost. He smelled the forest. The feeling of bleakness was intolerable, and he saw clearly that he had reached the point where he would have to make a choice. plane crash, the Farquarsons'

He

could go

confess his that

lusts;

to a psychiatrist, like

he could go

to a

had been recommended by

Miss Rainey; he could go to church and

Danish-massage a salesman;

parlor'^ in

the

he could rape the

he would somehow be prevented from doing

this;

West Seventies girl

or trust that

or he could get drunk.

It

was

man, he was made to be the father of thousands, and what harm could there be in a tryst that would make them both feel more kindly toward the world? This was the wrong train of thought, and he came back to the first, the psychiatrist. He had the telephone number of Miss Rainey's doctor, and he called and asked for an immediate appointment. He his

life,

his boat, and, like every other

insistent with the doctor's secretary— it was his manner in business — and when she said that the doctor's schedule was full for the next few weeks, Francis demanded an appointment that day and was told to come at five. The psychiatrist's office was in a building that was used mostly by doctors

was

and dentists, and the hallways were filled with the candy smell of mouthwash and memories of pain. Francis' character had been formed upon a series of private resolves

— resolves

about cleanliness, about going off the high diving

board or repeating any other feat that challenged his courage, about punctuality, honesty, and virtue. his

8.

most

vital

To

Originally a British Highland regiment that

battle.

9.

Sometimes

made him now in a

abdicate the perfect loneliness in which he had

decisions shattered his concept of character and

became

a line regiment

fronts for houses of prostitution.

left

and distinguished

itself in

135

"

"

John Cheever

46

condition that

Deus' was,

felt like

He was

shock.

stupefied.

room of

waiting

like the

many

so

gesture toward the sweets of domestic

bliss: a

The scene

for his miserere

met

doctor's offices, a crude token

place arranged with antiques, cof-

and etchings of snow-co\ered bridges and geese in flight, although there were no children, no marriage bed, no stove, even, in this tra\est\ of a house, where no one had ever spent the night and where the curfee tables, potted plants,

tained

windows looked

onto

straight

dark

a

air shaft.

Francis gave his

name and moving Keep vour

address to a secretarv' and then saw, at the side of the room, a policeman

toward him. "Hold

hands where they "I

think

looking for

hold

the policeman said. "Don't move.

it,"

are.

it's all

make

"Let's

it,

right. Officer,

"

the secretar\ began.

policeman

sure," the

what— pistols,

said,

"I

and he began

think

it

knives, an icepick? Finding nothing,

the secretarx' began a nervous apologv':

"When vou

will

be—

to slap Francis' clothes,

called

he went

off

and

on the telephone,

Mr. Weed, you seemed

ver\ excited, and one of the doctor's patients has been and we have to be careful. If you want to go in now?" Francis pushed open a door connected to an electrical chime, and in the doctor's lair sat down heavily, blew his nose into a handkerchief, searched in his pockets for cigarettes, for matches, for something, and said hoarsely, with tears

threatening his

^

L 140

in his eyes,

life,

"I'm in love. Dr. Herzog."

The

seven-fourteen has come and and the dishes are in the dishwashing machine. The village hangs, morally and economically, from a thread; but it hangs bv its thread in the evening light. Donald Goslin has begun to worn,' the "Moonlight Sonata" again. Marcato ma sempre pianissimo!' He seems to be wringing out a wet bath towel, but the housemaid does not heed him. She is It is

a

week

or ten davs later in

Shady

gone, and here and there dinner

Hill.

finished

is

writing a letter to Artliur Godfrey.' In the cellar of his house, Francis

recommends woodwork

building a coffee table. Dr. Herzog Francis finds

some

true consolation in

new wood. tired. He puts

Weed

is

and the simple arithmetic involved and in as a therapy,

is happ\ Upstairs, little Tobv is cning, cowboy hat, gloves, and fringed jacket, unbuckles the belt studded with gold and rubies, the silver bullets and holsters, slips off his suspenders, his checked shirt, and Levi's, and sits on the edge of his bed to pull off his high boots. Leaving this equipment in a heap, he goes to the closet and takes his space suit off a nail. It is a struggle for him to get into the

the holv smell of

Francis

because he

off his

long

tights,

is

He

but he succeeds.

climbing onto the footboard of

.

loops the magic cape over his shoulders and,

his bed,

distance to the floor, landing with a

he spreads his arms and

thump

that

is

flies

the short

audible to everyone in the

house but himself.

"Go home, Gertrude, go home," an hour ago, Gertrude.

1. !>.

Have mercy upon me, 3.

O

At the time of the

housewives.

It's

wav

God;

first

story,

Mrs. Masterson

words of

51st

Psalm.

you to go home and vour mother will be

says. "I told

past vour suppertime,

2. Stressed

but alwav's very

soft-

host of a daytime radio program esp>ecially popular with

Sonny's Blues t 47

Go home!" A

worried.

door on the Babcocks' terrace

flies

open, and out comes

Mrs. Babcock without any clothes on, pursued by a naked husband. (Their chil-

dren are away

boarding school, and their terrace

at

terrace they go

Over the

nymph and

and

screened by a hedge.)

is

in at the kitchen door, as passionate

and handsome

on any wall in Venice. Cutting the last of the roses in her garden, Julia hears old Mr. Nixon shouting at the squirrels in his bird-feeding station. "Rapscallions! Varmints! Avaunt and quit my sight!" A miserable cat wanders into the garden, sunk in spiritual and physical discomfort. a

Tied

to

its

satyr as

head

it

shakes

will find

a small straw

is

from the

into a doll's dress,

walks,

you

feet, as if

its

hat— a

skirts it

had

doll's

hat— and

of which protrudes

is

it

securely buttoned

long, hairy

its

As

tail.

it

fallen into water.

"Here, pussy, pussy, pussy!" Julia

calls.

"Here, pussy, here, poor pussy!" But the cat gives her a skeptical look and

stumbles away in

its skirts.

tomato vines, holding in

Then

it is

dark;

it is

The

his

a night

last to

come

is

He

Jupiter.

prances through the

generous mouth the remains of an evening slipper.

where kings

golden

in

suits ride

elephants over the

mountains.'*

1958

JAMES BALDWIN Sonny's Blues I

read about

it

in the paper, in the subway,

couldn't believe

it,

and

I

read

it

again.

on

my way

Then perhaps

newsprint spelling out his name, spelling out the

story.

to work. I

I

I

read

just stared at

stared at

it

it, it,

and

I

at the

in the swing-

ing lights of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and in

my own It

face, trapped in the darkness

was not

subway

to

be believed and

station to the high school.

was scared, scared got settled in

my

I

my

Sonny.

for

belly

classes algebra.

It

which roared

outside.

kept telling myself that, as

And

the

at

He became

same time

real to

me

and kept melting there slowly

was a special kind of

ice. It

I

again. all

I

walked from the

couldn't doubt

A great

it.

I

block of ice

day long, while

I

taught

kept melting, sending trickles

all up and down my veins, but it never got less. Sometimes it hardened and seemed to expand until I felt my guts were going to come spilling out or that I was going to choke or scream. This would always be at a moment when I was remembering some specific thing Sonny had once said or done.

of ice water

When he was about as old as the boys in my classes his face had been bright and open, there was a lot of copper in it; and he'd had wonderfully direct brown 4.

See Sinclair Lewis, Main Street

Prairie stifling

for

which the protagonist

finds the small

Washington, D.C., where, she

tells

town of Gopher

him,

"

'We're going

elephants with golden howdahs from which peep young maharanees with necklaces of

to find

"

rubies.

(1920), in

and leaves with her son

.' .

.

James Baldwin

48

and great gentleness and

eyes,

privacy.

wondered what he looked like now. He in a raid on an apartment downtown,

I

had been picked up, the evening before, peddling and using heroin.

for

it: but what I mean by that is that I couldn't find any room anywhere inside me. I had kept it outside me for a long time. I hadn't wanted to know. 1 had had suspicions, but I didn't name them, I kept putting them away. I told myself that Sonny was wild, but he wasn't crazy. And he'd always been a good boy, he hadn't ever turned hard or evil or disrespectful, the way kids can, so quick, so quick, especially in Harlem. I didn't want to believe

couldn't believe

I

for

it

my

that I'd ever see

brother going down,

coming

to nothing, all that light in his

gone out, in the condition I'd already seen so many others. Yet it had happened and here I was, talking about algebra to a lot of boys who might, everyone of them for all I knew, be popping off needles every time they went to the face

Maybe

head.'

it

did

more

"^I was sure that the

been

much

for

first

them than

algebra could.

time Sonny had ever had horse, ^ he couldn't have

older than these boys were now. These boys, now, were living as

we'd been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads

bumped

abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities.

They were

filled

with rage. All they really

knew were two

lives,

which was now closing

on them, and the darkness of the movies, which

had blinded them

dreamed,

at

in

to that other darkness,

and

darknesses, the darkness of their

in

which they now,

once more together than they were

vindictively,

any other time, and more

at

alone.

When as

the

last bell

been holding

I'd

though

I'd

it

been

rang, the last class ended,

for all that time. sitting in a

Mv

steam bath,

alone in the classroom a long time.

let

I

out

all

my

time.

It

dressed up,

all

was mocking and insular,

me

for

in this, also, lay the authority of their curses.

my

And

brother.

was thinking about

perhaps the

intent was to denigrate.

It

disenchanted, and

I

sat

I

— God knows why— one associ-

ates with children.

them because

looked

afternoon.

listened to the boys outside, downstairs,

I

was not the joyous laughter which

listening to

seemed

It

I

shouting and cursing and laughing. Their laughter struck first

breath.

wet— may have

clothes were

its

my

Perhaps

brother and in

them

I

It

was

I

was

heard

myself.

One boy was

whistling a tune, at once very complicated and very simple,

it

seemed to be pouring out of him as though he were a bird, and it sounded very cool and moving through all that harsh, bright air, only just holding its own through I

yard.

all

stood It

those other sounds.

up and walked over

to the

window and looked down

was the beginning of the spring and the sap was

teacher passed through

them

every

now and

into the court-

rising in the boys.

A

again, quickly, as though he or she

couldn't wait to get out of that courtyard, to get those boys out of their sight and off their minds.

I

started collecting

my

stuff.

I

thought

I'd better get

home and

talk to Isabel.

The 1.

courtyard was almost deserted by the time

Lavaton'.

2.

Heroin.

I

got downstairs.

I

saw

this

Sonny's Blues r 49 in the shadow of a doorway, looking just like Sonny. I almost called name. Then I saw that it wasn't Sonny, but somebody we used to know, a boy from around our block. He'd been Sonny's friend. He'd never been mine, having been too young for me, and, anyway, I'd never liked him. And now, even though he was a grown-up man, he still hung around that block, still spent hours on the street corners, was always high and ragg)-. I used to run into him from time to time and he'd often work around to asking me for a quarter or fift}' cents. He always had some real good excuse, too, and I always gave it to him. I don't

boy standing his

know why. But now, abruptly,

I

hated him.

partly like a dog, partly like a

he was doing

He

way he looked at me, him what the hell

couldn't stand the

I

cunning

child.

I

wanted

to ask

in the school courtyard.

sort of shuffled over to

me, and he

know about it." "You mean about Sonny? Yes,

said, "I see

you got the papers. So you

already

I

already

know about

it.

How come they didn't

get you?"

He

and it also brought to mind what he'd away from them people." "Good for you." I offered him a cigarette and I watched him through the smoke. "You come all the way down here just to tell me about Sonny?" "That's right." He was sort of shaking his head and his eyes looked strange, as though they were about to cross. The bright sun deadened his damp dark brown skin and it made his eyes look yellow and showed up the dirt in his kinked hair. He smelled funky. I moved a little away from him and I said, "Well, thanks. But I already know about it and I got to get home." "I'll walk you a little ways," he said. We started walking. There were a couple of kids still loitering in the courtyard and one of them said goodnight to me and looked strangely at the boy beside me. "What're you going to do?" he asked me. "I mean, about Sonny?" "Look. I haven't seen Sonny for over a year, I'm not sure I'm going to do anything. Anway, what the hell can I do?" "That's right," he said quickly, "ain't nothing you can do. Can't much help old Sonny no more, I guess." It was what I was thinking and so it seemed to me he had no right to say it. "I'm surprised at Sonny, though," he went on — he had a funny way of talking, he looked straight ahead as though he were talking to himself— "I thought Sonny was a smart boy, I thought he was too smart to get hung." "I guess he thought so too," I said sharply, "and that's how he got hung. .\nd grinned.

looked

It

made him

repulsive

like as a kid. "I wasn't there.

I

stay

how about you? You're pretty goddamn smart, I bet." Then he looked directly at me, just for a minute. "I I

was smart,

I'd

have reached

"Look. Don't

Then

bastard

going

felt

I

tell

for a pistol a

me your

sad story,

ain't smart,"

said. "If

if it

was up

to

me,

I'd give

you one."

guilty— guilty, probably, for never having supposed that the poor

had a stor)' of his own, much happen to him now?"

less a

sad one, and

I

asked, quickly, "What's

to

He

he

long time ago."

didn't answer this.

He was

off

by himself some place.

James Baldwin

50

"Funny thing

first

I

and from

thing," he said,

way

the quickest

asked myself was

if

saw the papers

I

had anything

I

we might have been

his tone

"when

Brooklyn,

to get to

do with

to

it.

this

discussing

morning, the of respon-

felt sort

I

sible." I

began

ducked

peering

He

in,

stopped, too.

was on the corner,

station

We

were

but whoever he was looking

just

of a bar and he

in front

seem

for didn't

to

be

juke box was blasting away with something black and bouncv and

danced her way from the juke box

half watched the barmaid as she

behind the

bar.

someone

thing

The subway

carefully.

stopped.

I

slightly,

The

there.

more

to listen

before us, and

one saw the

And

I

I

her place

to

watched her face as she laughingly responded to somestill keeping time to the music. When she smiled

said to her,

little girl,

one sensed the doomed,

woman

still-struggling

beneath

the battered face of the semi-whore.

never give Sonny nothing," the boy said

"I

come

high and Sonny asked

to school

bear to watch him,

seemed

to

I

He

felt."

it

watched the barmaid, and

be causing the pavement

"but a long time ago

finally,

me how

paused,

listened to the

I

to shake. "I told

him

All this

want

to

I

couldn't

music which

felt great."

it

music stopped, the barmaid paused and watched the juke box began again.

I

until the

The

music

"It did."

me some

was carrying

know how

it felt.

It

place

I

didn't

want

to go.

certainly didn't

I

everything, the people, the houses, the music,

filled

menace; and this menace was their reality. happen to him now?" I asked again. "They'll send him away some place and they'll try to cure him." He shook head. "Maybe he'll even think he's kicked the habit. Then they'll let him

the dark, quicksilver barmaid, with

p

"What's going

his

loose"

to

— he gestured,

throwing his cigarette into the gutter. "That's

all."

"What do you mean, that's all?" But I knew what he meant. mean,

"I

that's all."

He

at me, pulling down the mean?" he asked, softly. know what you mean?" I almost whispered it, I don't

turned his head and looked

corners of his mouth. "Don't you 55

"How

the hell would

I

know what

I

know why. "That's right," he said to the

me

turned toward

again, patient

air,

shaking as though he were going to the dread

I'd felt all

let

You mean

in again.

yet

apart.

I

killing himself,

40

He wants

looked

to live.

him

he'll

I

out.

Then

I

in surprise.

Don't nobod\ want

wanted

felt that ice in

I

And

then

to ask

he'll just start

never kick the habit.

"why does he want why does he want to die?"

me

felt

mean?" He him shaking,

I

my

guts again,

mean."

said at last,

at

somehow

I

"That's right," he said, cheerfully. "You see "Tell me,"

I

watched the barmaid, moving about and singing. "Listen. They'll let him out and then it'll

over again. That's what

'Tou mean — they'll back

fall

afternoon; and again

the bar, washing glasses, just start all

"how would he know what

and calm, and

He

what

Is I

to die?

licked his

lips.

that

working

his

way

what you mean?"

mean."

He must want

"He

to die, he's

don't want to die.

He

to die, ever."

him — too manv

things.

He

could not have answered,

Sonny's Blues t 51 or it's

if

he had,

could not have borne the answers.

I

my

none of "It's

going

to

be rough on old Sonny," he

station.

"This

is

your station?" he asked.

"Damn!" he I

said, suddenly.

didn't leave

for a

started walking. "Well,

I

I

guess

business."

I

looked up

my money home. You

all

couple of days,

is

I

He

him.

at

We

said.

nodded.

reached the subway took one step down.

I

"Damn

it if

on you, have you?

Just

grinned again.

ain't got a dollar

all."

once something inside gave and threatened to come pouring out of didn't hate him any more. I felt that in another moment I'd start crying

All at

me.

I

like a child.

"Sure," I

He

"Don't sweat."

said.

I

only had a

"Here,"

five.

said.

I

I

looked in

my

and didn't have

wallet

a dollar,

"That hold you?"

didn't look at it— he didn't

want

to look at

over his face, as though he were keeping the

it.

A terrible,

number on

him and me. "Thanks," he said, and now he was dying Maybe I'll write him or something."

the

closed look

came

secret

from

bill a

to see

me

go.

45

"Don't

worry about Sonny. "Sure,"

said.

I

'Tou do

"Be seeing you," he

And

was

it

which made

me

I

Sonny

didn't write

I

finally did,

So long." went on down the

that.

said.

or send

my

just after

steps.

him anything died,

little girl

for a

long time.

me

and he wrote

back

When

I

a letter

feel like a bastard.

Here's what he said:

Dear

brother,

50

You don't know how much I needed to hear from you. I wanted to write you many a time but I dug how much must have hurt you and so I didn't write. But now I feel like a man who's been trying to climb up out of some deep, real deep and I

funky hole and I I

can't

guess

know

I

I

tell

saw the sun up there, outside.

much

about

I

was afraid of something or

and

got here.

I

was trying

I

can't see what's

I

were nice

to

me

and who believed

don't want you to think

more than

happened

would never have hurt you

was doing

down

how

I

got to get outside.

mean to

don't

I

know how

that.

here and

Or maybe I

it

less

in

to their so,

son and

you and

I

swear

Mama

and Daddy known what I fine people who

if I'd

a lot of other

me.

had anything than

that.

I

to

do with

me

being a musician.

can't get anything straight in

not to think about what's going to happen to

try

to tell you.

escape from something and you

have never been very strong in the head (smile). I'm glad

are dead

I

just

you

my

me when

It's

head I

get

and never get outside and sometime I think I'll come straight back. I tell you one thing, though, I'd rather blow my brains out than go through this again. But that's what they all say, so they tell me. If I tell you when I'm coming to New York and if you could meet me, I sure would appreciate it. outside again.

Give wish to

my I

me

good

Sometime

think I'm going to

love to Isabel and the kids and

could be

like

that trouble it

I

is

Mama and say the the

does to blame

it

I

flip

was sure sorry

to

hear about

little

Gracie.

I

know it seems one thing that never does get stopped and don't know what on the Lord. But maybe it does some good if you believe it. Lord's will be done, but

I

don't I

Your brother. Sonny

James Baldwin

52

Then

kept in constant touch with

I

him and

sent

I

him whatever

I

could and

meet him when he came back to New York. When I saw him many thought had forgotten came flooding back to me. This was because things had begun, finally, to wonder about Sonny, about the life that Sonny lived inside. This life, whatever it was, had made him older and thinner and it had deepened the distant stillness in which he had always moved. He looked very I

went

to

my

unlike

I

I

I

brother

I'd

baby brother. Yet, when he smiled, when we shook hands, the baby never known looked out from the depths of his private life, like an

animal waiting

be coaxed into the

to

"How you been

And you?" He was smiling

"All right.

55

"Just fine."

good

"It's

The dered

if

over his face.

all

"It's

good

to see

you again."

to see you."

seven years' difference in our ages lay between us like a chasm: these years would ever operate between us as a bridge.

and

ing,

light.

keeping?" he asked me.

it

born; and

made I

it

hard

my

catch

to

had heard the

first

breath, that

words he had

when he

took the

first

steps

he ever took

I

I

won-

was remember-

had been there when he was

1

e\'er

walk, he walked from our mother straight to me.

I

spoken.

When

caught him

just

he

started to

before he

fell

in this world.

"How's Isabel?" "Just fine. She's dying to see you."

6o

"And

the boys?"

"They're fine, too. They're anxious to see their uncle."

"Oh, come on. You know they don't remember me." "Are you kidding? Of course they remember you." He grinned again. We got into a taxi. We had a lot to say

65

too

much As the

He for

to

know how

taxi

began

each other,

far

still

asked,

I

remember

"You

still

want

that. Hell, no.

to

go

to India?"

This place

is

Indian enough

me." "It

used to belong

And he laughed they got rid of

Years ago,

70

move,

to

laughed. "You

to

to begin.

to

them,"

again.

I

said.

"They damn sure knew what they were doing when

it."

when he was around

of going to India.

He

fourteen, he'd been

all

hipped on the idea

read books about people sitting on rocks, naked, in

all

kinds of weather, but mostly bad, naturally, and walking barefoot through hot coals

and

arriving at

wisdom.

I

used

were getting away from wisdom

down on me for that. "Do you mind," he

On

the west side



I

to say that

it

sounded

as fast as they could.

asked, "if

we have

haven't seen the

I

to

me

as

though they

think he sort of looked

the driver drive alongside the park?

cit) in

so long."

"Of course not," I said. I was afraid that I might sound humoring him, but I hoped he wouldn't take it that way. So we drove along, between the green of the park and

as

though

streets

were

the stony, lifeless

elegance of hotels and apartment buildings, toward the vivid, killing

our childhood. These

I

streets of

hadn't changed, though housing projects jutted up

Sonny's Blues t 53

now like rocks in the middle of a boiling sea. Most of the houses in which we had grown up had vanished, as had the stores from which we had stolen, the basements in which we had first tried sex, the rooftops from which we had hurled tin cans and bricks. But houses exactly like the houses of our past yet dominated the landscape, boys exactly like the boys we once had been found out of them

came down into the streets for light and and found themselves encircled by disaster. Some escaped the trap, most didn't. Those who got out always left something of themselves behind, as some animals amputate a leg and leave it in the trap. It might be said, perhaps, that I had escaped, after all, I was a school teacher; or that Sonny had, he hadn't lived in Harlem for years. Yet, as the cab moved uptown through streets which seemed, with a rush, to darken with dark people, and as I covertly studied Sonthemselves smothering in these houses, air

ny's face,

it

came

to

me

that

what we both were seeking through our separate

cab windows was that part of ourselves which had been at the

left

behind,

ft's

always

hour of trouble and confrontation that the missing member aches.

We hit iioth avenue first

all

my

Street

life,

but

and started it seemed

rolling to

heard about Sonny's trouble,

very breath of

"We

me

filled

up Lenox Avenue. And I'd known this it had seemed on the day I'd with a hidden menace which was its

again, as

life.

almost there," said Sonny.

"Almost."

We

were both too nervous

75

to say

anything more.

We

live in a housing project. It hasn't been up long. A few days after it was seemed uninhabitably new, now, of course, it's already rundown. It looks like a parody of the good, clean, faceless life — God knows the people who live in it do their best to make it a parody. The beat-looking grass lying around isn't enough to make their lives green, the hedges will never hold out the streets, and they know it. The big windows fool no one, they aren't big enough to make space out of no space. They don't bother with the windows, they watch the TV screen instead. The playground is most popular with the children who don't play at jacks, or skip rope, or roller skate, or swing, and they can be found in it after dark. We moved in partly because it's not too far from where I teach, and partly for the kids; but it's really just like the houses in which Sonny and I grew up. The same things happen, they'll have the same things to remember. The moment Sonny and I started into the house I had the feeling that I was simply bringing him back into the danger he had almost died trying to escape. Sonny has never been talkative. So I don't know why I was sure he'd be dying to talk to me when supper was over the first night. Everything went fine, the oldest boy remembered him, and the youngest boy liked him, and Sonny had remembered to bring something for each of them; and Isabel, who is really much nicer than I am, more open and giving, had gone to a lot of trouble about dinner and was genuinely glad to see him. And she's always been able to tease Sonny in a way that I haven't. It was nice to see her face so vivid again and to hear her laugh and watch her make Sonny laugh. She wasn't, or, anyway, she didn't seem to be, at all uneasy or embarrassed. She chatted as though there were no subject which had to be avoided and she got Sonny past his first, faint

up

/

it

stiffness.

And thank God

she was there, for

I

was

filled

with that icy dread again.

54 T James Baldwin Everything

seemed awkward

did

I

freighted with hidden meaning.

about dope addiction and

doing

out of malice.

it

was dying

to

"Safe!"

him

hear

my

I

me, and everything

me

he was

to

I

out something about

my

I

Mama

suggested trying to

safer for children. "Safe, hell! Ain't

move

no place

to a

safe

nor nobody."

for kids,

always went on like

not even on weekends,

this,

when he

the lookout for "something a

but he wasn't, ever, really as bad as he sounded, got drunk. As a matter of fact, he was always on

little

better," but

fifteen.

He and Sonny

hadn't ever got on too well.

because Sonny was the apple of his

it. He when Sonny

he died before he found

died suddenly, during a drunken weekend in the middle of the war,

was

brother.

safe.

whenever

father grunted,

sounded

said

I

remember everything I'd heard help watching Sonny for signs. wasn't

tr\'ing to find

neighborhood which might be

He

to

was trying

couldn't

I

was

tell

I

father's eye.

It

And

this

was

partly

was because he loved Sonny

much and was

frightened for him, that he was always fighting with him. It do any good to fight with Sonny. Sonny just moves back, inside himself, where he can't be reached. But the principal reason that they never hit it off is that they were so much alike. Daddy was big and rough and loud-talking, just the opposite of Sonny, but they both had — that same privacy. Mama tried to tell me something about this, just after Daddy died. I was

so

doesn't

home on

leave from the army.

last time I ever saw my mother alive. Just the same, this picture mixed up in my mind with pictures I had of her when she was younger. ^^The way I always see her is the way she used to be on a Sunday afternoon, say, ^when the old folks were talking after the big Sunday dinner. I always see her wearing pale blue. She'd be sitting on the sofa. And my father would be sitting in the easy chair, not far from her. And the living room would be full of church folks and relatives. There they sit, in chairs all around the living room, and the

This was the

gets all

night

is

creeping up outside, but nobody knows

it

yet.

growing against the windowpanes and you hear the again, or

maybe

close by, but

it's

You can

see the darkness

street noises every

now and

the jangling beat of a tambourine from one of the churches real quiet in the

room. For a

every face looks darkening, like the sky outside.

moment nobody's talking, but And my mother rocks a little

and my father's eyes are closed. Everyone is looking at something For a minute they've forgotten the children. Maybe a kid is lying on the rug, half asleep. Maybe somebody's got a kid in his lap and is absent-mindedly stroking the kid's head. Maybe there's a kid, quiet and bigeyed, curled up in a big chair in the corner. The silence, the darkness coming, from the

waist,

a child can't see.

and the darkness in the faces frighten the child obscurely. He hopes that the hand which strokes his forehead will never stop— will never die. He hopes that there will never come a time when the old folks won't be sitting around the living room, talking about where they've come from, and what they've seen, and what's

happened

to

them and

their kinfolk.

But something deep and watchful end,

is

already ending. In a

in the child

moment someone

knows that this is bound to up and turn on the light.

will get

Sonny's Blues t 55

Then

remember

the old folks will

And when

that day.

knows

light

that every time this

fills

the children and they won't talk any

the room, the child

happens

he's

moved

is

more

with darkness.

filled

just a little closer to that

He

darkness

outside. The darkness outside is what the old folks have been talking about. It's what they've come from. It's what they endure. The child knows that they won't talk any more because if he knows too much about what's happened to them, he'll know too much too soon, about what's going to happen to him. last time I talked to my mother, I remember I was resdess. I wanted to and see Isabel. We weren't married then and we had a lot to straighten out between us. There Mama sat, in black, by the window. She was humming an old church song, Lord, you brought me from a long ways off. Sonny was out somewhere.

The

get out

Mama "I

But

kept watching the

streets.

don't know," she said, "if

hope

I

you'll

85

remember

I'll

ever see you again, after you go off from here.

the things

I

tried to teach you."

and smiled. 'Tou'll be here a long time yet." She smiled, too, but she said nothing. She was quiet for a long time. And I said, "Mama, don't you worry about nothing. I'll be writing all the time, and ." you be getting the checks. "I want to talk to you about your brother," she said, suddenly. "If anything "Don't

talk like that,"

said,

I

.

happens

me

to

"Mama," right.

he

ain't

going

said, "ain't

I

.

have nobody

to

to

look out for him."

nothing going to happen to you or Sonny. Sonny's

all

90

He's a good boy and he's got good sense."

"It ain't a

good sense.

question of his being a good boy,"

Mama

only the bad ones, nor yet the

ain't

It

"nor of his having

said,

dumb

ones that gets sucked

under." She stopped, looking at me. "Your Daddy once had a brother," she said, and she smiled in a way that made me feel she was in pain. 'Tou didn't never

know

that,

"No,"

"Oh,

I

did you?" said, "I

window

again. "I

through

all

I

never

knew

yes," she said, "your

that,"

and

I

watched her

Daddy had

a brother."

know you never saw your Daddy

cry.

face.

She looked out of the

But

J

did

— many a time,

these years."

asked her,

"What happened

to his brother?

How come nobody's

ever talked

about him?" This was the

first

time

I

ever saw

my

mother look

old.

"His brother got killed," she said, "when he was just a

95 little

younger than

knew him. He was a fine boy. He was maybe a little full of the mean nobody no harm." Then she stopped and the room was silent, exactly as it had sometimes been

you are now. devil,

I

but he didn't

on those Sunday afternoons.

"He used

Mama

kept looking out into the

streets.

young folks, he perform on Saturday nights. Saturday nights, him and your father around to different places, go to dances and things like that, or just to

have a job in the mill," she

said, "and, like all

just liked to

would

drift

around with people they knew, and your

father's brother would sing, he had and play along with himself on his guitar. Well, this particular Saturday night, him and your father was coming home from some place, and

sit

a fine voice,

James Baldwin

56

little drunk and there was a moon that night, it was bright like Your father's brother was feeling kind of good, and he was whistling to himself, and he had his guitar slung over his shoulder. They was coming down a hill and beneath them was a road that turned off from the highway. Well, your

thev were both a day.

father's brother,

being always kind of

firisky,

decided to run

down

this hill,

and

he did, with that guitar banging and clanging behind him, and he ran across the road, and he was making water behind a tree. And your father was sort of

amused

him and he was

at

coming down the

still

hill,

kind of slow.

Then he

heard a car motor and that same minute his brother stepped from behind the moonlight. And he started to cross the road. And your down the hill, he says he don't know why. This car was full of white men. They was all drimk, and when they seen your father's brother they let out a great whoop and holler and they aimed the car straight at him. They was having fun, they just wanted to scare him, the way they do sometimes, guess the boy, being drunk, too, and you know. But they was drunk. And tree, into the road, in the

father started to run

I

By the time he jumped

scared, kind of lost his head.

he heard

says

the

wood

of that guitar

stopped

till

this day.

when

men

he heard them white

it

was too

late.

Your

father

scream when the car rolled over him, and he heard

his brother

give,

it

and he heard them

strings

go

flying,

shouting, and the car kept on a-going and

And, time your father got down the

hill, his

it

and ain't

brother weren't

nothing but blood and pulp."

my

Tears were gleaming on

mother's face. There wasn't anything

could

I

say. 100

"He never mentioned before you children. Your

He

she said, "because

it,"

Daddy was

like a crazy

I

never

man

let

him mention

that night

and

for

it

many

he never in his life seen amihing as dark as that road had gone away. Weren't nothing, weren't nobody on your Daddy and his brother and that busted guitar. Oh, yes. Your

a night thereafter.

says

after the lights of that car

that road, just

Daddy never

did really get right again. Till the day he died he weren't sure but

man he saw was the man that killed his brother." She stopped and took out her handkerchief and dried her eyes and looked at me. "I ain't telling you all this," she said, "to make you scared or bitter or to make you hate nobody. I'm telling you this because you got a brother. And the world that everv' white

ain't I

changed." guess

I

didn't

want

to believe this.

turned away from me, toward the

"But

praise

before me.

keeps

me

my

Redeemer," she

ain't saying

I

from feeling too

through

this world.

man on

earth.

there 105

I

home

Your

it

to

guess she saw this in

said at last, "that

to

know

I

father always acted like

And everybody

took

him

to

my

face.

She

again, searching those streets.

throw no flowers

down

cast

I

window

be

He

called your

at myself, but,

I

Daddy

declare,

it

helped your father get safely

he was the roughest, strongest But if he hadn't had me

like that.

— to see his tears!"

She was crying didn't

know

it

was

again.

Still,

I

couldn't move.

I

said, "Lord,

Lord,

Mama,

I

like that."

"Oh, honey," she

said, "there's a lot that

you don't know. But you are going

Sonny's Blues t 57

She stood up from the window and came over

to find out."

hold on

your brother," she

to

looks like

is

going to be

said,

"and don't

let

him

me. "You got to no matter what it

to

fall,

to him and no matter how evil you gets with him. You him many a time. But don't you forget what I told you, you

happening with

evil

hear?"

won't forget,"

"I

happen

to

I

"Don't you worry,

said.

I

won't forget.

won't

I

nothing

let

Sonny."

My face.

mother smiled as though she was amused at something she saw in my Then, 'Tou may not be able to stop nothing from happening. But you got

him know

to let

you's there."

Two days later I was married, and then was gone. And had a lot of things on my mind and pretty well forgot my promise to Mama until got shipped home on a special furlough for her funeral. And, after the funeral, with just Sonny and me alone in the empty kitchen, I

I

I

I

tried to find out

I

no

something about him.

"What do you want

to

do?"

asked him.

I

"I'm going to be a musician," he said.

For he had graduated, juke box to finding out it,

time

in the

who was

and he had bought himself a

set of

"You mean, you want to be being a drummer might be all

I

had been away, from dancing

to the

playing what, and what they were doing with

a

drums.

drummer?"

I

somehow had

the feeling that

right for other people but not for

my

brother

Sonny. don't think," he said, looking at

"I

drummer. But I

frowned.

before,

think

I

I'd

I

can play

So

He "Be

He

I

made my frown

to

I'll

ever be a good

I

a

Sonny

didn't really little

be?"

grinned.

"How many

serious,"

I

kinds do you think there are?"

said.

laughed, throwing his head back, and then looked at me.

"I

am

serious."

"Well, then, for Christ's sake, stop kidding around and answer a serious ques-

mean, do you want to be a concert pianist, you want to play classical music and all that, or— or what?" Long before I finished he was laughing again.

tion.

I

"For Christ's sake, Sonny!"

He he was

115

a damn thing. I sensed myself in know how to handle, didn't underdeeper as I asked: "What kind of musician do

ever, in fact, asked

the presence of something stand.

very gravely, "that

never played the role of the oldest brother quite so seriously

had scarcely

you want

me

a piano."

sobered, but with difficulty. "I'm sorry. But you sound

so— scared!" and

off again.

"Well, you may think it's funny now, baby, but it's not going to be so funny when you have to make your living at it, let me tell you that." I was furious because I knew he was laughing at me and I didn't know why.

"No," he

said, very

sober now, and afraid, perhaps, that he'd hurt me,

don't want to be a classical pianist. That

paused, looking hard

and then gestured

at

me,

as

helplessly, as

though

isn't

what

his eyes

though perhaps

interests

me.

I

"I

mean" — he

would help me to understand, hand would help —"I mean.

his

120

James Baldwin

58

have a

I'll

want

lot

to play

of studying to do, and

vvif/j

— jazz

musicians."

I'll

have to study everything, but,

He

stopped.

want

"I

Well, the word had never before sounded as heavy, as afternoon in Sonny's mouth.

frown by

real

this time.

I

I

just

real, as

it

mean,

I

to play jazz,"

he

I

said.

sounded

that

him and I was probably frowning a see why on earth he'd want to spend

looked

at

simply couldn't

time hanging around nightclubs, clowning around on bandstands, while

his

people pushed each other around a dance

somehow. suppose

floor.

It

seemed— beneath him,

had never thought about it before, had never been forced to, but had always put jazz musicians in a class with what Daddy called I

I

I

"good-time people." "Are you serious?"

125

"Hell, yes, I'm serious."

He

looked more helpless than ever, and annoyed, and deeply hurt.

suggested, helpfully: "You

I

His face closed as though that old-time,

down home

mean — like

I'd

Louis Armstrong?"

struck him. "No. I'm not talking about

"Well, look. Sonny, I'm sorry, don't get mad.

130

that's all.

none of

crap."

Name somebody— you

know,

a jazz

I

just don't altogether get

it,

musician you admire."

"Bird."

"Who?" "Bird! Charlie Parker! ' Don't they teach lit

I

a cigarette.

was trembling.

"I've

me. Now. Who's

you nothing

was surprised and then

I

been out of touch,"

I

a

little

in the

amused

said. 'Tou'll

have

goddamn army?" to discover that

I

be patient with

to

Parker character?"

this

"He's just one of the greatest jazz musicians alive," said Sonny, sullenly, his

135

hands

in his pockets, his

"that's

probably

"All right,"

I

said,

records right away, "It don't," said

what you

to

me. "Maybe the

greatest,"

he added,

bitterly,

of him."

"I'm ignorant. I'm sorry.

go out and buy

I'll

all

the cat's

all right?"

Sonny, with

Don't do

listen to.

was beginning

I

back

why you never heard

dignit)',

me

no

to realize that I'd

my mind

"make any

difference to me.

I

don't care

favors."

never seen him so upset before. With

this would probably turn out to be one of those things kids go through and that I shouldn't make it seem important by pushing it too hard. Still, I didn't think it would do any harm to ask: "Doesn't

another part of

all this

He

take a lot of time?

I

was thinking that

Can you make

a living at it?"

me

and half leaned, half sat, on the kitchen table. "Everything takes time," he said, "and — well, yes, sure, I can make a living at it. But what I don't seem to be able to make you understand is that it's the only thing I want

turned back to

to do."

"Well, Sonny,"

140

they want to do

3.

I

said gently, "you

know people

can't always

do exactly what

—"

Charlie ("Bird") Parker (1920-1955), brilliant saxophonist and innovator of jazz; working in

York bop."

in the mid-i940s,

He was

he developed, with Dizzy Gillespie and others, the

a narcotics addict.

style

New

of jazz called "be-

Sonny's Blues t 59 "No,

I

know

don't

do what they want

"You getting

Sonny, surprising me.

that," said

to do,

what

be a big boy,"

to

think people ought to

"I

else are they alive for?" I

said desperately,

"it's

time you started think-

ing about your future."

my

"I'm thinking about

future," said Sonny, grimly. "I think about

the

all

it

time." I

gave up.

about

it

decided,

I

later.

if

he didn't change

"In the meantime,"

already decided that he'd have to

move

his

mind, that we could always

talk

We

had

"you got to finish school."

said,

I

in with Isabel

and her

knew

this

dicty"*

and

know what

else

folks.

I

wasn't the ideal arrangement because Isabel's folks are inclined to be

they hadn't especially wanted Isabel to marry me. But

I

didn't

"And we have to get you fixed up at Isabel's." There was a long silence. He moved from the kitchen

to do.

"That's a terrible idea.

You know

table to the

window.

145

yourself."

it

"Do you have a better idea?" He just walked up and down the kitchen for a minute. He was as tall as I was. He had started to shave. I suddenly had the feeling that I didn't know him at all.

He

stopped at the kitchen table and picked up

with a kind of mocking,

amused

my

cigarettes.

Looking

defiance, he put one between his

me

at

lips.

"You

mind?" "You smoking already?" He lit the cigarette and nodded, watching me through the smoke. "I just wanted to see if I'd have the courage to smoke in front of you." He grinned and blew

a great

"Come I

150

"It was easy." He looked at my face. my age, tell the truth." on my face, and he laughed. But now

cloud of smoke to the ceiling.

on, now.

I

bet you was smoking at

was

didn't say anything but the truth

there was something very strained in his laugh. "Sure.

And

I

bet that ain't

all

you was doing."

He was that

me

frightening

you was going

to

a

little.

go and

"Cut the

crap,"

live at Isabel's.

Now

I

said.

"We

already decided

what's got into you

all

of a

sudden?" it," he pointed out. "/ didn't decide nothing." He stopped in me, leaning against the stove, arms loosely folded. "Look, brother. I don't want to stay in Harlem no more, I really don't." He was very earnest. He looked at me, then over toward the kitchen window. There was something in

"You decided

front of

his eyes I'd never seen before,

some thoughtfulness, some worry

rubbed the muscle of one arm.

"Where do you want "I

want

they'll believe

Then goddamn

I

time

I

all

his

own.

He

was getting out of here."

Sonny?"

Or

the navy,

I

don't care.

If

I

say I'm old

enough,

me."

mad.

got

was because

It

what the

fool,

"I just told

4.

to go,

to join the army.

"It's

you.

Snobbish, bossy.

To

hell

I

was so scared. "You must be crazy. You

do you want

to

get out of Harlem."

go and join the army for?"

155

James Baldwin

60

And

"Sonn\', )ou haven't even finished school.

musician, how do you expect

160

you

if

to stud\ if you're in the

want

reall\

be a

to

army?"

He looked at me, trapped, and in anguish. "There's ways. I might be able to work out some kind of deal. Anyway, I'll have the G.I. Bill when 1 come out." "If you come out." We stared at each other. "Sonny, please. Be reasonable. I

know

the setup

me

from

far

But we got

perfect.

me and opened

away from narrow

is

alle)'.

watched

I

to learn."

"Sonny,"

I

to

window and threw

the

his back. "At least,

He slammed

and turned back

the

window

me. "And I'm

"And \ou only got another

year.

we I

can."

go."

He

turned

his cigarette out into the

nothing you'd want

thought the glass would

I

fl\'

out,

sick of the stink of these garbage cans!"

know how you

said, "I

best

when

ain't learning

I

so hard

feel.

But

you're going to be sorry later that you didn't."

I'll

do the

to

learning nothing in school," he said. "Even

"I ain't

ain't so bad.

It

help you do whatever \ou want to do. Just

you don't

if

now,

finish school

grabbed him by the shoulders.

I

And tr\'

I'll

to

come back and

put up with

it

till

I

swear

I

come

me?" and he wouldn't look at me. "Sonny. You hear me?" He pulled away. "I hear vou. But \ou ne\ er hear anything J say." I didn't know what to say to that. He looked out of the w indow and then back at me. "OK," he said, and sighed. "I'll try." Then I said, trying to cheer him up a little, "They got a piano at Isabel's. You can practice on it." And as a matter of fact, it did cheer him up for a minute. "That's right," back. Will you please do that? For

He

165

didn't answer

he said

His face relaxed a

to himself. "I forgot that."

thoughtfulness, played on into the

it still,

way shadows

the

pla\

little.

on

But the worr\, the

a face

w hich

is

staring

fire.

But I thought I'd never hear the end of that piano. At first, Isabel would write me, saying how nice it was that Sonn\' was so serious about his music and how, as soon as he came in from school, or wherever he had been when he was supposed

to

be

at school,

he went

straight to that

piano and staved there until

suppertime. And, after supper, he went back to that piano and stayed there until

everybody went

to bed.

Then he bought

He was

record over and over again,

with

it

at the

a record player all

piano

and

all

day Saturday and

started playing records.

all

day Sunday.

He'd

pla\'

one

day long sometimes, and he'd improvise along

on the piano. Or he'd plav one section of the record, one chord, one it on the piano. Then back to the record.

change, one progression, then he'd do

Then back Well,

170

to the piano.

realK don't

I

know how

wasn't like living with a person at

sound didn't make any sense naturalK. in their

moved ate,

They began,

home. in

It

was

all, it

was

to her, didn't

in a wav, to

as

they stood

be

it.

Isabel finally confessed that

like living

make am

afflicted b\ this

though Sonny w ere some

an atmosphere which wasn't

he washed himself, he walked

in

sense to any of

And

it

the

them —

presence that was living

sort of god, or monster.

like theirs at all.

and out of

with sound.

They

their door;

fed

He

him and he

he certainlv wasn't

Sonny's Blues t 61

Sonny isn't any of those things; but it was as though wrapped up in some cloud, some fire, some vision all his own; and there wasn't any way to reach him. At the same time, he wasn't really a man yet, he was still a child, and they had to watch out for him in all kinds of ways. They certainly couldn't throw him nasty or unpleasant or rude,

he were

all

out. Neither did they dare to

they dimly sensed, as

Sonny was

at that

I

make

a great scene about that piano because even

many thousands

sensed, from so

piano playing

of miles away, that

for his life.

But he hadn't been going to school. One day a letter came from the school Isabel's mother got it— there had, apparently, been other letters but Sonny had torn them up. This day, when Sonny came in, Isabel's mother

board and

and asked where he'd been spending his time. And she that he'd been down in Greenwich Village, with musicians and other characters, in a white girl's apartment. And this scared her and she started to scream at him and what came up, once she began— though she denies it to this day— was what sacrifices they were making to give Sonny a

showed him the finally got

decent

it

letter

out of

him

home and how

Sonny

little

he appreciated

didn't play the piano that day.

down but then

there was the old

man

it.

By evening,

to deal with,

Isabel's

and

mother had calmed

Isabel herself Isabel says

down and started crying. She says she She could tell, by watching him, what was happening with him. And what was happening was that they penetrated his cloud, they had reached him. Even if their fingers had been a thousand times more gentle than human fingers ever are, he could hardly help feeling that they had stripped him naked and were spitting on that nakedness. For he also had to see that his presence, that music, which was life or death to him, had been torture for them and that they had endured it, not at all for his sake, but only for mine. And Sonny couldn't take that. He can take it a little better today than he could then but he's still not very good at it and, frankly, I don't know anybody who is. The silence of the next few days must have been louder than the sound of all the music ever played since time began. One morning, before she went to work, Isabel was in his room for something and she suddenly realized that all of his records were gone. And she knew for certain that he was gone. And he was. He went as far as the navy would carry him. He finally sent me a postcard from some place in Greece and that was the first I knew that Sonny was still alive. I didn't see him any more until we were both back in New York and the war had long been over. she did her best to be calm but she broke just

watched Sonny's

He was

a

man

face.

by then, of course, but

the house from time to time, but like the

way he

like his friends, It

sounded

carried himself, loose

and

just that

his

I

wasn't willing to see

we fought almost

music seemed

every time

and dreamlike to

all

it.

we

the time,

be merely an excuse

He came by met.

I

didn't

and

I

didn't

for the life

he

led.

weird and disordered.

Then we had a fight, a pretty awful fight, and I didn't see him for months. By and by I looked him up, where he was living, in a furnished room in the Village, and I tried to make it up. But there were lots of other people in the room and Sonny just lay on his bed, and he wouldn't come downstairs with me.

175

James Baldwin

62

and he treated these other people as though they were his family and I weren't. So got mad and then he got mad, and then I told him that he might just as well be dead as li\e the way he was living. Then he stood up and he told me not to worn,- about him any more in life, that he was dead as far as I was concerned. Then he pushed me to the door and the other people looked on as though nothing were happening, and he slammed the door behind me. I stood I

in the hallway, staring at the door.

then the tears crying,

I

came

to

mv

eyes.

I

heard somebody laugh

started

I

down

kept whistling to mvself. You going

in the

room and

the steps, whistling to keep from

to

need me. baby, one of these cold,

rainy days.

read about Sonny's trouble in the spring. Little Grace died in the

I

was

a beautiful

She had

polio and she suffered.

seem

But she only

little girl.

and we

like an\i:hing

lived a

couple of days, but

a slight fever for a

kept her in bed.

just

She

fall.

over two years. She died of

little

And we would

didn't

it

certainlv ha\e

seemed to be all right. So we Then, one day, she was up, pla\ ing, Isabel was the two boys when they'd come in from school,

called the doctor, but the fe\er dropped, she

thought

it

had

just

been

in the kitchen fixing

a cold.

lunch

and she heard Grace

fall

children you don't always

for

down

in the living

screaming or something. And,

this time,

when she heard that thump and then to make her afraid. And she ran to the the floor,

all

twisted up,

couldn't get her breath. says, that she'd ever

When

room.

running when one of them

start

vou have

falls,

something happened

that silence, living

room and

heard in

she did scream,

her

all

life,

dreams. Isabel will sometimes wake

start

Gracie was quiet. Yet, Isabel sa\s that there was

little

and the reason she hadn't screamed was

And when

a lot of

unless thev

and she

me up

to

her

Grace on that she

was the worst sound, Isabel

it

still

with a

hears

it

sometimes

in her

moaning, strangling

lov\,

awaken her and hold her to me and where a mortal wound. I think I may have written Sonny the very day that little Grace was buried. I was sitting in the living room in the dark, bv mvself, and I suddenlv thought of sound and Isabel

is

My

Sonny.

One been

I

in

have

to

be quick

weeping against

trouble

made

me

to

seems

his real.

Saturda\- afternoon,

when Sonny had been

our house, for nearly hvo weeks,

I

li\ing with us, or anx-way,

found myself wandering aimlessly

work up courI was home, and Isabel had taken the children to see their grandparents. Suddenly I was standing still in front of the living room window, watching Seventh Avenue. about the living room, drinking from a can of beer, and tnting

He was

age to search Sonny's room.

The

idea of searching Sonnv's

myself what

I'd

be searching

out,

room made me

for.

I

didn't

to

he was usually out whenever

still.

I

know what

scarcely dared to admit to I'd

do

if

I

found

it.

Or

if

I

didn't.

On

180

the sidewalk across from me, near the entrance to a barbecue joint,

people were holding an old-fashioned revival meeting.

wearing a sun,

5.

and a

dirt\

The barbecue

some cook,

white apron, his conked' hair reddish and metallic in the pale

cigarette bet\\een his lips, stood in the doorwav,

Processed: straightened and greased.

watching them. Kids

Sonny's Blues t 63 and older people paused in their errands and stood there, along with some older men and a couple of very tough-looking women who watched everything that happened on the avenue, as though they owned it, or were maybe owned by it. Well, they were watching this, too. The revival was being carried on by three sisters in black, and a brother. All they had were their voices and their Bibles and a tambourine. The brother was testifying^ and while he testified two of the sisters stood together, seeming to say, amen, and the third sister walked around with the tambourine outstretched and a couple of people dropped coins into it.

Then

the brother's testimony ended and the sister

collection

dumped

the coins into her

palm and

who had been

taking

up the

them

to the

pocket

transferred

Then she raised both hands, striking the tambourine and then against one hand, and she started to sing. And the two other sisters and the brother joined in. It was strange, suddenly, to watch, though I had been seeing these meetings all my life. So, of course, had everybody else down there. Yet, they paused and of her long black robe.

against the

air,

watched and listened and they sang, and the rescued

sister

I

stood

still

at the

window.

"

Tis the old ship ofZion,"

with the tambourine kept a steady, jangling beat,

many a thousand!" Not

a soul

"it

has

under the sound of their voices was hear-

first time, not one of them had been rescued. Nor had they way of rescue work being done around them. Neither did they especially believe in the holiness of the three sisters and the brother, they knew too much about them, knew where they lived, and how. The woman with the tambourine, whose voice dominated the air, whose face was bright with joy, was

ing this song for the

seen

much

in the

divided by very little from the woman who stood watching her, a cigarette between her heavy, chapped lips, her hair a cuckoo's nest, her face scarred and swollen from many beatings, and her black eyes glittering like coal. Perhaps they

both knew

this,

which was why, when,

addressed each other as

Sister.

as rarely, they

As the singing

addressed each other, they the air the watching,

filled

lis-

tening faces underwent a change, the eyes focusing on something within; the

music seemed away from the

to soothe a poison out of

them; and time seemed, nearly,

sullen, belligerent, battered faces, as

to fall

though they were fleeing

last. The barbecue cook and dropped his cigarette and disappeared into his joint. A man fumbled in his pockets for change and stood holding it in his hand impatiently, as though he had just remembered a pressing appointment further up the avenue. He looked furious. Then I saw Sonny, standing on the edge of the crowd. He was carrying a wide, flat notebook with a green cover, and it made him look, from where I was standing, almost like a schoolboy. The coppery sun brought out the copper in his skin, he was very faintly smiling,

back

to their first condition,

while dreaming of their

half shook his head and smiled,

Then the singing stopped, the tambourine turned into a colThe furious man dropped in his coins and vanished, so did a couple of the women, and Sonny dropped some change in the plate, looking direcriy at the woman with a little smile. He started across the avenue, toward the house. He has a slow, loping walk, something like the way Harlem hipsters standing very

still.

lection plate again.

6.

Publicly professing belief.

'

James Baldwin

64

own

walk, only he's imposed on this his

half-beat.

had never

I

really noticed

it

before.

window, both relieved and apprehensive. As Sonny disapthey began singing again. And they were still singing

stayed at the

I

my

peared from

when

sight,

key turned

his

"Hey," he

in the lock.

said.

"Hey, yourself. You want some beer?"

"No. Well, maybe." But he came up

185

looking out.

"What

They were .

').'

"Yes,"

stood beside me,

my mother

pray again!

"and she can sure beat that tambourine.

terrible song," he said, and laughed. He dropped his notebook and disappeared into the kitchen. "WTiere's Isabel and the kids?" "I think they went to see their grandparents. You hungr)?" "No." He came back into the living room with his can of beer. "You want to

He

through

it.

tonight?"

know how,

don't

I

down on

sat

me

place with

sensed,

I

"I'm going to

"That's right."

me

gave

"I'll try,"

He

that

sit

couldn't possibly say no. "Sure. Where?"

He

some

in with

up

his

notebook and

started leafing

fellows in a joint in the Village."

to play, tonight?"

moved back

took a swallow of his beer and

a sidelong look. "If I

I

the sofa and picked

"You mean, you're going

195

window and

sofa

come some

He

to the

said.

"But what a

on the

190

he

voice,"

singing If I could only hear

said,

I

warm

a

you can stand

to the

window.

it."

said.

we both watched as the meeting across the way and the brother, heads bowed, were singing God be with you till we meet again. The faces around them were verv' quiet. Then the song ended. The small crowd dispersed. We watched the three women and the smiled

to

The

broke up.

himself and

three sisters

man walk slowly up the avenue. "When she was singing before," said

lone

me

Sonny, abruptly, "her voice reminded

minute of what heroin feels like sometimes— when it's in your veins. — It makes you feel sort of warm and cool at the same time. And distant. And and sure." He sipped his beer, very deliberately not looking at me. I watched his for a

face. "It

makes you

"Do you?"

feel

— in control.

Sometimes you've got

down slowly in the easy chair. "Sometimes." He went to the sofa and picked up

to

have that feeling."

sat

I

his

notebook again. "Some

people do." "In order,"

200

I

asked, "to play?"

And my

voice was

verv- ugly, full

of contempt

and anger.

— he

"Well"

hoped so.

his eyes

And

if

looked

would

at

tell

they think so



me with great, troubled eyes, as though, in fact, he me things he could never otherwise say— "they think !"

"And what do you think?" I He sat on the sofa and put said,

and

I

couldn't be sure

thoughts. His face didn't

tell

if

asked. his

can of beer on the

he were answering

me.

"It's

not so

much

my

floor. "I

don't know," he

question or pursuing his

to play.

It's

to

stand

it,

to

be

Sonny's Blues t 65 able to

make

it

from shaking

at all.

On

any

level."

"But these friends of yours,"

goddamn

pretty

my

smiled: "In order to keep

I

said, "they

seem

to

shake themselves to pieces

fast."

He

"Maybe." curb

He frowned and

to pieces."

played with the notebook.

And something told me

tongue, that Sonny was doing his best to

of course you only

know

I

that

should

I

should

listen.

205

"But

Some don't— or at least say." He paused. "And in hell, and they know it and they see don't know." He sighed, dropped the

the ones that've gone to pieces.

they haven't yet and that's just about

then there are some

talk, that

who

all

just live, really,

what's happening and they go right on.

I

any of us can

"Some guys, you can tell from the way they play, time. And you can see that, well, it makes something

notebook, folded his arms. they on something all the

real for them. But of course," he picked up his beer from the floor and sipped it and put the can down again, "they want to, too, you've got to see that. Even some of them that say they don't— some, not all." "And what about you?" I asked — I couldn't help it. "What about you? Do you want to?" He stood up and walked to the window and I remained silent for a long time. Then he sighed. "Me," he said. Then: "While I was downstairs before, on my way here, listening to that woman sing, it struck me all of a sudden how much suffering she must have had to go through — to sing like that. It's repulsive to think you have to suffer that much." I said: "But there's no way not to suffer — is there. Sonny?" "I believe not," he said and smiled, "but that's never stopped anyone from trying." He looked at me. "Has it?" I realized, with this mocking look, that there stood between us, forever, beyond the power of time or forgiveness, the fact that I had held silence— so long!— when he had needed human speech to help him. He turned back to the window. "No, there's no way not to suffer. But you try all kinds of ways to keep from drowning in it, to keep on top of it, and to make it seem — well, like you. Like you did something, all right, and now you're suffering for it. You know?" I said nothing. "Well you know," he said, impatiently, "why do people suffer? Maybe it's better to do something to give it a reason, any

reason."

"But we then, just

just agreed,"

to— take

"But nobody body

tries

not

said, "that there's

I

just takes

to.

no way not

to suffer. Isn't

it

better,

it?"

You're

Sonny cried, "that's what I'm telling you! Everyhung up on the way some people try— it's not your

it,"

just

way!"

The "that's

hair

they suffer.

me," "I

I

to itch, my face felt wet. "That's not true," said, damn what other people do, I don't even care how just care how you suffer." And he looked at me. "Please believe "I don't want to see you— die — trying not to suffer."

on

not true.

said,

my

I

face

I

I

won't," he said

anybody

began

don't give a

flafly,

"die trying not to suffer. At least, not any faster than

else."

"But there's no need,"

I

said, trying to laugh, "is there? in killing yourself."

210

66 T James Baldwin 215

wanted

I

how

more, but

to say

could be

life

couldn't.

I

— well, beautiful.

I

wanted

I

wanted

rather, wasn't that exactly the trouble?

it? or,

would never

him

fail

again. But

would

it

all

about

to talk

to say that

And

it

was

wanted

I

have sounded

power and

v\ill

within; but was

all

to

promise that

— empty

I

words and

lies.

So

made

I

the promise to myself and prayed that

sometimes, inside," he

terrible

"It's

I

would keep

it.

said, "that's what's the trouble.

You walk

and cold, and there's not really a living ass to talk to, and there's nothing shaking, and there's no way of getting it out— that storm inside. You can't talk it and you can't make love with it, and when you finally try to get with it and play it, you realize nobody's listening. So you've got to listen. these streets, black and funky

You got to find a way to listen." And then he walked away from though

all

window and

the

on the

sat

sofa again, as

the wind had suddenly been knocked out of him. "Sometimes you'll

do anything to play, even cut your mother's throat." He laughed and looked at me. "Or your brother's." Then he sobered. "Or your own." Then: "Don't worr)'. I'm all right now and I think I'll be all right. But I can't forget— where I've been. I don't mean just the physical place I've been, I mean where I've been. And what

I've

been."

"What have you been. Sonny?"

He

220

smiled

— but sat sideways

asked.

I

on the

sofa, his

elbow

resting

on the back,

his

mouth and chin, not looking at me. "I've been somerecognize, didn't know I could be. Didn't know anybody could

fingers playing with his

thing be."

didn't

I

He

stopped, looking inward, looking helplessly young, looking old. "I'm not

talking about

be better

if

I

now because

it

did,

now he

not to anybody," and it

was actually when

with

me,

it,

I

I

I

anything

I

don't

like

that— maybe

can't really talk about

them — it was

it

was empt)'; he rolled fix,

needed

couldn't find

felt that

I

was

I

didn't really have to play,

I

know how

I

between

his palms:

it,

It

and

I

— went crazy,

I

I

"

He

would to \ou,

in

Or

it

that

was

now, but

I

wasn't that

I

it

needed

I

to clear a space to listen

did terrible things to me,

it

I

came out of

"And other times — well,

needed

he played with

it,

just

picked up the beer can;

pressing the beer can between his hands, glittered, as

it

played, thinking about

that they weren't real.

to find a place to lean,

He began

begin to give.

it

it

Not

it.

turned and faced me. "Sometimes, you know, and

could play or

a

me."

I

did awful things, those times, sometimes, to people.

did anything to

I

feel guilty or

was most out of the world,

was there. And

it

know

and

really,

I

don't know. Anyway,

I

like a knife,

I

I

was

— and

I

terrible for

watched the metal I was afraid he

and

would cut himself, but said nothing. "Oh well. I can never tell you. was all by myself at the bottom of something, stinking and sweating and cr\ ing and shaking, and I smelled it, you know? my stink, and I thought I'd die if couldn't get away from it and yet, all the same, I knew that ever\ihing I was doing was just locking me in with it. And I didn't know," he paused, still flattening the beer can, "I didn't know, still don't know, something kept telling me that I

I

I

I

maybe I'd

it

been

own

was good

to smell

tr\'ing to

do — and — who can stand

ruined beer can, looking at

your

me

stink,

but

with a small,

I

it?" still

didn't think that that was u hat

and he abruptly dropped the smile, and then rose, walking

67

Sonny's Blues

window

to the

though

as

were the lodestone rock.

it

I

watched

he

his face,

you when Mama died — but the reason I wanted to leave Harlem so bad was to get away from drugs. And then, when I ran away, that's what I was running from — really. When I came back, nothing had changed, J hadn't changed, I was just— older." And he stopped, drumming watched the avenue.

"I

couldn't

tell

The sun had vanished, soon

with his fingers on the windowpane. fall. I

watched

can come again," he

his face. "It

Then he turned know that."

to himself.

you

to

"All right,"

He

I

said, at last.

I

said. "I

my

'Tes,"

repeated, "yes.

I

it

I

darkness would

almost as though speaking

can come again," he repeated.

"It

can come again. All "I

had

"I just

want

right."

to try to tell you,"

he

said.

that."

brother," he said, looking straight at

understand

me, and not smiling

at all.

that."

225

window, looking out. "All that hatred down there," he hatred and miser}' and love. It's a wonder it doesn't blow the

turned back

said, "all that

We

"So

understand

"You're

avenue

me.

smiled, but the smile was sorrowful.

'Tes,"

He

to

said,

to the

apart."

went

to the

only nightclub on a short, dark

downtown.

street,

squeezed through the narrow, chattering, jampacked bar

to the

We

entrance of the

And we stood there for a moment, for the room and we couldn't see. Then, "Hello, boy," said the voice and an enormous black man, much older than Sonny or myself, erupted out of all that atmospheric lighting and put an arm around Sonny's big room, where the bandstand was. lights

were very dim

been

in this

he said, "waiting for you." and heads in the darkness turned toward us. Sonny grinned and pulled a little away, and said, "Creole, this is my brother. I told you about him." Creole shook my hand. "I'm glad to meet you, son," he said, and it was clear that he was glad to meet me there, for Sonny's sake. And he smiled, 'Tou got a real musician in your family," and he took his arm from Sonny's shoulder and shoulder.

"I

He had

slapped him, "Well. cian,

and

lightly, affectionately,

Now I've

heard

it

all,"

with the back of his hand.

said a voice

behind

us.

This was another musi-

man, built close to me, at the top of his lungs, the teeth gleaming like a lighthouse and his

a friend of Sonny's, a coal-black, cheerful-looking

the ground.

most

sitting right here,"

a big voice, too,

He

immediately began confiding

terrible things

about Sonny, his

laugh coming up out of him out that everyone

at the

bar

like the

to

beginning of an earthquake.

knew Sonny,

or almost ever\one;

And

it

turned

some were musi-

working there, or nearby, or not working, some were simply hangers-on, and som.e were there to hear Sonny play. I was introduced to all of them and they were all very polite to me. Yet, it was clear that, for them, I was only Sonny's cians,

brother. Here,

I

was in Sonny's world. Or,

rather: his

kingdom. Here,

it

was not

even a question that his veins bore royal blood.

They were going to play soon and Creole installed me, bv myself, at a table Then I watched them, Creole, and the little black man, and

in a dark corner.

Sonny, and the others, while they horsed around, standing

just

below the band-

230

James Baldwin

68 stand.

ing

The

light

from the bandstand

them laughing and

nevertheless, were being

suddenly; that

if

they

spilled just a

gesturing and

most careful not

moved

little

moving about,

I

short of them and, watch-

had the feeling that they,

to step into that circle of light too

into the light too suddenly, without thinking, they

would perish in flame. Then, while I watched, one of them, the small black man, moved into the light and crossed the bandstand and started fooling around with his drums. Then — being funny and being, also, extremely ceremonious — Creole took Sonny by the arm and led him to the piano. A woman's voice called Sonny's name and a few hands started clapping. And Sonny, also being funny and being ceremonious, and so touched, I think, that he could have cried, but neither hiding it nor showing it, riding it like a man, grinned, and put both hands to his heart and bowed from the waist. Creole then went to the bass fiddle and a lean, ver)' bright-skinned brown man jumped up on the bandstand and picked up his horn. So there they were, and the atmosphere on the bandstand and in the room began to change and tighten. Someone stepped up to the microphone and announced them. Then there were all kinds of murmurs. Some people at the bar shushed others. The waitress ran around, frantically getting in the last orders, guys and chicks got closer to each other, and the lights on the bandstand, on the quartet, turned to a kind of indigo. Then they all looked different there. Creole looked about him for the last time, as though he were making certain that all his chickens were in the coop, and then he — jumped and struck the fiddle. And there they were. All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours. I just watched Sonny's face. His face was troubled, he was working hard, but he wasn't with it. And I had the feeling that, in a way, everyone on the bandstand was waiting for him, both waiting for him and pushing him along. But as I began to watch Creole, I realized that it was Creole who held them all back. He had them on a short rein. Up there, keeping the beat with his whole body, wailing on the fiddle, with his eyes half closed, he was listening to everything, but

with Sonny.

to

Sonny.

to leave the shoreline

He was and

having

strike

a

dialogue

out for the deep

He was Sonny's witness that deep water and drowning were not the same thing— he had been there, and he knew. And he wanted Sonny to know. He was waiting for Sonny to do the things on the keys which would let Creole know that Sonny was in the water. And, while Creole listened. Sonny moved, deep within, exacdy like someone in torment. I had never before thought of how awful the relationship must be between the musician and his instrument. He has to fill it, this instrument, with the breath of life, his own. He has to make it do what he wants it to do. And a piano is just a piano. It's made out of so much wood and wires and little hamwater.

235

he was listening

He wanted Sonny

Sonny's Blues

69

ivory. While there's only so much you can do with it, way to find this out is to try; to try and make it do everything. And Sonny hadn't been near a piano for over a year. And he wasn't on much better terms with his life, not the life that stretched before him now. He and the piano stammered, started one way, got scared, stopped; started another way, panicked, marked time, started again; then seemed to have found a direction, panicked again, got stuck. And the face I saw on Sonny I'd never seen before. Everything had been burned out of it, and, at the same time, things usually hidden were being burned in, by the fire and fury of the battle which was occurring in him up there. Yet, watching Creole's face as they neared the end of the first set, I had the feeling that something had happened, something I hadn't heard. Then they finished, there was scattered applause, and then, without an instant's warning, Creole started into something else, it was almost sardonic, it was Am I Blue7 And, as though he commanded. Sonny began to play. Something began to hap-

mers and big ones, and

the only

And Creole let out the reins. The dry, low, black man said something awful on the drums, Creole answered, and the drums talked back. Then the horn insisted, sweet and high, slightly detached perhaps, and Creole listened, commenting now and then, dry, and driving, beautiful and calm and old. Then they all came together again, and Sonny was part of the family again. I could tell this pen.

from

his face.

He seemed

brand-new piano.

It

to

seemed

have found, right there beneath that

he couldn't get over

it.

his fingers, a

Then,

damn

for a while, just

being happy with Sonny, they seemed to be agreeing with him that brand-new pianos certainly were a gas.

Then Creole stepped forward to remind them that what they were playing He hit something in all of them, he hit something in me, myself,

was the blues.

and the music tightened and deepened, apprehension began to beat the air. Creole began to tell us what the blues were all about. They were not about anything very new. He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness, and death, in order to find iiew ways to rriake_us listen.

For, while the tale of

we may triumph tale to tell,

And strings,

it's

is

how we

never new,

it

suffer,

the only light we've got in

this tale,

and how we are delighted, and how

always must be heard. There all this

any other

according to that face, that body, those strong hands on those

has another aspect in every country, and a

tion. Listen,

isn't

darkness.

Creole seemed

to

be saying,

listen.

new depth

Now

in every genera-

these are Sonny's blues.

He made the little black man on the drums know it, and the bright, brown man on the horn. Creole wasn't trying any longer to get Sonny in the water. He was wishing him Codspeed. Then he stepped back, very slowly, filling the air with immense suggestion that Sonny speak for himself. Then they all gathered around Sonny and Sonny played. Every now and again one of them seemed to say, amen. Sonny's fingers filled the air with life, his life. But that life contained so many others. And Sonny went all the way

the

back, he really began with the spare,

7.

A favorite

flat

statement of the opening phrase of the

jazz standard, brilliantly recorded by Billie Holiday.

240

James Baldwin

70

Then he began

song.

hurried and

had made

it

it

could help us to

his: that

was no

giving it

can

it

long

a

it

his.

was very beautiful because

It

lament.

1

seemed

Freedom lurked around be free if we would listen, battle in his face

to

yet to niake

us and

I

wasn't

it

hear with what burning he it

ours,

how we could

understood, at

last,

that

he

he would never be free until we heard what he had gone through,

that

now,

I

to rest in earth. He had made which we knew only Mama and Daddy. And he was everything must be given back, so that, passing through death,

and would continue it

make

and what burning we had

his,

cease lamenting.

did. Yet, there

to

was no longer

to

go through until he came

line, of

back, as

live forever.

I

saw

my

mother's face again, and

felt,

for the first time,

the stones of the road she had walked on must have bruised her

feet.

I

how

saw the

my father's brother died. And it brought something else me, and carried me past it, I saw my little girl again and felt Isabel's felt my own tears begin to rise.^nd I was yet aware that this tears again, and was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungr\' as a tiger, and that moonlit road where

back

to

I

trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky.

Then it was over. Creole and Sonny let out their breath, both soaking wet, and grinning. There was a lot of applause and some of it was real. In the dark, the girl came by and I asked her to take drinks to the bandstand. There was a long pause, while they talked up there in the indigo light and after awhile I saw the

put a Scotch and milk on top of the piano for Sonny.

girl

notice

it,

but

just before

toward me, and nodded.

began

as they

the

ver)'

He

Then he put

to play again,

it

it

seem to and looked

didn't

they started playing again, he sipped from

it

back on top of the piano. For me, then,

glowed and shook above

my

brother's

head

like

cup of trembling.^ 1957

8.

See Isaiah

51:17, 22-23:

the Lord the cup of his out.

my

.

.

Behold,

.

fury;

thee;

." .

.

I

"Awake, awake, stand up,

fur)-;

O Jerusalem,

which hast drunk

at the

hand of

thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them

have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of

thou shalt no more drink

it

again; But

I

will

put

it

into the

hand of them

that afflict

Plot T 71

PLOT

A

Glossary may be

action: an imagined event or series of events (an event

verbal as

well as physical, so that saying something or telling a story within the

may be an

story

event)

climax: see turning point

conclusion: the that

fifth

which the situation becomes stable once

part of the structure, the point at

was destabilized

beginning of the

at the

story

more between opposing and something in nature or

conflict: a struggle a person

forces,

such

society, or

as

between two people,

even between two

drives,

impulses, or parts of the self curiosity: the desire to

know what

discriminated occasion: the

first

is

happening or has happened

specific event in a story,

or

a character

is

meaning of the

like or

how he

is

to

or she will develop,

story will prove to

exposition: that part of the structure

identifies characters, establishes the situation at the rative,

usually in

happen next (see suspense), what the theme be, and so on that sets the scene, introduces and

expectation: the anticipation of what

what

more

summary

the form of a specific scene than in

though additional exposition

is

beginning of the nar-

often scattered throughout the

story

falling action: the fourth part of plot structure, in

which the complications

of the rising achon are untangled flashback: structuring device whereby a scene from the fictional past

is

inserted into the fictional present or dramatized out of order history: the imaginary people, places, chronologically arranged events that

we assume

exist in the

world of the author's imagination, a world from

which he or she chooses and arranges or rearranges the story elements plot/plot structure: the arrangement of the action red herring: a false lead, something that misdirects expectations rising action: the second of the five parts of plot structure, in which events complicate the situation that existed fying the conflict or introducing selection: the process by to

be important

new

at the

beginning of a work, intensi-

conflict

which authors leave out some things that seem and include some things that do not seem

to the story

very important structuring: the arrangement or rearrangement of the elements in the history

suspense: the expectation of and doubt about what

is

going

to

happen

next

turning point or climax: the third part of plot structure, the point the action stops rising

and begins

falling or reversing

at

which

Questions and Writing Suggestions

72

QUESTIONS 1.

We

are advised by Margaret

her sketch A; does

it

What

authentic ending for a stor\? uses the 2.

order.

word

"plot"

Atwood

that

and the way

if

What

have a happy ending?

we want

a

used

structured story begins,

to try

the only

is

way Atwood

the difference between the

is

it is

in the introduction to this chapter?

Rearrange the incidents in "The Country Husband"

The

happy ending

does she claim

"To begin

about the near-crash of Francis's plane. WTiy

in chronological

beginning

at the

.

and

."

.

tells

What

that the beginning?

is

is it

the beginning of? Describe the location, appearance, and socioeconomic

make-up of Shady

Hill.

Why

Clayton

Thomas and Anne

Francis

Weed and Shady

3-

and

The opening scene

is

the dog Jupiter "an anomaly" (par. lo)?

also not "belong"?

why does

have a "happy ending"? According

on with the

win's ston' 4. storv',

the

to

not the

is

first

incident in

Does

the story begin here?

Atwood, Baldwin should,

Sonny and

story until both

do

his brother die;

Sonny

this story

in all honesty,

why does

Bald-

end here?

In "Sonny's Blues,"

how

is

the first-person narrator, the person telling the

identified or characterized in the

first

Why

wins the struggle between

Hill?

of "Sonny's Blues"

his brother's relationship;

carry

Who

couple pages? in the

ston,' as

a

first

sentence? in the

first

paragraph? in

whole?

WRITING SUGGESTIONS 1.

Choose one of Atwood's

scene or two illustrating the 2.

Compare

"stories" (or conflate

How

or the

a Mystery," Maupassant's

sketches in

"Happy Endings."

"The

"The Country Husband" but

story

is,

"

Tallent's

more of the

centering on the same situa-

set in the 1990s,

Rearrange the episodes in "Sonnv's Blues

hypothetical history— that

Cheever and

Jewelry," or one or

Write a story or a sketch or outline of a

tion in 4.

Why.

the treatment of marital infidelit)' in

"No One's

3.

hvo or three) and write a

and

as they

in a place

you know.

would appear

in the

in chronological order. Pick the three or four

changes that seem to you most important. Describe the difference

in effect

and

significance that Baldwin has achieved with his structuring or rearrangement.

POINT OF VIEW tructuring involves

s What

selection involves

What would

more than

more than the ordering of events;

plot,

more than the choosing

or inventing of incidents.

"Sonny's Blues" be like seen through the eyes of Sonny?

incidents might he choose to tell? In what order might he arrange

And what end, that

does it is

do

it

"The Cask of Amontillado" when we

to

being told by Montresor

and that

years after the event

fifty

them?

realize, at the

his

last— probably dying— words, referring to Fortunate, are, "In pace requiescat"?

Why

he

is

telling the story

now? What

additional resonance do his final words

have?

Who

is

telling us the story

—whose words

person stand in relation to what

appear before us

ated.

The way

going on in the

is

someone

directlv. In narrative,

events— a viewer,

we reading? Where does

are

stor)'?

always between us and the

is

a speaker, or both. Narrative, unlike

a story

mediated

is

a

is

this

In drama, events

drama,

always medi-

is

key element in fictional structure. This

— the point from which the people, — and also the words of the story lying

mediation involves both the angle of vision

and other

events,

details are

between us and the

history.

viewed

The viewing

aspect

is

and the

called the focus,

Both are generally lumped together

bal aspect the voice.

ver-

term point of

in the

view.

Focus

acts

and the angle even

We

movie camera does, choosing what we can look

as a

which we can view

distorting. Plot

histor)';

it

much at

is

framing, proportioning,

it,

a structure that places us in a time relationship to the

focus places us in a spatial relationship.

must pay

fixed or

careful attention to the focus at

mobile? Does

it

stay at

more

and out? In the

Creek Bridge,"

first

for

three

and

example,

up

or

same angle and distance from the graph, however, we're inside the

"The arrangement commended

moment. it

...

A piece

same angle

action, or does

a half paragraphs of

we seem

era that can swing left or right,

any given point

or less the

same distance from, the characters and

slowly

at

emphasizing—

to

down, but

move around

is

of the

man

or in

Owl

in

He

73

are inside the

scope

at the

fourth para-

who's about to be hanged:

judgment. ...

now on we

more limited

at

much

that stays prett\'

looked a

of dancing drifhvood caught his attention.

man's head. The focus

stor}'. Is

at the

"An Occurrence

By the middle of the

itself to his

appeared to move!" From

in a

and

be seeing through the lens of a cam-

bridge.

mind

it

to,

.

.

.

How

condemned

— for almost all

the rest of the

74 story is

View

Point of

we can

see

and hear only what he

we can

internal as well as limited,

internal focus

The

is

sees

also

and

thinks.

This limited,

usually called the centered or central consciousness.

centered consciousness has been perhaps the most popular focus in

fiction for the past

hundred years— through most of the

short story, in fact— and gle individual

seem

tightly controlled

its

and the

natural.

ever, that the apparently real

cal realism.)

The

are narrated as

if

is

mind of the

has

It

not necessarily what is

but what

is

is,

how-

increasingly clear, "is"

sin-

perceived

sometimes called psychologi-

centered consciousness, in which things, people, and events filter

seemed the more

comfortable focus for readers, too.

On

the

of an individual character's con-

realistic

Lantin in "The Jewelry." first

person

We

pull

share, even

if

back

as

it

a

It is

identify with

the character

can identify with point of view at times.

can in a third-person

"The Cask of Amontillado,"

First-person stories, like

to tell a story.

but we are too close

("I"), too,

The camera cannot

way

one hand, they can

someone whose thoughts and perception they

story told in the

one sense realistic— that

become

individual. (This

perceived through the

sciousness, has therefore

lible, like

modern

During much of this

particularly suited for the short form.

treating the everyday

by the senses and

history of the

range and concentration on a

period, fiction, both long and short, has been in

escape.

But because the focus

hears.

know what he

is fal-

in a

We

cannot

story.

are always limited too,

and almost always get inside the speaker's mind, though Montresor hides

his

plans from us. While they cannot withdraw spatially from the narrator, they

almost always are withdrawn temporally; that than the "I" experiencing the events. is

what happened

telling

The

fifty

The

older

is

years earlier.

we

don't hold the author (or the story) responsible for

and opinions of the

the absolute truth, validity, accuracy,

he or she

is

just telling us

what he or she

"Owl Creek

thinks, feels,

may be

the possibility that the narrator's vision

consciousness

is

focal

character— if

sees— we must accept

unreliable. At a significant

Bridge," for example, you will find that the camera pulls

back from Peyton Farquhar and we are made

is

the "I" telling the story

psychological realism gained by having a limited narrator exacts a

price from the reader. If

point in

is,

narrator of Poe's story, for example,

a reliable witness to

to recognize to

what extent

what has been going on. The

his

history here

only an occurrence; the limited point of view structures the mere occur-

rence into

When

a story.

the point of view

centered consciousness,

it is

room, the camera must go

room when

is

limited,

whether

to a first-person narrator or to a

tied to that individual.

too,

the focal character

and is

if

we

gone,

are to

When

he or she leaves the

know what happens

some means

in the

of bringing the informa-

View

Point of

must be devised, such

tion to that character

character.

The camera may

"Owl Creek

as a letter or a report

pull back out of the character's

by another

mind

Bridge," above and away from the character, but

or even, as in

does not gener-

it

jump around. An unlimited point of view permits such freedom.

ally

Zebra Storyteller" we are with the

and are

cat speaking Zebraic

told

zebra (who

first

he

is

is

"astonished."

killed)

We

t 75

"The

In

when he meets

a

learn that the zebras

can smell no lion and so "decided the woods were haunted by the ghost of a lion,"

and we get inside the mind of the

storyteller

himself Throughout, the story seems free another and even

There

story.

to dip inside a character's

once

a point of

The movement

Creek Bridge" ning of the

story,

tant observer,

is

is

jump but

a

but there

is

be the law

we

a

settle in,

which

is

not an

a general

When

house or room).

panoramic shot

for the

this

dis-

uncommon

i!

at the

find there has

beginning. There has been to

be

and

justifiable

anthology— "The Most Dangerous

Game," "Barn Burning," and "The Lame

Shall Enter First," for

jump— from

which the point of view does shift— or

example — in

a previously established

centered consciousness. Whether these are "flaws" must be judged in each case in terms of function: ulation or

is it

the shift merely a narrative convenience or manip-

is

consistent with or does

it

contribute to the significance or vision

of the story?

Focus and voice often coincide; that together as point of view. There

between the viewing and the But sometimes there

ple.

Creek Bridge"

at the

quhar, but even

not

in words,

son

they are

telling in

that

I

commonly lumped can see (or hear)

"The Cask of Amontillado,"

the focus narrows on

is

exam-

for

a discrepancy. Like the focus, the voice in

"Owl

not centered in Peyton Far-

him

the voice telling the story

example, "As these thoughts, which have here

may

to

be set

prepare a careful reader for later developments in the

have used the

who

why

is

down

were flashed into the doomed man's brain" (emphasis added). The

discrepancy I

is

no discrepancy

beginning of the story

when

his; note, for

is

is

tells

common

the story.

You

term narrator

will

;

toward the end of the story

no jumping around and the narrowing and widening seem meaningful. There are stories in

Owl

at the begin-

begin with a panoramic shot of a town

to

moves back and away from Peyton Farquhar, we

been another reason

to

for that

apparently from the point of view and in the voice of a

adjusted and then

and gradually focused on the "camera"

to

narrowing down: the panorama

how many movies used

device (note

in fiction,

chosen that ought

of the focus at the beginning of "An Occurrence at

not a

is

view

and "hear" him speaking

matter from one focus or

mind.

no laws governing point of view

are

feeling that

to see

in the usual

way— to mean

story.

the per-

have noticed that often the narrator really

is

a

76

View

Point of

person in the

Montresor, the narrator in "The Cask of Amontillado."

story, like

But how about the narrator

in

"Owl Creek Bridge"?

Farquhar's words and can say things that Farquhar

"Death

is it

who

sets

down

not thinking, such

who, when he comes announced,

a dignitar\'

is

Who

is

is

as,

be received with

to

formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the

code of

Where

fixit)-

him

story

we

tor

an unidentified voice we often tend

is

or,

are less likely to identify

of "Owl Creek Bridge"

rator

We

are forms of deference" (par.

What kind of person is this narrator? narrator? Where the narrator plays some role

2).

the speaker standing?

Ambrose Bierce the

Is

and

militar)' etiquette silence is

can dig up

few

a

facts

is

or her with the author; to

do

so.

To

say that Bierce

not necessarily wrong, but

about the author's

it

therefore, especially

on the

basis of a single

the nar-

into the

worse, read the character or detail of the stor) into the author's

more prudent,

is

can be misleading.

and read them

life

in the

where the narra-

storv',

life. It is

not to speak

stor\',

who

of the author but of the author's persona, the voice or figure of the author

and

tells

the actual person of the

name

who may or ma\ not resemble in nature or values author. Mar)' Anne Evans wrote novels under the

structures the story,

of George Eliot; her first-person narrator speaks of "himself " That male

narrator

may be

a

good example of the persona or representative

authors construct to "write" their

We down

say write the stories.

in

their songs (poems), so

which means

rator,

tors, that

It

we

for

narrator of

is

There are

He

some thought, be

We you

is

— to whom

to test this

and focus of the Anne, the baby Just as

whose

more

is

subtly

one whose

is,

a char-

addressed.

no more you the reader than the

"I"

is

The

Poe.

identity' or role

can,

though the

historv'

its

if

plot, so that to

you

shift

summarize

focus and voice

has not changed, the storv has.

You

out by rewriting "The Ca.sk of Amontillado" in the voice

"The Country' Husband"

or Francis

Weed's

narrator, Michel/I,

in the voice

and focus of

wife.

Margaret Atwood's "Happy Endings"

so "Blow-Up,"

nar-

identified.

auditor, or

sitter,

is

the "speech"

giving a plot summary. But

will often find that

might want

and we speak of a

other than the reader— that

are used to thinking of a stor\ in terms of

means

stor\',

of the convention of oral storytelling— Louise Erdrich's

second sentence

a storv' usuallv

to "set

usually with first-person narra-

a silent character within the fiction, here

is

with

stories,

even has an auditor, someone

in the

"Owl Creek Bridge" has

example. "The Cask of Amontillado"

acter or characters within the fiction

"You"

most

thinking. But just as poets write of singing

often speak of telling a

a teller.

make much

"Love Medicine" "oral."

The

words" what Farquhar

that

stories.

is

is

a story

about plot-structure,

appropriately a photographer, seems

The Cask to

be about focus

Because

it is

as a

means of describing

much from

not so

means of structuring (and understanding) an

a written

stors',

Michel needs

a voice, words,

become

the visual images, and these

the words as from the

77

of Amontillado

event.

but they are chiefly (if

they do)

details

through

clearer

enhancement of the

the enlargement (blowing up) of the photograph.

Point of view has been discussed here largely as a matter of structure, as

having

and making

a role in creating the story

structuring also engenders

meaning and

effect.

of having such a scoundrel as Montresor lado" in the side are

first

How

person?

we on? Do we admire

do we

What

the

tell

is

stor)^

and no

other. This

the effect, for example,

of

"The Cask of Amontil-

about him during the story?

feel

We

of the focus to Farquhar Bierce would not have a story, but what

ending of that

effect of the surprise

cheated?

Do we

Whose

Would we if the stor\' can talk about how without the

his cleverness or wit?

were told from some other point of view? shift

this stor}-

it

story?

How surprising

admire the cleverness of the

telling? In

Do we

is it?

some

is

the

feel

says there

might

be a story in "Blow-Up" without Michel the photographer, but not only would its

structure be vastly different, but

curiosity,

suspense— would be

story, for the

of view

is

its

current effect— mystery, puzzlement,

"Sonny's Blues" should be the brother's

lost.

outward action, the incidents, chiefly involve him, but the point

Sonny's and the meaning for us

we must

the experience with him, thing.

What do we

much

of

its

effect

on the voice

What do we

learn?

upon

that tells

it

the

is

meaning

for

him. By sharing

ask whether he/we has/have

us depends

feel?

Much

done the

right

of what a story means,

on the eyes through which

it is

seen and

to us.

EDGAR ALLAN POE The Cask The thousand

injuries of Fortunate

ventured upon insult

I

of Amontillado I

had borne

vowed revenge. You, who

as

I

best could, but

so well

know

when he

the nature of my

however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled— but the ver\' definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunit)'. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes soul, will not suppose,

its

redresser.

felt as It

such

It is

to

equally unredressed

him who has done

must be understood

when

the avenger

fails to

make himself

the wrong.

that neither by

word nor deed had

I

given Fortunato

Edgar Allan Poe

78

my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation. He had a weak point— this Fortunato— although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself upon his connoisseurcause to doubt

Few

ship in wine.

enthusiasm

have the true virtuoso

Italians

adopted to

is

suit the

spirit.

For the most part their

time and opportunity,

imposture

to practice

and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; — I was skilful in the Italian

upon the

British

vintages myself,

and bought

whenever

largely

I

could.

was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival

It

season, that for

,

my

encountered

I

parti-striped dress,

was so pleased

his

him

head was surmounted by the conical cap and that

well you are looking to-day. But tillado,

and

have

I

"How?"

my

are luckily met.

How

I

remarkably

have received a pipe' of what passes

I

for

Amon-

doubts."

A

"Amontillado?

said he.

bells.

should never have done wringing his hand.

I

him — "My dear Fortunato, you

said to

I

and

to see

He accosted me with excessive warmth, man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting

friend.

he had been drinking much. The

And

pipe? Impossible!

in the

middle of

the carnival!" "I

have

my doubts,"

I

"and

replied;

I

was

silly

lado price without consulting you in the matter.

was

I

enough

to

You were

pay the

full

Amontil-

not to be found, and

fearful of losing a bargain."

"Amontillado!" "I

my

have

doubts."

"Amontillado!"

"And

I

must

satisfy

them."

"Amontillado!" "As you are engaged, turn

it is

he.

He

will tell

"Luchresi cannot

tell

"And yet some fools "Come, let us go."

am on my way " me I

to Luchresi. If

any one has a

critical

Amontillado from Sherr)."

will

have

that his taste

it

is

a

match

for

your own."

"Whither?"

"To your

"My

vaults."

friend, no;

I

will

not impose upon your good nature.

"I I.

have no engagement;

"My

f)erceive

friend, no.

you are

It is

I

perceive you

"

have an engagement. Luchresi

— come."

not the engagement, but the severe cold with which

afflicted.

The

vaults are insufferably

damp. They

I

are encrusted

with nitre."

"Let us go, nevertheless.

been imposed upon. And Amontillado."

1.

A

cask holding 126 gallons.

The

cold

is

merely nothing. Amontillado! You have

as for Luchresi,

he cannot distinguish Sherry from

The Cask

79

of Amontillado t

Thus speaking, Fortunate possessed himself of my arm; and putting on a mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaire^ closely about my person, I suffered

him

me

to hurry

my

to

palazzo.

There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon I

my

as

back was turned.

took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato,

him through passed down

bowed

25

rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I a long and winding staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together upon the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors.

The

several suites of

gait of

my

friend was unsteady,

and the

bells

upon

his

cap jingled

as

he

strode.

"The "It

is

pipe," said he. farther on," said

I;

"but observe the white web-work which gleams from

these cavern walls."

He

turned towards me, and looked into

rheum

distilled the

my

eyes with two filmy orbs that

of intoxication.

"Nitre?" he asked, at length. "Nitre,"

replied.

I

"How

30

long have you had that cough?"

— ugh!

"Ugh! ugh! ugh! — ugh! ugh! ugh! — ugh! ugh! ugh!

ugh! ugh!

— ugh!

ugh! ugh!"

My poor "It

is

friend

found

it

impossible to reply for

nothing," he said, at

"Come,"

I

said,

I

be missed. For

to

me

it is

cough

said; "the

you are happy,

We

no matter.

cannot be responsible. Besides, there

"Enough," he

minutes.

with decision, "we will go back; your health

are rich, respected, admired, beloved;

man

many

last.

is

a

is

as

once

is I

go back; you

will

You

precious.

was.

You

will

be

ill,

me.

I

35

are a

and

"

Luchresi

mere nothing;

it

will not kill

shall

not die of a cough."

"True— true,"

I

replied; "and, indeed,

unneccessarily— but you should use

Medoc^ Here

had no intention of alarming you

A

draught of

this

defend us from the damps."

will I

I

proper caution.

all

off the neck of a bottle which upon the mould. said, presenting him the wine.

knocked

I

drew from

a long

row of

its

fellows that lay

"Drink,"

He

I

raised

it

to his lips with a leer.

He paused and nodded

to

me

familiarly,

while his bells jingled. "I

drink," he said, "to the buried that repose

"And

He

I

your long

again took

"These

2.

to

my

vaults,"

he

around

us."

De Grave

(below), a French wine.

life."

arm, and

we proceeded.

said, "are extensive."

Roquelaure: man's heavy, knee-length cloak.

3.

Like

40

80 T Edgar Allan Poe "The Montresors,"

45

"I forget

I

replied, "were a great

"A huge human

foot d'or,'* in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent ram-

pant whose fangs are imbedded

50

and numerous family."

your arms." in the heel."

"And the motto?" "Nemo me impune lacessit."^ "Good!" he said. The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My own fancy grew warm with the Medoc. We had passed through long walls of piled skeletons, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs. I paused again, and this time I made bold to seize Fortunato by an arm above the elbow.

"The

nitre!"

are

below the

we

will "It

I

said; "see,

river's

go back ere is

bed. it is

too

increases.

it

The

It

hangs

moss upon the

like

drops of moisture trickle

late.

among the

vaults.

bones.

We

Come,

"

Your cough

nothing," he said; "let us go on. But

first,

another draught of the

Medoc."

with a gesticulation

looked

I

55

De Grave. He emptied it at a breath. He laughed and threw the botfle upwards

broke and reached him a flagon of

I

His eyes flashed with a fierce

him

at

I

light.

did not understand.

in surprise.

He

'Tou do not comprehend?" he "Not I," I replied.

"Then you "How?"

repeated the

movement— a

grotesque one.

said.

are not of the brotherhood."

"You are not of the masons."^

60

'Tes, yes,"

I

said; "yes, yes."

A mason?" "A mason," I replied. "A sign," he said, "a sign." "It is this," I answered producing from beneath the 'Tou? Impossible!

65

folds of

my

roquelaire a

trowel.

"You

jest,"

he exclaimed, recoiling

few paces. "But

a

let

us proceed to the

Amontillado."

"Be

my

it

arm.

so,"

He

I

said, replacing the tool

leaned upon

Amontillado.

We

it

heavily.

beneath the cloak and again offering him

We

continued our route

in search of the

passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on,

and descending again, arrived

at a

deep

crypt, in

which the foulness of the

air

caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame. At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another walls

had been lined with

human

fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. still

4.

ornamented

Of gold.

5.

in this

less spacious. Its

remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the

Three

sides of this interior cr^pt

manner. From the fourth

side the

were

bones had been

6. Masons or Freemasons, an interna"No one provokes me with impunit}'." condemned by the Catholic Church. Montresor means by mason one who

tional secret society

builds with stone, brick, etc.

The Cask thrown down, and

mound

some

lay

of Amontillado

promiscuously upon the earth, forming

81

one point a

at

Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior crypt or recess, in depth about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been constructed for no especial use within itself, but formed merely the interval between two of the of

size.

colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs,

and was backed by one of

their

circumscribing walls of solid granite.

was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting

It

into the depth of the recess.

his dull torch,

endeavoured

to pry

termination the feeble light did not enable us to

Its

see.

"Proceed,"

"He

"herein

said;

I

is

ward, while

"

the Amontillado. As for Luchresi

an ignoramus," interrupted

is

my

friend, as

70

he stepped unsteadily

for-

followed immediately at his heels. In an instant he had reached

I

the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. its

A moment more

and

I

had

fettered

him

to the granite. In

surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizon-

tally. From one of these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back

from the

recess. I said, "over the wall; you cannot help feeling the nitre. damp. Once more let me implore you to return. No? Then I leave you. But I will first render you all the little attentions in

"Pass your hand,"

Indeed,

must

my

very

it is

positively

power."

my

"The Amontillado!" ejaculated

not yet recovered from his

friend,

astonishment.

"True,"

As

I

replied; "the Amontillado."

said these

I

words

I

busied myself

have before spoken. Throwing them aside,

among I

the pile of bones of which

I

soon uncovered a quantity of build-

With these materials and with the aid of my trowel, I up the entrance of the niche. I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibration ing stone and mortar.

began vigorously

of the chain.

hearken

to

the bones.

it

to wall

The

noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that

with the more satisfaction,

When

at last

fifth,

now

my

upon

a level with

A succession

of loud and

hesitated, recess;

I

seemed

shrill

my I

a

resumed the

I

might

The

and

fin-

wall was

again paused, and holding the flam-

screams, bursting suddenly from

me violently back. my rapier, began to I

but the thought of an instant reassured me.

catacombs and

trowel,

tier.

I

down upon

few feeble rays upon the figure within.

to thrust

trembled. Unsheathing

solid fabric of the

labours and sat

the sixth, and the seventh

breast.

beaux over the mason-work, threw the chained form,

ceased

the clanking subsided,

ished without interruption the

nearly

I

felt satisfied.

I

I

flie

grope with

placed

throat of

moment

For a brief it

my hand upon

reapproached the

I

about the

wall.

I

the

replied

75

82 T Ambrose Bierce

him who clamoured.

to the yells of

volume and It

was

in strength.

now

I

did

my

midnight, and

re-echoed,

I

I

aided,

I

and the clamourer grew

this,

task

the eighth, the ninth and the tenth

was drawing

tier.

I

surpassed

to a close.

had finished

them

1

had completed

a portion of the last

the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered struggled with there It

its

weight;

came from out

I

placed

it

partially in

the noble Fortunato.

have

will

The

— he!

many

I

had

— — a very good

and in.

I

now

destined position. But

the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs

was succeeded by a sad voice, which "Ha! ha! ha!

its

in

still.

upon my head.

difficulty in recognizing as that of

voice said

he! he!

a rich laugh

about

it

indeed— an excellent jest. We palazzo— he! he! he! — over our

joke,

at the

wine — he! he! he!"

"The Amontillado!"

— he!

"He! he! he!

I

he!

said.

he!— yes,

Will not they be awaiting us

at the

the Amontillado. But

palazzo

— the

is

not getting late?

it

Lady Fortunato and the

rest?

Let us be gone." "Yes,"

said, "let us

I

be gone."

"For the love of God, Montresor!" 'Tes,"

But aloud

said, "for the love of

I

words

to these

I

God!"

hearkened

in vain for a reply.

I

grew impatient.

I

called



"Fortunato!"

No

answer.

I

called again



"Fortunato!"

No fall

answer

still.

I

thrust a torch through the

remaining aperture and

let

it

There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I hastened to

within.

grew

sick;

make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into its up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart

position;

I

plastered

it

of bones. For the half

of a centur)' no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescaW 1846

AMBROSE BIERCE An Occurrence

A man

stood

upon

7.

bound with

May he

rest in

a cord.

peace!

Owl Creek Bridge

a railroad bridge in Northern

the swift waters twenty feet below. wrists

at

A

Alabama, looking down into

The man's hands were behind

rope loosely encircled his neck.

It

his back, the

was attached

to a

An Occurrence

at

Owl Creek Bridge

83

his head, and the slack fell to the level of his knees. upon the sleepers supporting the metals of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners — two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant, who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain. A sentinel at each end of the

stout cross-timber

Some

above

loose boards laid

bridge stood with his

rifie in

the position

vertical in front of the left shoulder, the

straight across the

known

hammer

chest— a formal and unnatural

carriage of the body.

what was occurring

It

at

as "support," that

resting

is

to say,

on the forearm thrown

position, enforcing

did not appear to be the duty of these two

an erect

men

to

know

the centre of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two

ends of the foot plank which traversed

it.

Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost further along. The other bank of the stream was open ground— a gentle acclivity crowned with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway of the slope between bridge and fort were the spectators — a single company of infantry in line, at "parade rest," the butts of the rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock. A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the centre of the bridge not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge.

The

captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his

subordinates but making no sign. Death

announced,

is

to

is

a dignitary

who, when he comes

be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by

those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and

fixity

are forms of deference.

The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five He was a civilian, if one might judge from his dress, which was that

years of age.

of a planter. His features were good

—a

straight nose, firm

head, from which his long, dark hair was

combed

his ears to the collar of his well-fitting frock coat.

mouth, broad

fore-

behind moustache and

straight back, falling

He wore

a

pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark grey and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck

was in the hemp. Evidently code makes provision

for

this

was no vulgar

assassin.

The

liberal military

hanging many kinds of people, and gentlemen are not

excluded.

The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that offi-

who in turn moved apart one pace. These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian cer,

"

Ambrose

84

Bierce

stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place

bv the weight of the captain;

from the former, the

latter

it

was now held by that of the sergeant. At

would

demned man go dow n behveen his

judgment

eves bandaged.

gaze wander

A piece

and

as simple

He

tw o

moment

a signal

and the con-

tilt

The arrangement commended

ties.

effective.

looked a

to the swirling

would

step aside, the plank

itself to

His face had not been covered nor his at his "unsteadfast footing,"

then

let his

water of the stream racing madly beneath his

of dancing driftv\ood caught his attention and his eyes followed

it

feet.

down

How slowK' it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream! He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift— all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Strikthe current.

ing through the thought of his dear ones was a sound which he could neither

ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a

hammer upon

blacksmith's

dered what both.

it

the anvil;

had the same ringing

it

He won-

by— it seemed

recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell.

Its

awaited each stroke with impatience and

The

qualit\'.

was, and whether immeasurably distant or near

intervals of silence

He

— he

knew not whv— apprehension. longer, the dela\s became mad-

grew progressi\elv

dening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness.

They

hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife; he feared he would shriek.

What he heard was the ticking of his watch. He unclosed his eves and saw again the water below hands," he thought, diving to the lines; i\s

I

"I

might throw

could evade the

bullets, and,

woods, and get awav home.

my

wife and

little

these thoughts,

off the

ones are

swimming

M\ home,

still

which have here

to

doomed man's brain rather than sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.

the

"If

I

could free

my

vigorously, reach the bank, take

thank God,

be\ond the

into the

him.

noose and spring into the stream. By

be

set

is

as yet outside their

invader's farthest advance.

down

evolved from

in words,

it,

were flashed

the captain

nodded

to

II

Peyton Farquhar was a well-to-do planter, of an old and highk -respected Ala-

bama

familv.

Being

a slave

owner, and,

like

other slave owners, a politician, he

was naturalK- an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature which it is unnecessar\ to relate here,

had prevented him from taking service with the gallant army which had fall of Corinth,' and he chafed

fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the

under the inglorious life

restraint,

longing for the release of his energies, the larger

of the soldier, the opportunit} for distinction. That opportunit\-, he

felt,

comes to all in war time. Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in aid of the South, no adventure too perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a ci\ ilian would come,

1.

as

it

Corinth. Mississippi, captured by General Ulysses

S.

Grant

in .April 1862.

An Occurrence who was

and who

at heart a soldier,

in

good

faith

Owl Creek Bridge

at

and without too much quahfi-

cation assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that in love

t 85

all is fair

and war.

One

evening while Farquhar and his wife were

sitting

up

the entrance to his grounds, a grey-clad soldier rode

Farquhar was only too happy

a drink of water. Mrs.

on

bench near and asked for

a rustic

to the gate

to serve

him with her own

white hands. While she was gone to fetch the water, her husband approached

horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front. "The Yanks are repairing the railroads," said the man, "and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order, and built a stockade on the other bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains, will be summarily hanged. I saw the the dusty

order."

"How

far

"About

is it

Owl Creek

to the

bridge?" Farquhar asked.

thirty miles."

no force on this side the creek?" "Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge." "Suppose a man— a civilian and student of hanging— should elude the "Is there

picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel," said Farquhar, smiling,

"what could he accomplish?"

The

soldier reflected. "I

was there a month ago," he replied.

"I

observed that

the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the

wooden

pier at this

end of the

bridge.

It is

now

dry and would burn like

tow."

The

lady had

now brought

her ceremoniously,

bowed

the water,

to her

which the

He thanked An hour later, after

soldier drank.

husband, and rode away.

nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward which he had come. He was a Federal scout.

in the direction

from

Ill

downward through the bridge, he lost conFrom this state he was awakened — ages later, it seemed to him— by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fibre of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to

As Peyton Farquhar

fell

straight

sciousness and was as one already dead.

flash

along well-defined lines of ramification, and to beat with an inconceivably

fire heating him to an he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness — of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by

rapid periodicity.

They seemed

intolerable temperature.

thought.

only to

As

like

streams of pulsating

to his head,

The

intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encomluminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without

feel,

passed in a

material substance, he

pendulum. Then

all at

swung through unthinkable

arcs of oscillation, like a vast

once, with terrible suddenness, the light about

him

shot

Ambrose

86

Bierce

upward with the noise of a loud

plash; a frightful roaring

was

in his ears,

and

all

was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangunoose about his neck was already suffocating him, and kept the water

lation; the

from

him

To die of hanging at the bottom of a river!— the idea seemed to He opened his eyes in the blackness and saw above him a gleam how distant, how inaccessible! He was still sinking, for the light

his lungs.

ludicrous.

of light, but

became

and

fainter

fainter until

it

was

a

mere glimmer. Then

it

began

to

grow

and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface — knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. "To be hanged and drowned," he thought, "that that

is

not

not so bad; but

is

He was

not conscious of an

he was trying

that idler

to free his

might observe the

splendid

I

do not wish

to

be

shot.

No;

I

will not

be shot;

fair."

effort!

— what

effort,

hands.

but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him

He

feat of a juggler,

gave the struggle his attention, as an

without interest

in the

outcome. What

magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a

The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling fine endeavour! Bravo!

the hands dimly seen

those of a water-snake. "Put

it

back, put

it

back!"

He

thought he shouted these

undoing of the noose had been succeeded b) the direst pang which he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire; his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, try ing to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with

words

to his hands, for the

his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing

an insupportable anguish! But

him

to the surface.

light; his

He

felt his

head emerge;

his eyes

were blinded by the sun-

chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony

his lungs engulfed a great

He was now

draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!

in full possession of his physical senses.

They were, indeed,

Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck. He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf— the very insects upon them, the locusts, the brilliant-bodied flies, the grey spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a preternaturally keen

and

million blades of grass.

alert.

The humming

of the gnats that danced above the eddies

of the stream, the beating of the dragon spiders' legs, like oars

music.

A

fish slid

which had

flies'

lifted their

wings, the strokes of the water

boat— all

these

made

along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of

audible its

body

parting the water.

He had come world seemed bridge, the

fort,

to the surface facing

down

the stream; in a

moment

the visible

wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two

to

An Occurrence privates, his executioners.

They were

shouted and gesticulated, pointing did not

fire;

at

Owl Creek Bridge

at

in silhouette against the

blue

him; the captain had drawn his

87

sky.

They

pistol,

but

movements were grotesque and

the others were unarmed. Their

horrible, their forms gigantic.

Suddenly he heard

and something struck the water smartly He heard a second

a sharp report

within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray.

and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud smoke rising from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a grey eye, and remembered having read that grey eyes were keenest and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had report,

of blue

missed.

A

counter swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was

again looking into the forest on the bank opposite the

high voice in a monotonous singsong

now

fort.

rang out behind

the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued the beating of the ripples in his ears. Although

camps enough

know

to

all

other sounds, even

soldier,

he had frequented

the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspi-

on shore was taking a part in the morning's work. what an even, calm intonation, presaging and

rated chant; the lieutenant

How

no

The sound of a clear, him and came across

coldly and pitilessly— with

men — with what

enforcing tranquillity in the

accurately-measured intervals

fell

those cruel words: "Attention,

company.

.

.

Farquhar dived — dived

.

Shoulder arms.

as

like the voice of Niagara, vet

rising again

.

.

.

Ready.

The

deeply as he could.

.

.

.

Aim.

.

.

.

he heard the dulled thunder of the

toward the surface, met shining

bits

Fire."

water roared in his ears volley,

and

of metal, singularly flattened,

downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm, and he snatched it out. As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibK- farther down stream — nearer to safety. The oscillating slowly

then

fell

soldiers

away, continuing their descent.

had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed

the sunshine as they were into their sockets.

drawn from the

The two

barrels,

turned in the

sentinels fired again, independently

air,

once in and thrust

and

ineffectu-

all at

ally.

The hunted man saw

all this

over his shoulder; he was

now swimming vigor-

ously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he

thought with the rapidity of lightning.

"The time.

officer,"

It is

given the

An

he reasoned,

as easy to

command

dodge

"will

not

make

that martinet's error a

a volley as a single shot.

to fire at will.

God

help me,

I

He

cannot dodge them

all!"

appalling plash within two yards of him, followed by a loud rushing

sound, diminuendo, which seemed to travel back through the

which curved over him,

The cannon had

fell

air to

the fort and

A

rising sheet of

down upon him, blinded him,

strangled him!

died in an explosion which stirred the water,

second

has probably already

ver)' river to its

deeps!

taken a hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the

Ambrose

88

commotion

Bierce

humming

of the smitten water, he heard the deflected shot

and

the air ahead,

in

an instant

through

was cracking and smashing the branches

it

in

the forest beyond. 30

"They

not do that again," he thought; "the next time they will use a

will

charge of grape.

must keep

I

the report arrives too late;

Suddenly he

it

my eye upon

missile.

now

smoke

It is

himself whirled round and round

felt

water, the banks, the forest, the

commingled and

the gun; the

behind the

lags

a

will apprise

me —

good gun."

— spinning like a top. The were and men —

distant bridge, fort

all

blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular

horizontal streaks of color— that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and g)Tation which made him giddv and sick. In a few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream — the southern bank— and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and

audibly blessed

It

it.

looked like gold,

think of nothing beautiful which

were giant garden

plants;

he noted

the fragrance of their blooms.

among

their trunks,

He had no

harps.

A

a definite

The

upon

trees

the bank

order in their arrangement, inhaled

strange, roseate light

and the wind made

wish

diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could

like

did not resemble.

it

in their

to perfect his escape,

shone through the spaces

branches the music of seolian

was content

to

remain

in that

enchanting spot until retaken.

A

whizz and

roused

He

farewell.

of grapeshot

rattle

him from

his

sprang

dream.

The

to his feet,

among

the branches high above his head

cannoneer had

baffled

fired

him

a

random

rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into

the forest. All that

day he travelled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The

forest

seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman's road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation. By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famishing. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untravelled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the

barking of a dog suggested

great trees

formed

point, like a

diagram

grouped

in strange constellations.

The

black bodies of the

terminating on the horizon in a

Overhead, stars

as

he looked up

looking unfamiliar and

He was sure they were arranged in some order and malign significance. The wood on either side was full among which — once, twice, and again — he distinctly heard

secret

of singular noises,

whispers in an

unknown

His neck was that

habitation.

sides,

wood, shone great golden

this rift in the

He knew

human

on both

in a lesson in perspective.

through

which had a

35

a straight wall

it

in pain,

had a

tongue.

and,

hand to it, he found it horribly swollen. where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt

lifting his

circle of black

congested; he could no longer close them. His tongue was swollen with

thirst;

Blow-Up T 89 he relieved

its

feel the

it forward from between his teeth into the cool had carpeted the untravelled avenue! He could no longer

fever by thrusting

How softly the

air.

turf

roadway beneath

his feet!

Doubtless, despite his suffering, he

fell

asleep while walking, for

another scene— perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium.

now he

He

sees

stands at

own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have travelled the enhre night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the verandah to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forward with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her, he feels a stunthe gate of his

ning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white

him, with a sound

shock of

like the

Peyton Farquhar was dead;

his

a

cannon— then

light blazes all

about

darkness and silence!

body, with a broken neck, swung gently from

Owl Creek

beneath the timbers of the

side to side

all is

bridge.

1891

JULIO CORTAZAR Blow-Up^ It'll

never be

known how

this

has to be told, in the

first

person or in the second,

modes that will or: we hurt me at

using the third person plural or continually inventing nothing.

If

one might say: I will see the moon rose, and especially: you the blond woman was the clouds

my eyes, my your his of

our yours their

Seated ready to

tell

faces.

if

it,

What

And

that's

not just a

that race before

the hell.

one might go

to drink a

bock over

there,

and the

I

use the machine), that would be perfec-

manner of

speaking. Perfection, yes, because here

typewriter continue by itself (because tion.

serve for

the back

the aperture which

must be counted also as a machine (of another sort, a Contax 1.1.2) and it is possible that one machine may know more about another machine than I, you, she— the blond — and the clouds. But I have the dumb luck to know that if I go this Remington will sit turned to stone on top of the is

table with the air of being twice as quiet that I

have

told. Better that

it

be

I

who

mobile things have when they are

One of us all has to write, if this is going to get me who am dead, for I'm less compromised than the rest;

not moving. So,

to write.

see only the clouds

and can think without being

distracted, write

without

being distracted (there goes another, with a grey edge) and remember without

who am dead (and I'm alive, I'm not trying to fool anybody, when we get to the moment, because I have to begin some way and

being distracted, you'll see I've

I

begun with this period, the last one back, the one at the beginning, which end is the best of the periods when you want to tell something).

in the 1.

Translated bv Paul Blackburn.

90 T

Julio Cortazar

sudden

wonder why

I have to tell this, but if one begins to wonder one wonders why he accepts an invitation to lunch (now a pigeon's flying by and it seems to me a sparrow), or why when someone has told us a good joke immediately there starts up something like a tickling in the stomach and we are not at peace until we've gone into the office across the hall and told the joke over again; then it feels good immediately, one is fine, happy, and can get back to work. For I imagine that no one has explained

All of a

why he does

I

he does do,

all

if

is to put aside all decorum and tell it, because, ashamed of breathing or of putting on his shoes; they're things that you do, and when something weird happens, when you find a spider in your shoe or if you take a breath and feel like a broken window, then

this, that really

you have

Oh,

the best thing

done, nobody

after all's

happening,

to tell what's

doctor, ever)' time

tickle in the

And now

stomach

the guys at the office or to the doctor.

tell it to

take a breath

I

.

.

.

Always

tell

it,

always get rid of that

that bothers you.

that we're finally going to

down

we'd be walking

month

is

tell

it,

let's

put things a

little bit

the staircase in this house as far as Sunday,

One

down

in order,

November

7,

and stands then in the Sunday in the sun one would not have suspected of Paris in November, with a large appetite to walk around, to see things, to take photos (because we were photograjust a

back.

goes

five floors

I know that the most difficult thing is going to be and I'm not afraid of repeating myself It's going to be difficult because nobody really knows who it is telling it, if I am I or what actually occurred or what I'm seeing (clouds, and once in a while a pigeon) or if, simply, I'm telling a truth which is only my truth, and then is the truth only for

phers, I'm a photographer).

way

finding a

my stomach,

to tell

impulse to go running out and

for this

with, this, whatever

it,

to finish

up

in

some manner

it is.

what happens in the middle of what I'm writing me, if, so soon, I don't know what to say, if the clouds stop coming and something else starts (because it's impossible that this keep coming, clouds passing continually and occasionally a pigeon), if something out of all this And after the "if" what am I going to put if I'm We're going

is

coming

to tell

it

slowly,

already. If they replace

.

going I'll

never

tell

.

.

sentence structure correctlv? But

to close the

maybe

anything,

one who's reading

to tell

would be

like

I

begin to ask questions, at least for

some-

it.

Roberto Michel, French-Chilean, translator and teur photographer,

if

an answer,

left

number

time an amaSunday November 7

in his spare

u, rue Monsieur-le-Prince

of the current year (now there're two small ones passing, with silver linings).

He

had spent three weeks working on the French version of a treatise on challenges and appeals by Jose Norberto Allende, professor at the University of Santiago. It's rare that there's wind in Paris, and even less seldom a wind like this that swirled around corners

and rose up

to

whip

at old

wooden Venetian

blinds

behind which astonished ladies commented variously on how unreliable the weather had been these

and friend of the

last

cats, so

few

years.

But the sun was out

there was nothing that

also, riding the

would keep

me

wind

from taking

a

walk along the docks of the Seine and taking photos of the Conservatoire and Sainte-Chapelle.

It

was hardly ten o'clock, and

I

figured that by eleven the light

Blow-Up T 91 would be good, the best you can get in the fall; to kill some time I detoured around by the Isle Saint-Louis and started to walk along the quai d'Anjou, I stared for a bit at the hotel de Lauzun, I recited bits from Apollinaire^ which

my

always get into that gar),

ought

hard

as

and

head whenever

I

pass in front of the hotel de

Lauzun (and

at

be remembering the other poet, but Michel is an obstinate begand when the wind stopped all at once and the sun came out at least twice

I

to

mean warmer,

(I

felt terribly

One

of the

happy

it's the same Sunday morning.

but really

in the

many ways it

I

sat

down on

the parapet

of contesting level-zero, and one of the best,

photographs, an activity in which one should in life, teach

thing),

to children since

start

is

to take

becoming an adept very

early

requires discipline, aesthetic education, a

it

good eye and steady fingers. I'm not talking about waylaying the lie like any old reporter, snapping the stupid silhouette of the VIP leaving number lo Downing Street,^ but in all ways when one is walking about with a camera, one has almost a

duty to be attentive, to not lose that abrupt and happy rebound of sun's rays

off

an old stone, or the

a

run of a small girl going home with a loaf knew that the photographer always worked as

pigtails-flying

of bread or a bottle of milk. Michel

permutation of his personal way of seeing the world

imposed upon

insidiously

he lacked no confidence

it

(now

a large

in himself,

cloud

knowing

is

that

as other

than the camera

going by, almost black), but

he had only

to

go out without

the Contax to recover the keynote of distraction, the sight without a frame

around

light

it,

without the diaphragm aperture or

word, now, what a

dumb

lie)

I

was able

to

sit

'/250

quietly

sec.

on the

Right

now

(what a

railing overlooking

and black motorboats passing below without it more than letting myself go in the letting go of objects, running immobile in the stream of time. And then the wind was not blowing. After, I wandered down the quai de Bourbon until getting to the end of the isle where the intimate square was (intimate because it was small, not that it was hidden, it offered its whole breast to the river and the sky), I enjoyed it, a lot. Nothing there but a couple and, of course, pigeons; maybe even some of those which are flying past now so that I'm seeing them. A leap up and I settled on the wall, and let myself turn about and be caught and fixed by the sun, giving it my face and ears and hands (I kept my gloves in my pocket). I had no desire to shoot pictures, and lit a cigarette to be doing something; I think it was that moment when the match was about to touch the tobacco that I saw the young the river watching the red

occurring to

boy

me

to think

for the first time.

What

I'd

thought was a couple seemed

mother, although

at the

and

that

see

them leaning up

squares.

2.

photographically of the scenes, nothing

it

was a couple

As

I

same time

I

much more now

realized that

in the sense that

it

we always

a

boy with

was not a kid and

his

allegate to couples

his

mother,

when we

embracing on the benches in the had more than enough time to wonder

against the parapets or

had nothing

else to do,

I

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), avant-garde French poet who experimented with typographiand calhgraphic outrageousness as well as unusual verbal associations. 3. Residence of the

cal

British

Prime Minister.

a

92

Julio Cortazar

why

young colt or a hare, them out immediately, one after the

the boy was so nervous, Uke a

his pockets, taking

changing

gers through his hair,

his stance,

sticking his

hands into

running

other,

his fin-

and especially why was he

afraid,

you could guess that from every gesture, a fear suffocated by his sh\ness, an impulse to step backwards which he telegraphed, his body standing as if it were on the edge of flight, holding itself back in a final, pitiful decorum. well,

was so

All this

clear, ten feet

of the island

at the tip

the blond

alone against the parapet

beginning the boy's

Now, thinking back on

ver)' well.

second when

away— and we were

— that at the

it, I

me

fright didn't let

much

see her

better at that

see first

read her face (she'd turned around suddenly, swinging like a

I

metal weathercock, and the eyes, the eyes were there),

when

I

vaguely under-

would be worth the trouble to stay and watch (the wind was blowing their words away and they were speaking in a low murmur). I think that know how to look, if it's somestood what might have been occurring to the boy and figured

it

I

thing

I

know, and

which expels us

also that everv looking oozes with mendacit},

to smell, or (but

Michel rambles on

him harangue on this seen beforehand, it becomes between looking and the As

And

itself

for the

up

surely

boy

later),

all

reality

that

is

while

now

better than the image.

I

looked

it's

that

whereas

himself easily enough, there's no need if

the likely inaccuracy can be

possible again to look; perhaps

remember

I

to

way). In any case,

to let

clothing.

because

furthest outside ourselves, without the least guarantee,

at, to strip

things of

it

all

suffices to

choose

their unnecessary-

difficult besides.

the image before his actual body (that will clear

am

sure that

remember

I

She was thin and willowy, two

the

woman's body much

unfair words to describe

what she was, and was wearing an almost-black fur coat, almost long, almost handsome. All the morning's wind (now it was hardly a breeze and it wasn't cold) had blown through her blond hair which pared away her white, bleak

face— two

unfair

words— and put

the world at her feet and horribly alone in the

front of her dark eyes, her eyes fell

on things

like

two eagles, two leaps into

nothingness, two puffs of green slime. I'm not describing anything,

matter of

tr\'ing to

understand

it.

And

I

said

it's

more

a

hvo puffs of green slime.

fair, the boy was well enough dressed and was sporting yellow glo\es would ha\'e sworn belonged to his older brother, a student of law or sociolog}-; it was pleasant to see the fingers of the gloves sticking out of his jacket pocket. For a long time I didn't see his face, barely a profile, not stupid— terrified bird, a Fra Filippo"* angel, rice pudding with milk — and the back of an

Let's

which

be

I

adolescent

who wants

an idea or his

to take up judo and has had a scuffle or two Turning fourteen, perhaps fifteen, one would

sister.

was dressed and fed

b\'

his parents but

without

debate with his buddies before making up his

pack of cigarettes. He'd walk through the about how good

it

would be

to

go

to the

defense of

he

a nickel in his pocket, ha\ ing to

mind

streets

in

gue.ss that

to

buy

a coffee, a cognac, a

thinking of the

movies and see the

girls in his class,

latest film, or to

buy novels or neckties or bottles of liquor with green and white labels on them. home (it would be a respectable home, lunch at noon and romantic land-

At

4.

Fra Filippo Lippi (14067-1469), Florentine painter of the early Renaissance.

Blow-Up T 93 mahogany umbrella stand inside mama's hope,

scapes on the walls, with a dark entry-way and a

the door) there'd be the slow rain of time, for studying, for being

looking like dad, for writing to his aunt in Avignon. So that there was a

for

of walking the streets, the whole of the river for

him

the mysterious city of fifteen-year-olds with

signs in doorways,

cats, a

paper of fried potatoes for

its

thirty francs, the

(but without a nickel) its

terrifying

pornographic magazine folded

four ways, a solitude like the emptiness of his pockets, the eagerness for so that

was incomprehensible but illumined by a

ogous

to the

wind and the

lot

and

much

by the availability anal-

total love,

streets.

This biography was of the boy and of any boy whatsoever, but

this particular

one now, you could see he was insular, surrounded solely by the blond's presence as she continued talking with him. (I'm tired of insisting, but two long ragged ones just went by. That morning I don't think I looked at the sky once, because what was happening with the boy and the woman appeared so soon I could do nothing but look at them and wait, look at them and .) To cut it short, the boy was agitated and one could guess without too much trouble what .

had

just

occurred a few minutes before, at most half-an-hour.

onto the

woman

tip

of the island, seen the

was waiting

for that

woman and

.

The boy had come The

thought her marvelous.

because she was there waiting

maybe

for that, or

boy arrived before her and she saw him from one of the balconies or from

and got out

meet him,

to

starting the conversation with whatever,

the

a car

from the

beginning she was sure that he was going to be afraid and want to run

off, and and sullen, pretending experience and the pleasure of the adventure. The rest was easy because it was happening ten feet away from me, and anyone could have gauged the stages of the game, the derisive, competitive fencing; its major attraction was not that it was happening but in foreseeing its denouement. The boy would tr)' to end it by pretending a date, an

that, naturally,

he'd

stay, stiff

obligation, whatever,

and would go stumbling

off disconcerted, wishing

he were

walking with some assurance, but naked under the mocking glance which

would follow him

until

he was out of

Or

sight.

rather,

fascinated or simply incapable of taking the initiative,

begin to touch his face gently, muss his hair,

soon would take him by the arm

beginning

to tinge the

edge of

desire,

arm around her

have happened, though

it

making the

off,

Strange their youth)

that

my

at

voicelessly,

and

and

waist

to kiss her.

Any

of this could

settings

almost without looking

at the

an

camera, ready

uncommon

to take

couple talking

one another.

how

the scene (almost nothing: two figures there

was taking on a disquieting aura.

photo,

would have

him

unless he, with an uneasiness

did not, and perversely Michel waited, sitting on the

a picturesque shot of a corner of the island with

and looking

talking to

stay there,

woman would

even his stake in the adventure, would

rouse himself to put his

railing,

still

him

to lead

he would

and the

if

I

liked to

shot

it,

I

thought

would reconstitute things

know what he was

thinking, a

the wheel of a car parked on the dock

it

was

I

mismatched imposing

it,

in their true stupidity.

man

in

and I

in a grey hat sitting at

which led up to the footbridge, and I had just discovered him because

whether he was reading the paper or asleep.

people inside a parked car have a tendency to disappear, they get

lost in that

^v*i^

94 T

Julio Cortazar

wretched, private cage stripped of the beauty

And

bench. Never

and the

part) of the

feel that

the wall,

I

became aware of whai

malicious sensation of waiting

in profile, and he w dominated him, it seemed like s once, a whip of feathers), crushing

all at

one hand taking teen, a sighting

I

foi

smoothly, putting th

saw them almost

yet she

tree,

th

car: like sa)

wind, sunlight, those

like saying

woman had swung around

laugh,

A

and also the boy and the woman, show it to me in another way. Finall)

island, to

and

isle.

eyes,

with the newspaper also

me,

had been there

nevertheless, the car

deforming that

through the

a stroll

air.

Why

which would not include the

necessary to break

up too much grey

spaci

raised the camera, pretended to study a

foi

and waited and watched closely, sure that I u expression, one that would sum it all up, life th which a stiff image destroys, taking time in cr the essential imperceptible fraction of it. I did n was getting on with the job of handcuffing the 1 what was left of his freedom a hair at a time, in torture. I imagined the possible endings (no' almost alone in the sky), I saw their arrival at tl probably, which she would have filled with larg tured the boy's terror and his desperate decisioi pretending there was nothing close

my eyes,

I

new

in

it

for

him

set the scene: the teasing kisses

hands which were trying

to

a lilac-colored comforter,

undress her, like in

on the other hand

s!

Blo'

Before she

left,

and now

I'm given to ruminating,

that she

would

decided not

I

my

fill

imaginings for

sev(

moment more.

to lose a

I

^

the view-finder (with the tree, the railing, the eleven-o'clock sun) shot. In

time

me, the boy surprised and and body

;

they both had noticed and stood thei

to realize that

though questioning, but she was

as

flat-footedly hostile, feeling robbed,

irrita

ignominiously record