Memento Mori by Jonathan Nolan: Summary, Analysis and Review

Memento Mori is a short story written by Jonathan Nolan. In this short story, he takes time and its relationship with a man to a whole new level, and introduces the reader to to what he calls a ‘ten-minute man’.

“Believing the lie that time will heal all wounds is just a nice way of saying that time deadens us.” 

Memento Mori: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story revolves around Earl, a patient of anteretrograde amnesia (a condition that involves short-term memory loss), having sustained injuries from a gruesome assault – one that also led to the death of his wife.

He is shown to be stuck in time just before his wife’s murder. His life is a long array of ten-minute chunks, after every one of which he is a clean slate.

The story opens with Earl waking up, with no memory, in what looks like a hospital room, covered in what seems to be filled with predominantly white colors. The room is rather large and he finds notes stuck everywhere from his toothpaste, his washroom or his cigarettes.

By the time he starts making sense of the environment, his memory resets, and he finds himself going through this – sometimes even doing the same thing – over and over again.

The story goes back and forth between two different settings.

The first one is where Earl is confined to a mental health institution. He goes about with his day following the notes that he has left for himself.

The second one being the one where he seems to be on the run trying to hunt down the man that killed his wife and reduced his life to that of a vegetable.

The author delves into the deeper topic of life and its meaning, looked at from the perspective of a person whose ability to make new memories is severely impaired. This is captured through a constant dialogue that happens between him ten minutes back and him in the present.

His past self mentions forgetting and how that is deeply embroiled in the life that he lives, every 10 minute chunk to another. His past self reminds him that his wife is dead and that he might be hurting but he will forget it in the next 10 minutes.

His condition in addition to him not being able to remember anything, is a constant reminder of what misfortune led him to that point. 

Memento Mori: Analysis and Review

Locked in his hospital room, and through means of notes that he leaves for himself, he tries to devise ways to make use of his life, to get revenge, the irony being that he would never remember having sought revenge, even after he did. Turning his life into one gigantic Groundhog day replay albeit in painful 10-minute chunks. 

Memento Mori is derived from Latin and means ‘remember to die’.

In olden days, this was a reminder for people to be living a moral life keeping in mind the inevitable judgement day.

There are a variety of interpretations and adaptations of this concept in other cultures.

Earl buys himself a bell to serve as the memento for himself. This bell, on which he inscribes his date of birth and date of incident, later appears when he looks for a pen after completing his mission. He lives outside of time.

In his conversations with his past self, there are a lot of epiphanic moments, some humor, some hopelessness which alternate in intensity, but a burning desire for revenge shines.

Consider, for example, when the Past Earl mentions forgetfulness to him, taking a dig at his state and the society that we live in.

Sure as hell can’t hold a job. Not too many professions out there that value forgetfulness. Prostitution, Maybe. Politics, of course.

Another one, where he blatantly discredits his current state and tries to reinforce his purpose – revenge.

So the question is not “to be or not to be”, because you aren’t. The question is whether you want to do something about it. Whether revenge matters to you.’

In his desperation of not being able to do anything with his limited time and a continual reset, he even goes to the extent of blaming his inaction on cowardice.

‘And time eventually convinces most of us that forgiveness is a virtue. Conveniently, cowardice and forgiveness look identical at a certain distance. Time steals your nerve.’ 

And to the advantages of having a list for a person as impaired as him

It’s like a letter you write to yourself. A master plan, drafted by the guy who can see the light, made with the steps simple enough for the rest of the idiots to understand. Follow steps one through one hundred. Repeat as necessary.’

And it might sound cliché’d but the wisdom in these words cannot be undermined.

‘After all, everybody else needs mirrors to remind themselves who they are . You are no different’

Although overshadowed by its cinematic counterpart, Memento – a movie by Christopher Nolan, this short story has a lot to offer and promises to stay in your memory much longer than Earl’s.

Jakarta by Alice Munro: Plot Summary, Analysis & Review

Jakarta, a short story by Alice Munro, first appeared as part of her collection of short stories in Love of a Good Woman.

Jakarta: Plot Summary and Analysis

The story is set in Vancouver and spans over three decades, starting in the 1950s and lasting until 1990s. It is narrated in a back and forth manner and is split in four parts. Part I and III are set in the 1950s whereas Part II and IV are set in the 1990s.

Part I of the story opens at a beach where Kath and Sonje, two young married women, are hiding behind logs at a beach to avoid the eyes of a group of women they call Monicas – who came there everyday with a bunch of kids in tow.

Kath and Sonje both dread the stage of lives these Monicas are in, Kath more so, being a new mother herself to a baby girl named Noelle.

Kath and Sonje knew each other from the Public library that they both used to work at.

Kath was married to Kent, a conservationist, whom she didn’t feel particularly very attached to, while Sonje was married to Cottar, a free-spirited journalist and a very liberal husband whom she adored.

It was Cottar’s trip to Red China which triggered the scandalous publicity of him being a left-wing writer and that using her job as a librarian, she might be promoting communism among children to further her husband’s cause.

Sonje was not fired, but she quit anyway – to accommodate upcoming changes in their lives.

Kath secretly admired Sonje – both her looks and her intelligence.

One day as they were discussing a story by D.H Lawrence, they got into a fight – which reveals to Kath that she had never felt about Kent the way Sonje felt about Cottar – that Sonje’s happiness depended on Cottar.

She never wanted that to be true for her, but then she never wanted Sonje to think that she was the woman that had missed out on love.

Part II of the story features Kent and Sonje, who happen to meet in the present(1990s), while Kent reminisced events from their past. He went to Sonje’s with his much younger wife, one she mistook to be his daughter.

Looking at Sonje, hearing her speak, her house, her mannerisms, all brought back memories from the past for him.

He got to know that Cottar died more than 30 years ago, caught a bug and was buried in Indonesia before the news got to Sonje.

Sonje took care of his mother till her death (she was best friends with her). They converted her house into a dancing school. The way the house was set up still reminded him of their place from years ago.

He was surprised by how talkative Sonje was, which was in complete contrast to her personality that he had known, perhaps the loneliness causing that transformation in her.

Part III of the story had an account of the party that Sonje and Cottar threw before Cottar’s trip to Indonesia and Sonje’s to Oregon to take care of his mother. The party had a big crowd – friends, neighbors and Monicas.

Once Noelle was asleep, Kath put the baby in the care of the baby-sitter and proceeded to participate in the celebrations. Kath and Sonje met and professed how much they valued their friendship and that they were going to miss each other. 

Kath let Amy do her makeup and she was absolutely impressed with her made up appearance.

Feeling rebellious, she danced and was making out with a stranger when the babysitter called her in to nurse the baby. She got back only to see that Kent was already there with the baby’s bottle. She almost concluded that Kent did not see her with the stranger but  the reaction from Kent convinced her otherwise. Guilt-ridden, she proceeded to wash all the make up off her face.

Part IV of the story is back to the present again where Sonje and Kent are talking to each other. Sonje reveals that she had an idea where she thinks that Cottar might not be dead at all. That she was going to go to Jakarta in person to inquire all about Cottar.

Convinced that he was alive, she was desperate in making Kent see the logic of it. 

Kent, convinced that this was a bad move, in complete honesty, let her know what he felt about it, albeit not with his youthful brashness this time. He wondered if Sonje and Kath were still in touch and if Sonje was going to tell Kath about how good his life looked. He couldn’t help but wonder how Kath and Cottar got away.

While one was, more likely than not, dead, the other couldn’t be more alive – yet both were somehow unreachable. 

Want to read Jakarta?

Jakarta is a short story which is published in a collection of short stories called The Love of a Good Woman. This collection won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. You can use the links given below to check the price of this book:

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Reasons why you would love this story

Like every other Alice Munro story, this one is a wondrous little short story, an astute observation of human nature.

But what stood out in this one was the added layers of complexity and the back and forth narration device. The story is replete with instances that are so real, you can easily find yourself in one of them.

Consider, for example, her description of Monicas –

Where’s your hat? Where’s your ball? You have been riding on that thing long enough, let Sandy have a turn.

Even when they talk to each other, their voices have to be raised high, over the shouts and squalls of their children.

How many times have you seen this happening? How many times have you done this? I can bet that you can find yourself in a beach right now living the same conversation, if not witnessing it second hand.

Munro is pure magic, I tell you.

When she nurses her baby, she often reads a book, sometimes smokes a cigarette, so as to not sink into a sludge of animal function.

It’s scary how she observes, like the human soul is laid bare in front of her eyes and she can pen it with a daftness, I can only believe is second nature to her.

It seemed to her (Kath) that life went on, after you finished school, as a series of further examinations to be passed. The first one was getting married. If you hadn’t done it by the time you were twenty-five, that examination had, to all intents and purposes, been failed.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had this conversation with friends, sometimes fully sober, sometimes in a stupor induced philosophical state. 

Look down, look down – see how the reeds wave in water, they are alive but they never break the surface. And that is how female nature must live within his male nature. Then she will be happy and he will be strong and content. Then they will have achieved a true marriage.

I am not surprised that she would say such a thing, considering how much a society at that time would value patriarchical dominance/influence.

My happiness depends on Cottar.

This is scary, very scary.

And out the window goes every teacher’s wisdom that told you to be happy inside. That reasons of your happiness should not be outside of you. That your happiness is fully dependent on some one else. And that their entry or exit from your life spells an instant doom for you. (this statement and the one before it don’t resonate with earlier statements – they are two different things).

No wonder Kath didn’t want that for herself. I am on her side. 

She changed the spelling herself and scorned her mother’s frivolity. They all scorned their parents then, for something.

Little things like this- children not seeing eye to eye with their parents. Times have changed but this thing never did. It’s as relevant in 2020 as it was way back in 1940s. .

You would expect an old mother would be grief-stricken talking about how her only child had run off and left her, but no. Maybe old people aren’t like that. Really old people. They don’t get grief-stricken anymore. They must figure it’s not worth it.

This one was a terribly tiny tale – a story in itself. Made me think.

Just when you crown her the queen on the sombre human nature, she drops humor on you. She can bring a smile to your face as simply as she can bring tears to your eyes.

There wasn’t any insurance?

Don’t be silly.

If there had been insurance, they would have found out the truth.

This story with so many layers is laden with gems. Exploding with gems rather.

But If I had to pick just the one, I would pick this one- a thought on Kent’s head

You picked up the wrong idea, surely the wrong idea. That somebody dead might be alive and in Jakarta. But when you knew somebody was alive, when you could drive to the very door, you let the opportunity pass.

It was painful to see the composed Sonje, who was completely and thoroughly in control of herself, lost it all for Cottar. Her life and happiness, in a way, were always dependent on Cottar.

She was ready to chase the elusive, chase the unicorn to get the love of her life back. She was sure that he was alive and all she had to do was to track him down.

On the other side was Kent, seemingly composed on the surface, having an interesting life, young wife and all that you would think that would make a person happy, but beyond the surface lied the longing for Kath.

Kath, who wasn’t far from him at all, very much alive, so much so that he could drive up to her house and show right at the door. But he doesn’t choose to do that; he chooses to live life in the past and wonder what it would have been.

Humans are complex and no one has done a better job of bringing that to the fore than Alice Munro. And she does that consistently.

“It’s a wonderful thing for the short story,” Munro said of her Nobel Prize noting that her kind of writing is “often brushed off as something that people do before they write their first novel.”

Well, to be completely out of the line, I don’t think that is true, for each of her stories is equivalent to multiple novels and more. She can do more in a short story that one can do in a novel. That’s her superpower. 

If you have watched The Godfather III and are an Al Pacino fan, you might remember a line from the movie where Al Pacino goes – “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”.

My relationship with Alice Munro’s stories is the same. Although unlike Pacino, I am loving every minute of it.

Was It Heaven? Or Hell? by Mark Twain: Summary and Review

Was it Heaven? Or Hell? is a short story that was published in early 1900s as part of Mark Twain’s short story collection The 30000 Bequest.

As a child, have you ever been told not to lie? 

Or lying is bad?

Or lying brings you terrible misfortune?

Lying is possibly the worst thing that you can do?

And what puzzled you as you grew was the same people that told you all those things resorted to lying themselves, correcting you when you pointed it out to them saying ‘ ‘that was for good reason’ and ‘not all sorts of lying is bad’?

Leaving you confused where exactly was the line that separated a good lie from a bad one?

This short story is going to take you a trip down that memory lane.

Was It Heaven? Or Hell?: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story revolves around a female family of four, Margaret Lester, a widow in her late thirties, her teenage daughter Helen, and two righteous maiden twin aunts, Hannah and Hester Gray.

The story opens with the aunts confronting Helen for a lie she confessed to have said.

Theirs was a world where lies had no place. It was something unthinkable. So having their darling Helen confess to lying evokes consternation from the elderly women and they demanded that she confess to the lie in front of her sick mother.

The child implores them to excuse her behavior just that once and spare her mother the agony of her confession of a lie, but her requests fall on deaf ears.

After all, with a duty no compromise is possible.

All said and done, the decision is made. Helen is to visit her mother in the sick room and confess to her lie.

Sobbing and desolate, Helen begs for forgiveness from her mother.

The doting mother, caring not for the lie, immediately forgives her and embraces her to calm her down, as the elderly aunts witness the scene.

It’s at this time that the family doctor makes his presence felt and softly whispers to the aunts to clear out the space and give the sick woman some time to rest.

He appears half an hour later with Helen, who seemed to have returned to her natural cheery self. He quickly examines her, declares her fit  and healthy. He asks her to go back to her room, and excuses himself from her company to talk to the aunts.

Expressing his disappointment at the women for creating a ruckus, he lets them know that Margaret was suffering from typhoid.

The women, terrified of this news, when attempting to rush back to Margaret are stopped by the doctor, who demands a reason from them behind creating a scene.

They  tell him that it was Helen’s lie that started it all.

Infuriated at hearing this, he reprimands the women for their inability to differentiate a helpful lie from a hurtful one and causing incredible danger to both Helen and her mother in the process.

In an attempt to understand why the women were so hell bent on exposing the lie, he discovers that women feared that lying would cost them their soul if they died without the time to repent.

Shaking his head in disbelief he asks the women to reform and learn to be able to tell lies. He then appraises them about the state of health of both Margaret and Helen and indicates that a night and day watch would soon be required for them.

The health of the mother and child continues to deteriorate while the old women continue to dedicate themselves in their service.

The mother implores to see her child but Hester forbade it, fearing that exposure to typhoid might put Helen’s health at risk.

Understanding the gravity of the situation at the drop of a hat/ immediately, the mother accepts the separation from her kid to keep her from harm’s way.

When asked if her daughter was well, Hester ends up lying to say that Helen was well. Hester speaks to Hannah about the lie and Hannah takes it upon herself to expose the truth to her.

Hester begs her not to, as she thinks that this would have grave consequences on Margaret’s health. Hannah, upon seeing Margaret, ends up lying as well, much to the relief of her sister.

Helen’s health continues to deteriorate and she succumbs to the disease soon after in Hester’s arms, happy in her final moments mistaking her for Margaret.

Margaret continues to enquire about letters from her daughter. In an attempt to comfort her , they fake a letter from her and continue to lie about her well being. 

Margaret’s final day comes soon after and she dies never knowing that her child died before her. Hannah and Hester are happy knowing that she was spared the grief.

An angel visits Hannah and Hester at midnight. The women confessed to their human weakness in front of the angel and lifted their heads in supplication. The angel whispered the decree.

Was it Heaven? Or Hell?

Was It Heaven? Or Hell? Review and My Thoughts

For a moment, let’s assume that heaven and hell exist, what do you think happened to the women?

Should they be going to hell because they lied? They bent the rules. They were lost.

Should they be going to heaven because being dedicated in their service to Margaret and Hester all their lives, they made sure they comforted them all through their dying days and spared both of them unwanted grief in their final moments?

If nothing else, making you feel the itch of not knowing a definite answer to this question, is going to make me feel good. Misery loves company, doesn’t it?

And Yes, I am definitely going to hell for saying that.

But seriously, what do you think of the ending of the story?

I would be happy to hear your thoughts on what happened in the end because I admit that I am torn. And thanks to Mr Twain’s characteristic writing in this piece haven’t been able to brush the ending off my mind.

Goodbye and Good Luck: Summary, Plot Analysis, Review

Goodbye and Goodluck is a short story written by Grace Paley that was published in her collection called The Little Disturbances of Man by Doubleday in 1959. One of the more known stories from her collection, this story is a heartwarming tale of a woman in pursuit of love and her struggles with tradition in her journey to attaining it.

Goodbye and Good Luck: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story opens with Rosie Lieber telling Lillie, her niece, a story about her youth. Rosie used to be an overweight, clear thinking and kind woman in her youth.

She used to work in a novelty wear shop and had lost her job once speaking her mind.

The next job that she applied for, was one where they needed a refined young lady in a cultural organization. She responded and got the job shortly.

The job gave her, in addition to a weekly salary of nine dollars, a free ticket every week and opportunity to watch rehearsals as many times as she wanted.

She settles in her job quickly. The theatre manager, Mr Krimberg introduces her to one of the actors, shortly after.

Volodya Vlashkin, also known as the Valentino of Second avenue, soon got into a blossoming friendship with Rosie.

Rosie watched and praised Vlashkin for his theater performances and Vlashkin, finding a comfortable companionship with Rosie, continues to show interest in her. The attention that she continued to receive from him baffled her at times.

She receives a raise as a result of him putting in a good word for her. In addition, she also got to be part of a crowd scene at fifty cents a night.

Vlaskhin finds an apartment for her close to the theater and that is when Rosie informs her mother of this, and kisses her Mama goodbye.

She professes her love for him in front of her mother, who is disgusted by Rosie’s blatant disregard for tradition. She calls Rosie a rotten hole in a piece of cheese and cries relentlessly.

In the years that followed, Rosie got to know many people, most of them admiring her for her youth and terrific listening skills. She gets to know that Vlashkin is a married man with a family-wife and kids, the whole package.

She confronts him about it and Vlashkin comes clean. She accepts it to be true and convinces Rosie that it is with her that he is really happy. Rosie is convinced, until one day where she gets to see Mrs. Vlashkin.

Feeling guilty to be a home breaker, she confronts Vlashkin again and removes herself from his life. She continues on with her life – meeting different men, but finding none of them interesting enough.

Meanwhile, Vlashkin toured abroad for a few years and even wrote a book about his experiences. In a chance meeting with Vlashkin on the street, she congratulates him for his success. They continue to be friendly and supportive of each other.

Many years pass by, the theater closes and she gets a buzz on the phone. Vlashkin has called  to inform her about his divorce and that now he was a free man. Feeling insulted by the idea of accompanying Vlashkin only as a mistress, she proposes that they marry. Vlashkin agrees.

The story ends with Rosie telling Lillie that she needs to leave soon as she will be late for her wedding and asks her to tell her mama – Goodbye and Good luck.

Goodbye and Good Luck: Review and My Thoughts

The story revolves around Rosie’s love for Vlashkin and her struggle balancing her love with tradition and her desire for independence.

She follows tradition, no questions asked, until she meets Vlashkin.

She finds it difficult to follow tradition when doing that comes at the cost of proximity to him. Throughout the story, Paley has demonstrated this. 

Consider this example from one of Rosie’s dates.

Why do you hide your young throat. These are not old times, my child, to live in shame.

Who’s ashamed? I said taking off the kerchief, but my hand right away went to take the kerchief’s place, because the truth is, it really was old times, and I was still of the nature to melt with shame.

And one where she sadly kisses her mom Goodbye to live a ‘life of love’.

This is a different way of living Mama. Besides, I am driven by love.

Her love for Vlashkin is not the only thing that is exceptional about Rosie. I love how she faces her problems head on and has such a positive disposition and a very healthy sense of self respect. 

Upon receiving a comment from the theater manager about her burly figure, instead of questioning her own self worth, she responds in good humor (Everyone likes kindness.)

Rosie Leiber , you got a build on you.

It takes all kinds, Mr Krimberg.

Her human fears make Rosie all the more likeable. Consider, for example, her fear of not being able to live a life of companionship.

This is your lonesome bed. A lady who they call fat and fifty. You made it personally. From this lonesome bed , you will fall to a bed not as lonesome,only crowded with a million bones.

I was personally happy when Rosie tells Lillie that she is going to be wed?

And that’s the power of Grace Paley.

A Dog’s Tale by Mark Twain: Summary, Analysis and Review

A Dog’s Tale is a short story written by Mark Twain. It was first published in 1903. The story is told from the perspective of a dog and narrates the journey of a dog’s life..

Mark Twain had once said:

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.

If you are a dog lover, whether or not you own one right now, you will understand in an instant what Mr Twain is saying here.

You come home tired from a bad day in office, the minute you open the door, you get the welcome reserved only for kings and queens, the dog is so happy to see you that for a minute there you forgot you had a bad day.

You sit restfully on a weekend with coffee in one hand and your favorite crossword in other, your dog calmly climbs on to your lap and sits there comfortably staring at the crossword in amazement, like that was the best thing in the world at the moment, you feel your sense of calm multiply manifold.

There is something ethereal about the connection between a man and his dog. I stand corrected: a dog and his man, which explains why we see so many on-screen adaptations of this beautiful relationship.

I have a huge list of movies that I would recommend if you are planning to start on what I call the Dog Movie journey, but more on that later..

This is about a Dog’s tale. Twainspeak.

A Dog’s Tale: Summary and Plot Analysis

Aileen Mavoureen is a Presbyterian. As the story opens, she reminisces about her mother, an ‘educated’ Collie, she likes big words and shows off her prowess to the rest of them, leaving them surprised and envious.

Although Aileen did think of her mother as a rather vain character, she believed her virtues more than made up for that flaw. There was more to  Collie than just her education.

Aileen grows up fully and is eventually sold to another family. Broken hearted at their impending separation, they cry.

Aileen’s mother comforts her the best way she could leaving her with the wisdom to perform her duties as a dog with the utmost dedication. To think not of oneself but others in the times of danger.

Aileen finds her new home charming. Her Grays are a loving family. She feels like a part of the family and enjoys the affections people send her way.

Mr Gray is a scientist, Mrs Gray a homemaker, Sadie, their elder kid, a 10-year old girl and a one-year old baby.

a white puppy sits and looks at the screen
Humans’ best friend.

Aileen’s days are mostly spent being petted by the family, watching the baby in nursery, playing with Sadie on the grass and in occasional visits to the neighboring dogs.

Aileen is positively pleased with her life and has nothing more to ask for. Her happiness multiplies manifold when she welcomes her pup into the world.

Aileen finds her world too perfect until one day where an incident happens during her nursery watch.

The baby and Aileen were both sleeping when the baby’s crib caught fire. Awakened by the baby’s cries, the dog darts, and is half way on her way out when the parting words from her mother strike her.

When in danger, don’t think about yourself.

Aileen ran towards the baby in the nursery and drags the crying baby out and is almost out of the door, feeling proud and happy about her feat, when Mr Gray mistaking it for a dog’s mischief strikes at her with his cane.

She is able to duck all but one painful blow to her left foreleg, which leaves her whimpering in pain. Mr Gray soon realises his mistake upon noticing the fire in nursery and runs in that direction.

The dog thinking that Mr Gray would soon return for her escapes to the storage trying to hide away from further torture, all the while licking her wound for comfort.

After a while the frenzy from the fire dies down and the family begins looking for her, calling out his name, whereas she continues to hide.

She eventually devises a plan to escape the house but stops dead in her tracks in despair when she realises she does not have her puppy.

Accepting her fate, she decides to stay back dreading her fate, for she was sure that torture would continue when she is found.

She is eventually discovered by Sadie and is very happy when she realises that she is actually being celebrated for being a hero that saved the baby. She is happy again being the object of the family’s worship.

The days pass by and one day Mr Gray invites a few of his colleagues over to his laboratory. They discussed the fire at the house, the dog’s role in saving his child and went on comparing intelligence and reasoning in a human and a beast.

She feels proud that she is an object of their conversations and thinks about her mother wondering how proud she would have been of her that day.

One day, Mr Gray and his friends take the pup to the laboratory for an ‘experiment’. Aileen is excited and proud for her pup but is horrified to see that they have blinded the pup to prove a point.

As the pup staggers, Aileen runs to comfort him but the pup succumbs to his injuries shortly after. Aileen observes the footman burying the pup in the ground and mistaking it to be the same as the process of planting a seed resulting in a fresh healthy plant to come out, sits there in anticipation of her pup coming alive.

The footman, after the burial, patted Aileen’s head. She notices tears in his eyes when he says “Poor Little Doggie, you saved his child?”

She waits by the burial ground for two weeks hoping  for the pup to come up but is disheartened when he doesn’t.

A terrible fear grips her and she could not eat or sleep. She doesn’t return home even when people beg her to ‘not break their heart’ and come back.

As she lies there waiting and fearful, she breathes her last.

The humble little friend is gone where go the beasts that perish.

A Dog’s Tale: Review and My Thoughts

If you are the sentimental type, I would be very surprised if Aileen’s story didn’t get a tear or two from you. But parking my own emotions for a minute, let’s get back to Mr Twain’s heart rending portrayal of Aileen’s tale.

There are many highlights in this  short story but these are the ones that tugged at my heartstrings the most.

When AIleen’s remembers her mother fondly:

She had a kind heart and gentle ways and never harbored the injuries done onto her, but put them easily out of her mind and taught her children her kindly way. And from her we learned also to be brave and prompt in the time of danger, and not to run away, but face the peril that threatened friend or stranger, and help him the best we could without stopping to think what the cost might be to us.

I could not help but wonder, is it possible for human to be this compassionate? If it was , these would be the most compassionate people walking the face of earth and we would all be in awe of them.

How come, a creature so close to us, goes unnoticed, having devoted their life for us? Are we even capable of devoting ourselves to any creature this way?

When Aileen tries to explain what a laboratory is:

The laboratory was not a book, or a picture or a place to wash your hands in- No, that’s lavatory; the laboratory is quite different and is filled with jars, and bottles and electrics and wires and strange machines.

Mark Twain, has nailed (for the lack of a better word) the innocence of a dog with this. For a fleeting minute Aileen transforms to an adorable toddler  just beginning to learn the rules of the vocabulary.

When Aileen waits for the pup plant to grow:

There the footman dug the hole and I saw he was going to plant the puppy, and I was glad, because it would grow and come up fine handsome dog, like Robin Adair, and be a beautiful surprise when they came home.

Oh, this broke my heart and I cried.

However to me, the story did more than just make me sob.

It filled me with hate. It filled me with disgust.

Hate and disgust both for human kind. About the cruelty that humankind afflicts on creatures just because it can.

It was pleasantly re-assuring to chance upon an article while researching Mark Twain’s animal-lover side.

I was so happy upon discovering that he stood up for animal laws back in the day. Giving us stuff to reflect, and at the same time walking the talk put him right up on the pedestal.

He did show us through his work and through his life, that there are things that we can do. We can still correct the wrong.

I don’t know if heaven or hell exists, but I am with Twain when he says that he would prefer a Dog’s heaven over a Human’s.

Want to read A Dog’s Tale?

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What do YOU think of A Dog’s Tale?

What did you like about the story? What stood out the most to you?

Do you have an interesting dog tale that you’d like to share with us?

We are open to any and all dogly conversations and we would love to hear your favorite stories involving our cute, pawed friends.

Also, if you’re up for it, let us know in the Comments and we’d be happy to share some awesome dog movies.

Till then, a friendly woof to all Friends of Words!

 

In the Penal Colony by Franz Kafka: Summary, Analysis, Review

In the Penal Colony, also known as “In der Strafkolonie” in German, is a short story written by Franz Kafka. First published in October 1919, this story has seen massive popularity and has been adapted widely around the world with film, chamber operas and plays to its name.

In the Penal Colony: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story is set in an unnamed place and focuses on a traveller who has been invited by the new commandant of a penal colony to see and understand the working of a mysterious machine.

A penal colony or exile colony is a settlement used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general population by placing them in a remote location.

The unnamed traveller meets with an officer for this purpose. This officer is to explain the apparatus and justification behind using it. They meet in the middle of a desert and are in the company of two other men – a condemned man and a soldier.

The traveller finds the officer to be deeply enthusiastic about this assignment and is highly engaged. He is very proud of his creation and engages in an animated conversation about its functions.

This machine, as it turns out, is something used to dole out punishments to the convicted.

It has three parts – the bed, the inscriber and the harrow.

The condemned man is supposed to lie on the bed, the inscriber has the law broken by the condemned man, while the harrow contains needles that inscribe the law on the condemned body and splashes water on the body to clear away the blood.

It is usually a long process drawn out till 12 hours, the first six of which is the period where the condemned is said to feel only pain.

After six hours, there seems to be a shift from pain to thoughts about the message being inscribed by the needles on their body, a state of trance, so to speak.

The condemned usually die by the 12th hour and their body is dropped into a pit beside the machine.

While still horrified by the torturous apparatus, the traveler is even more surprised when he finds out that the criminal sentences that are carried out are without the accused having a defense.

Anyone accused is considered guilty and hence punished.

He is told that the condemned man in their company was found guilty of not saluting the captain every hour like he was supposed to.

The captain reported that the man was found asleep at the gate. The officer instantly found him guilty and there he was, for his own inscription day.

Not only does the officer instantly doles out the judgment but also justifies this process citing the time that is saved by not listening to the other side, which he believes leads to a lot of lying making the process much longer than it needed to be.

The condemned man, tied up and watched over by the soldier, however, is completely unaware of his fate.

He is curious about the apparatus and sneaks a peek at it and tries to listen intently to the conversation between traveler and the officer to understand the apparatus.

The officer, having explained the machine to the traveler with the slight hint of pride, asks the soldier to strap the condemned man on to the apparatus and begins to lament at the lack of support for this punishment method to the extent that he was the only one who was an open supporter.

He reminisces of its glory days under the old commandant, now deceased. He beams with pride and has a shine in his eyes when he recalls the crowd that used to throng the place on days of execution, turning the event to a popular spectacle.

And all that changing completely under the new commandment, who is against this mode of punishment, makes the officer visibly disheartened.

The officer thinks that the traveler, as an outsider, is the means that the new commandant is using to completely rid the penal colony of this mode of judgement. He implores the traveler to defend the machine, just by not voicing any objections to it.

The traveler disagrees as he does not find his punishment system just.

Seeing that the traveler is adamant about his view, the officer orders the release of the condemned man and fixes the machine with another message for the inscriber “Be just”.

He removes his clothes and is helped by the condemned man and the soldier to be strapped on to the machine.

The machine falters and instead of being inscribed he is being stabbed by the needles. The water does not wash the blood and the machine suddenly stops. The officer is completely mutilated, a needle having gone right through his forehead.

Intrigued by the officer’s account of the old commandant, he visits the gravesite and finds the plaque saying he will return and his old followers will rise up.

He prepares to leave the town and at the port sees the soldier and the condemned man who seem to be wanting to join him on the boat.

The traveler gets on the boat and successfully prevents the other two from doing it.

Want to read In the Penal Colony?

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In the Penal Colony: Quotes, Theme and Review

Kafka is in his full element with this story raising deeper questions about the role of justice in a well-functioning society, moral means of carrying out the judgements and the purpose or meaning of one’s life.

The characters in the story, each have their desire at loggerheads with the others, preventing them all to find meaning in their lives.

The officer wants the machine to be accepted by the new commandant by getting a favorable view from the traveller. The traveller was against it. The condemned man wanted to be free, the soldier and the officer were against it.

None of them would be able to get what they wanted without affecting what the other did. Zero sum game.

I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the real life applicability of this predicament.

The utterly absurd means of judgment stands out to me as the most poignant theme in this story. Consider this quote by the officer for example:

The basic principle that I use for my decisions is this: Guilt is always beyond a doubt. Other courts could not follow this principle, for they are made up of many heads and in addition have even higher courts above them.

The fact that the officer is completely convinced of the correctness of his means is horrifying. We didn’t see him faltering even when his own judgement was carried out. He didn’t flinch once.

This is crippling, come to think of it.

People in the position of authority, with their misguided ideals can wreak havoc on societies as a whole.

The famous Stanley Milgram experiment is a case in point. People, when working under authority, can go to great lengths administering atrocities.

Another theme stands out: life as a slow torture.

The machine is supposed to carry out the punishment in a long drawn out process. The condemned  death is slow and painful. The condemned know their fate, can not raise their voice against it, the society does nothing to support them.

Traveler`s observation looking at the condemned man for the first time.

The condemned man had an expression of such dog-like resignation that it looked as if one could set him free to roam around the slopes and would only have to whistle at the start of the execution from him to return.

And his own surprise getting to know that the condemned man was unaware of his fate

He doesn’t  know his own sentence?

A society like this clearly marking the beginnings of a dystopian society.

Commenting on his Kafka stories, Anatole Broyard had once said:

“They are an encyclopedia of our insecurities and our brave attempts to oppose them”

In the Penal Colony definitely fits the bill.

The 30000 Bequest by Mark Twain: Summary and Review

The 30000 Bequest is a short story written by renowned American author Mark Twain. It was first published in a collection of short stories. This story revolves around the devastating effects of union of fantasy and finance.

Picture this:

You are walking down the street mindlessly and  you suddenly come across a beautiful young woman. Your immediate reaction is to tuck your bulging stomach in, and you smile your goofy smile – charming in your head and totally awkward in reality – imagining having that beauty as your doting girlfriend, having a mansion for a house, a Ferrari for a casual stroll car, when suddenly you see being yanked into a highly crowded subway train, failing to notice the door closing on your face.

The beautiful woman is nowhere to be seen and somehow you have managed to sleepwalk in broad daylight for a straight 15 minutes right up till the subway train that takes you to work.

You let out a sigh and well, get on with your day.

Seems far fetched, eh?

I bet you have seen at least a couple of variants of this seemingly inexplicable occurrence in some television show or some movie if you haven’t lived at least a dialed down version of this episode yourself at some point in your life.

But what am I going on and on about this imagination when we are here to have a discussion about Mark Twain’s short story The 30000 Bequest?

Two words:  Spoiler Alert.

The 30000 Bequest: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story is set in a small town called Lakeside and boasts of about 6000 residents. Everyone knows everyone and their dogs. People are religious and friendly.

The protagonist Saladin Foster was the only high-salaried book keeper in the town in his mid-thirties, who lived in the town with his wife Electra and their two daughters – Clytie and Gwen.

Electra is a devoted wife and has brought the family a significant sum of money through her calculated financial ventures. She is a happy and pleased woman.

Saladin (Sally) and Electra (Aleck) are both practical and diligent in all their endeavors during the day, but in the night, in each other’s company, the romantic version of their lives comes alive.

All in all, they live a happy life.

One day, they receive news from Sally’s distant relative Tilbury Foster, from a neighboring state, who mentions that he would be leaving 30000 bequest for them in his will, provided that they make no inquiries about him and do not attend his funeral.

The couple, failing to properly register the oddity of the request, immediately start multiplying the imaginary money in their heads through a variety of financial investments.

Although pretty harmless and comparatively limited in the beginning, their imagination begins to spiral out of control pretty quickly.

The constant wait for the ‘good news’ of their relative’s demise meddles with their natural healthy familial state.

They find themselves losing patience at the drop of a hat, quarreling with each other and constantly distracted while performing their usual duties.

In a world where both of them have managed to multiply their imaginary wealth running into billions and made powerful contacts in the country and abroad, they keep rejecting proposals for their daughters. They are resolute on marrying them into nobody less than royalty.

The husband and wife, who had once been so loyal and dedicated to each other, start finding flaws in one another, imaginary vices that they seemed to have acquired with their enormous wealth.

Then, one day, the editor and proprietor of the Sagamore pays them a visit to remind them of their overdue payment of subscription, which the Fosters had missed for the last four years.

Giddy with excitement to receive a visitor that they thought could only bring them good news of the relative’s death, they are heartbroken when they are told that Tilbury Foster died five years ago!

Crestfallen upon receiving this terrible news, Sally and Electra sit motionless for hours, not realizing the departure of their guest.

The dashed hopes do an irreparable damage to their mental health and they die a couple of years later.

On his deathbed, Sally reflects on the disasters of unnatural wealth acquisition:

Vast wealth, acquired by sudden and unwholesome means, is a snare. It did us no good, transient were its feverish pleasures; yet for its sake, we threw away our sweet and simple and happy life – let others take warning by us.

Want to read The 30000 Bequest by Mark Twain?

The 30000 Bequest is a short story which is published in a novel alongwith other short stories written by Mark Twain. You can use the links given below to buy this short story collection on Amazon:

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The 30000 Bequest: Quotes and Review

It’s so interesting to see the progression from contentment to cautious to frivolous and dangerous imagination and the havoc that it wreaked on their lives.

Here’s the happy:

“Happy in her husband, happy in her children and the husband and the children were happy in her.”

The cautious:

“Don’t lose your head so. We must not subscribe till we’ve got the money. Don’t you know that?”

The frivolous:

“Money had brought him (Tilbury Foster) misery, and he took revenge upon us, who had done him no harm. He had his desire: with base and cunning calculation he left us but thirty thousand, knowing we would try to increase it, and ruin our life and break our hearts.”

The story has a grim ending but there is a little characteristic Mark Twain witty relief.

Recall the brainstorming session that the couple had trying to come up with an excuse to throw a party to celebrate their imaginary wealth. As there were no birthday or any specific occasion to celebrate, the couple came up with an ingenious idea:

But at last he hit it – just by sheer inspiration, as it seemed to him – and all their troubles were gone in a moment; they would celebrate the Discovery of America. A splendid idea!

Let me take you back to a quick trip down the short term memory lane. Remember the guy sleep-walking his way up to his train at the Subway station I told you about at the beginning of this article?

Does that idea seem more plausible to you now?

What I got from the story is that – Crazy imagination is hilarious, when the subject is not you.

Hope can be slippery sometimes.

Tread with caution, friends of words!

Hell Is The Absence Of God: Summary, Analysis and Review

Hell is the Absence of God is a short story (novellete) written by Ted Chiang. First published in 2001, this story primarily revolves around Neil Fisk, a recent widower, who lost his beloved wife in the aftermath of an Angel’s visitation.

“Obedience, he might have managed, but sincere, heart-felt love (for God)? That was a ransom he couldn’t pay.”

With this short story Hell is the absence of God, Ted Chiang takes us on an exploration, the one where angel visitations, hell and heaven are as real as the physical world around us.

This story is one of the more celebrated stories of Ted Chiang. First published in 2001, this one has Hugo, Locus and Nebula awards to its name.

Hell is the Absence of God: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story primarily revolves around Neil Fisk, a recent widower, who lost his beloved wife in the aftermath of an Angel’s visitation.

Sarah’s soul was seen to be ascending to heaven, leaving her non-devout husband in pure grief and scampering for means to find pure devotion to God. This, he feels, will help him reunite with his wife in heaven.

He starts attending support group meetings with similar people who were affected by that visitation. These are people whose faith has strengthened even further than before, either from gratitude or from terror.

He is not able to relate to either of those emotions and finds himself drawn to another group where people who are feeling quite the opposite, struggling to continue their devotion.

He finds it increasingly impossible for him to be devout or committed to God now.

The story then follows two other characters, Janice Reilly and Ethan Mead, both of whom eventually play an important role in Neil’s final fate.

Janice Reilly is a woman who was born without legs after her mother had an angelic visitation. She is a positive individual and has made a name for herself as a motivational and spiritual speaker.

One day, after an angelic visitation, she finds herself able-bodied. She is now disillusioned, unsure as to whether to take this act of God as a gift or punishment.

This uncertainty spills over in her speaking engagements and the crowd begins thinning. She is yet to find a reason as to why she would get her legs back when she didn’t even wish for it.

As an able-bodied woman, getting used to having legs, she starts getting attention from all kinds of men, which is when she gets to meet Ethan Mead.

She thinks Ethan has a romantic interest until one day he clarifies his purpose.

Ethan has been raised in a devout family, who thinks that God is directly or indirectly responsible for the good fortune bestowed upon them.

His family has never had any visitation and is happy with the status quo.

Ethan, however, has a strong feeling that God has a special purpose for him and longs for an encounter with the divine to provide him with direction. He doesn’t go to the holy sites where angelic visitations are frequent, thinking that that’s the doing of a desperate man, and patiently waits for it to come.

The visitation does happen, and Janice gets her legs as a blessing, but nothing out of the ordinary happens for him, and having got no insights about his calling, he decides to pursue Janice to find it.

Neil, in the meantime, is still struggling to cope with Sarah’s loss and finding devotion to God to reunite him with her in heaven.

He gets to hear of different perspectives of people in the support group and through a woman called Valerie also comes to know of the humanist movement. The followers of the humanist movements were individuals that advocated people acting as per their own moral sense, nothing else.

Neil felt drawn to that ideology but refrained from pursuing it for the fear of being driven further apart from Sarah if he did.

Desperately looking for ways to reunite with Sarah, he chances upon stories of heaven’s light comes to know of people’s encounters with heaven’s light. Heaven’s light appears when angels enter or leave the mortal world.

People witnessing heaven’s light ascend to heaven regardless of the sins in their lives, no matter how grave they are.

This attracts people to many pilgrimage sites in the hope that they will witness the sight and ascend. Some even try to follow the angel around when it appears so that they can witness it.

Upon discovering that Janice will be attending a shrine for a visitation to return her gift, he decides to go on the pilgrimage as well.

In preparation, Neil uses up savings to buy a truck that could handle the harsh ride on the terrain on his hunt to witness heaven’s light. He familiarizes himself with the terrain and one day sees an angel flying over the holy site.

He follows the angel through dangerous terrains, crashes his vehicle and is mortally wounded.

He sees Janice and Ethan approaching  to rescue him and heaven’s light striking Janice. The light strikes him as well. Both of them turn blind.  Neil dies shortly after.

Ethan witnesses the whole scene, sees Neil’s soul ascending to heaven initially but finally descending to hell.

Armed with this insight that heaven’s light does not guarantee an admission to heaven, he finds his purpose – he becomes a minister and goes on to spread this message to the world.

Neil (who is in hell now), however, finds true devotion to God he was desperately after.

He accepts that he will never be reunited with Sarah but continues to stay devoted  because ‘Unconditional love asks nothing, not even that it be returned.’

Hell is the Absence of God: Analysis and My Thoughts

Ted Chiang, in an interview, had said that after watching the movie “The Prophecy”, he wanted to write a book about angels, but could not imagine a scenario where it would work.

In this novellete, he examines, rather brilliantly, the role of faith in religion. He maintains that if God undeniably existed, then faith would no longer be applicable.

Neil, who has now moved on to hell, still finds true devotion to God, which goes on to say that Chiang believes that it’s still possible to be devoted to God, even when you’re in hell.

All in all, this short story presents a rather unique perspective on the role of faith in religion and how people deal with suffering or the loss of a loved one.

 

Eisenheim the Illusionist: Short Story Summary, Analysis, Review

Eisenheim The Illusionist is a short story written by Steven Milhauser. It was first published in 1989. It tells the story of a magician who becomes so good in his craft that people start believing that he has sold his soul to the devil and can therefore perform real magic.

Eisenheim the Illusionist: Summary & Plot Analysis

Steven Milhauser’s short story ‘Eisenheim the Illusionist’ revolves around a conjurer Eduard Abramowitz, also known as Eisenheim, who is considered the magician da supreme. The story is presented as his short biography, despite the magical occurrences in the plot, which seem other-wordly.

Very little is known of his origins outside the realm of illusion, except for a few details like, Bratislava, where his roots were, and his father being a widely respected cabinet maker, whose creations adorned the homes of gentry there.

The eldest of four children, he was fascinated by woodcraft and by the age of seventeen, was a pretty good cabinetmaker, a skill that came in handy for his future work as a master magician. A chance encounter with a travelling magician is what seemed to have spurred his lifelong – passion for magic.

He accepted his new passion wholeheartedly, albeit a bit slowly, till the age of 24, when he continued to be known for his cabinet making skills much more than those involving magic, .

However, at the age of 28, he burst into the scene with full vigor, appearing in front of a theater in Vienna.

His initial public performances were known for their subtle mastery of the illusions of the day, popular one being the Orange Tree.

As his career progressed, his illusions became more and more nuanced, holding the spectators in awe and aching for more.

His illusions had now become so realistic that people started thinking of him as a wizard instead of a showman -someone who sold his soul to the devil in return for unholy powers.

Cashing in on the popularity, Einsenheim opened his own theater, Einsenheimhaus, which saw his creations become even more original than before. His ascent to magical fame was not, however, unchallenged.

There were two prominent magicians who presented a formidable challenge to Eisenheim – Viennese Benedetti and Bavarian Passauer. Benedetti presented imitations of original Eisenheim illusions with clever variations.

Benedetti, as part of his magic trick, stepped into a black cabinet, never to be seen again. Thereafter, there were rumors of Eisenheim spiriting him away to hell. Such was the impact of Eisenhiem’s personality!

The other magician that posed a much more persistent challenge was Passauer. His masterfully done illusions took Vienna by storm.

Passaeur didn’t attack Eisenheim, and some would say, refused to even acknowledge Eisenheim’s stature as his rival.

However, both Passauer and Eisenheim continued to out-do each other in their subsequent acts, establishing a rhythm to their rivalry.

In his final performance, Passauer exhibited frightening brilliance in his illusions, with the act culminating in him exposing himself as Eisenheim. This received a tumultuous response from the audience.

Following this grand performance, Eisenheim retired from magic for a good one year, perhaps to cope with the strain of a sustained deception.

He comes back to theater, but  this time his magic is centered around materializations, simple at first but becoming increasingly complex and breathtaking over time.

Einseheim began materializing holographic images on the stage, people began drawing parallels between the ones manifested on stage to the real world and started believing them to be ghosts instead.

Ghosts that had an inside track into the other world. His new act brought newer audiences into his fold – psychics as well as spiritualists. People dug around but couldn’t explain this act.

These acts from Eisenheim had a profound impact on the audience and they flocked to the theaters with anticipation.

It was around that time that rumors started about Eisenheim’s impending arrest. Finding the policeman Herr Uhl at the theater stressed the audience.

Police, citing disturbance to the public order as an official reason, justified Eisenheim’s arrest orders. As per police reports, there had been hundred incidents.

Eisenheim, however, was never caught.

He used the same mastery in illusions to escape as he used to entice the audience. A deeper analysis of Uhl’s report revealed that it was the extraordinary nature of Eisenheim’s magic – something that blurs the line between reality and illusion.

Eisenheim the Illusionist: Review

I couldn’t help but compare the story with its cinematic counterpart – The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton and Jessica Biel.

If you liked the short story and haven’t seen the movie, there is a good chance that you will be pleasantly surprised with it. Its filmmakers made significant alteration in the plot to add flavor to it.

At the risk of going completely off-theme, I will leave you with this funny quote from Terry Pratchett – the famous English humorist “Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one. But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.”

If the movie or the story failed to bring a smile to your face, this definitely will.

A Good Man Is Hard To Find: Summary, Review, Analysis

A Good Man Is Hard to Find is a short story written by Flannery O’Connor. It was first published in 1953 in a collection of short stories titled “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”

You might have heard this old proverb – don’t judge a book by its cover.

In my recent reading experience, I have found that to be equally applicable to the title of the stories which I have been reading lately.

First The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, then Cathedral by Raymond Carver and now this.

I read the title of this story and the first thing that popped in my head was an image of an American version of one of Jane Austen’s leading ladies and her difficult journey to a good man, but hey! What did I know?

A Good Man Is Hard To Find: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story opens with a grandmother trying to convince her son to take a trip to Tennessee where she wanted to meet up with some of her connections.

Her son Bailey and his family, on the other hand, wanted to head to Florida.

The grandmother lives with her son Bailey, her innocent `cabbage faced` daughter-in-law, her grandson John Wesley, her granddaughter June Star and a toddler.

Despite the grandmother trying to convince Bailey to go to Tennessee, citing all sorts of reasons including the presence of an escaped convict in Florida, the family does not budge and it is confirmed as the destination.

On the day of the trip, the grandmother hides her cat in a basket and puts her in the car. She wears a dress and a hat that says she is ‘a lady’ in case they meet with an accident.

She sits with June and John on either side of her. The children engage in their banter and John calls Tennessee a ‘hillbilly dumping ground’ resulting in his grandmother chastising him.

She narrates a rather funny story of her suitor named Edgar Atkins Teagarden.

He used to bring a watermelon for her everyday, leaving it on her porch with his initials on them resulting in a black child eating it mistaking the initials E.A.T as an instruction.

Enroute, the family stops at a restaurant called the Tower, owned by Red Sammy Butts.

Red Sammy mentions people are becoming more and more untrustworthy these days, quoting one incident from the recent past where he let two decent looking men buy gas on credit.

A conversation about Misfit – the escaped convict – starts somehow and the woman worries that he will rob them.

Sammy laments that good men are hard to find these days and the world is worse off for it.

The family gets on the road again and the grandmother takes her intermittent naps, waking up from one to realize that she had visited the plantation in the past and wanted to see it again.

Knowing fully well that her son will not entertain the idea of stopping to look at that place, she crafts a story about the house with a plantation that has secret panels.

This spurs the children’s imagination and they start yelling and screaming to visit it.

Bailey, who is completely against the idea at first, finally agrees to take the family there to handle the ruckus children have created.

The grandmother points him to a dirt road and the family drives deep into the woods, the grandmother suddenly realizes the house that she was mentioning was actually in Tennessee.

Horrified, her feet jerked, upsetting the cat. The cat jumps on a startled Bailey’s shoulder, and he loses control of the car.

Although the car is wrecked, the family escapes unhurt with the exception of Bailey’s wife who had a broken shoulder.

The grandmother decides not to mention anything about her mistake to her son, who is fuming at this point.

They wait for someone to come by to seek help. They see a car approaching from far away and grandmother waves her arms dramatically to attract their attention.

The car stops and three armed men come out of it.

The grandmother has a strange feeling that she recognizes one of those men. One of them asks the mother to settle her children down as they make him nervous.

The grandmother, suddenly realising that one of the men is Misfit, screams out at the Misfit with recognition, upsetting her son, who curses violently at her.

She starts crying and the man starts consoling her. She asks if he would shoot a lady, and the man mentions that it wouldn’t be his preference.

The grandmother keeps telling him that he is a good man and he agrees to that, calling his mother the finest woman and his dad to have had a heart of pure gold.

Hiram and Bobby Lee take Bailey and John into the woods.

The conversation continues between the grandmother and Misfit. Misfit agrees that he is not a good man but not the worst either.

He apologizes to the ladies for not wearing a shirt because they had to bury their clothes after they escaped. He mentions that they borrowed the clothes they’re wearing from some people they met on their way.

The grandmother asks Misfit if he prays to which he says No.

Two gunshots fill the air.

He tells the grandmother that he was not a bad child but remembers having gone to the prison for the crime that he didn’t remember committing. He gets to know from a psychiatrist that he had killed his father. Misfit has no memory of this.

The grandmother urges that he prays so Jesus helps him. Misfit denies doing that as he does not need any help and he is doing good by himself.

Bobby Lee and Hiram come back from the woods, without Bailey and John and hand over a shirt to Misfit. Misfit asks the children’s mother to take the child and June Star with her and go with Bobby Lee and Hiram.

Bobby Lee tries to hold June Star’s hand who ridicules him for looking like a pig.

Realizing her soon-to-be fate, the grandmother starts chanting “Jesus, Jesus”.

He thinks himself to be like Jesus except that he had not committed a crime. He calls himself Misfit because he thinks that the punishment that people get for their crimes do not fit their crimes.

The grandmother hears gunshots again, three this time and cries out for Bailey. She implores him to not shoot a lady.

Misfit continues her conversation about Jesus saying that Jesus confused everyone by raising from the dead. Because if he actually did that, then everyone should follow him.

But if he didn’t actually do that then indulging in meanness in one life is a natural thing for people to do.

The grandmother agrees with him. Misfit wishes he was there to see Jesus raising the dead, he would have known for sure then.

Seeing Misfit’s voice breaking and face contorted as he was going to cry, in her moment of clarity, the grandmother calls the Misfit “one of my own babies,” and touches him on the shoulder.

As if bitten by a snake, Misfit springs on his feet and shoots her in the chest three times.

Bobby Lee and Hiram return, remarking on the grandmother being a talker.

The misfit observes that the grandmother could have been a good woman “if someone was there to shoot her every moment of her life.”

The Misfit says life has no true pleasure.

Want to buy A Good Man Is Hard to Find?

A Good Man Is Hard to Find is a short story which is published in a novel alongwith other short stories written by Flannery O’Connor. You can use the links given below to buy this short story collection on Amazon:

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Check Price on Amazon Canada
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A Good Man Is Hard To Find: Analysis and Review

There is a quality to this story that’s haunting to the core. The author paints a picture of a regular family taking a trip to Tennessee, talking about things that any regular family talks about, including the news of a cruel murderer who’s on the run from the law.

No one in the family, in fact, not even the reader of the story expects the murderers to actually meet the family in the end and then kill them in cold blood.

There’s a bone-chilling aspect to this story – the further you go in the story, the scarier it becomes, mostly because of the fear of “what’s going to happen next”.

A true classic! The accolades that A Good Man is Hard to Find has received is a testimony to that. This is certainly Flannery O’Connor’s best work.

First published in 1953, this story has inspired a lot of scholarly work and on-screen adaptations.

The story was adapted into a film called Black Hearts Bleed Red in 1992 and a modern chamber opera in 2003.