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?

A Dog’s Tale is available on Amazon if you want to get yourself a copy. You are welcome to use the links given below to order a copy:

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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?

In the Penal Colony is available on Amazon if you want to get yourself a copy. You can use the links given below to check the price of this book:

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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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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.

A Simple Heart by Gustave Flaubert: Summary, Plot Analysis, Review

In his simple but heart-wrenching short story A Simple Heart, Gustave Flaubert portrays a simple woman, with a big heart devoted to the service of her mistress for the majority of her life. The tale, simple on the surface, has deep messages for the reader inside

A Simple Heart: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story opens with an insight into the working life of Félicité, a maid employed by Madame Aubain, a not-so-easy-to-get-along-with widow.

Her service to Madame Aubain and her two kids, a girl Virginie and a boy Paul, has been nothing short of exceptional. So much so, that people intend to steal her from Madame Aubain.

The story moves to Félicité’s past where the reader comes to know of hardships in her past – being orphaned early on, working as a servant – being tortured and beaten, and in her youth, having her heart broken by a young man Théodore, who deserted her in favor of an older, wealthier woman.

She finds employment with Madame Aubain shortly after.

Simple, but endowed with a big kind heart, Félicité forms a series of deep attachments over her years of service.

The first was her profound devotion for Virginie. She closely followed and imitated all her religious observances.

She also grew fond of her nephew Victor, a sailor, facing hardships in Dunkirk, ultimately succumbing to yellow fever on his trip to Cuba. She had hardly coped with the devastating news that her beloved Virginie also started showing signs of terrible sickness.

The sickness was followed by an early death and she was completely grief-stricken.

She resigns to her mundane life; years pass one after the other until one day, Madame Aubain receives a parrot from a guest.

cover of the short story titled 'a simple heart' written by Gustave Flaubert

This parrot Loulou now becomes the center of Felicite’s world, who dedicates a significant chunk of her day looking after it, with the same devotion that she had felt for Virginie or Victor initially.

Atlhough, a parrot, Loulou is nothing short of a son to Felicite. She talks to him doing her chores and  simply dotes on him. Upon Loulou’s death, she sends him off to the Taxidermist and continues to keep him alive in her heart.

Quite a few lonely years pass by, interspersed with news of death of people she once knew. Madame Aubain dies and leaves her in possession of a small pension and her house.

There are no interested parties, either to rent or purchase the house, and with passage of time, the condition of the house as well as her health continues to deteriorate.

She donates the stuffed Loulou to the local church and dies shortly after, at a time when a church procession is underway.

In her final moments she envisions a huge parrot hovering over her head, as the heavens part to receive her.

A Simple Heart: Analysis and Review

Gustave Flaubert has been called equal parts romantic and realist and it is plain as day from his portrayal of Felicite, her experiences and the world that she lives in.

He does it so convincingly and with such striking details that you couldn’t help but see her world so vividly, as if you were there and everything was happening in front of your eyes.

“For two nights Félicité never left the dead girl. She said the same prayers over and over again, sprinkled holy water on the sheets, then sat down again to watch. At the end of her first vigil, she noticed that the child’s face had gone yellow, the lips were turning blue, the nose looked sharper, and the eyes were sunken.

She kissed them several times, and would not have been particularly surprised if Virginie had opened them again: to minds like hers the supernatural is a simple matter.

She laid her out, wrapped her in a shroud, put her in her coffin, placed a wreath on her, and spread out her hair. It was fair and amazingly long for her age. Félicité cut off a big lock, half of which she slipped into her bosom, resolving never to part with it.”

Felicite finds it hard to accept the death of her beloved Virginie, but in her mourning, never leaves her side. She displays the same dedication to her as before, with her big kind, yet simple heart.

Her expectation on Virginie opening her eyes when she kissed them and taking a big lock of hers to always keep with her, is of childlike purity. Her simple heart is precisely that – Simple, gives everything it got, to everything she does.

Her simplicity was such a profound message for me. I can’t say that it does not sound cliché, because it does, but to me it was Felicite saying in her humble way- ‘Give it everything you got’.

“Mistress and servant embraced each other, uniting their grief in a kiss which made them equal.” Felicite has been a dedicated servant to the Aubain household for a number of years, and Felicite and Madame Aubain have just been that – mistress and a servant until the death of a beloved kid joins them together in a bond much stronger than that – a bond of love.

Seeing this display of emotion from her mistress, her dedication is more amplified than ever – like that of a dog to its master.

Jose N Harris, an American author, remarked in his book Mi Vida: “Tears shed for another person are a sign of a pure heart.” And drives home the purity of this simple heart.

Flaubert has been known to be a perfectionist. Famously called by Walter Pater as ‘Martyr of Style’. He has been known for his relentless pursuit of ‘le mot juste’ (French for ‘the right word’).

A Simple Heart will tell you why.

 

 

 

 

Exhalation by Ted Chiang: Summary, Plot Analysis, Review

Exhalation is a short story written by Ted Chiang. It’s a short story from his collection titled “Exhalation: Stories”. It is a story about cyborgs who live on a different planet and use mental lungs to breathe everyday.

‘Will it be preferable to remain mute to prolong our ability to think, or to talk until the very end?’

Exhalation is every bit mind boggling and overwhelming as his more famed piece Story of your Life (which also inspired a Hollywood movie called Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner) if not more.

This short story is a perfect blend of science and philosophy and has something to offer to avid readers of both philosophy and science.

Exhalation: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story is set on a planet inhabited by Cyborgs, who install mental lungs to breathe every day. Filling stations – where they replenish their air supply – also serve as the primary means for social conversations.

They derive shared pleasure through this communal activity of replacing lungs. Just as lungs are passed between persons and districts, so are news and gossip.

In one of those conversations, the protagonist, an unnamed scientist, gets to hear the rumor about turret clocks in their district to have sped up, chiming earlier than they were supposed to. He also got to hear about same news from nearby districts as well.

Horologists investigated further but couldn’t find any imperfections in those turret clocks, which piqued his curiosity.

Due to lack of available reference material to research this, the scientist takes it upon himself to solve the mystery. He decides to perform auto-dissection.

He sets up a complex machinery, stocks up on additional lungs, creates a backup plan for rescue in case of a mishap.

Through his deftly performed surgery, he begins to see the structure of his brain and eventually realizes that their memory was the pattern of air flow in their brains.

He realizes that it was not the clocks that were fast but that the air flowing through every person’s brain was slow.

Based on his understanding that they were simply converting air at high pressure to air at low leading to achievement of final albeit fatal state of equilibrium. Due to an increase in the background air pressure of the universe, thoughts were slowing down.

The scientist’s findings spur a lot of debate in the community to an ultimate confirmations that they actually seemed true and that end to their world, as they knew it, was a certain thing.

This understanding bestows upon our protagonist an appreciation for the life that he is living right now and he records this for the future explorers.

Exhalation by Ted Chiang: Review and My thoughts

This story will appeal to the scientist and the philosopher alike. However, scientifically you would see the messages worded, there are always some deep philosophical messages to take home.

Consider for example, the scientists discovery of the truth that death is certain.

“It will be the end of pressure, the end of motive power, the end of thought. The universe will have reached perfect equilibrium.”

Perfect equilibrium and death are synonymous. It cannot get any more eye-opening than that. Ah Ted!

Although the scientist does talk about the cyborgs and presents a very futuristic view, he does not do that without making them humane, cyborgs enjoying community time, loving to be social, Chiang asserts very humanely, through his writing that science fiction does not have to be dystopian.

We all keep spare sets of full lungs in our homes, but when one is alone, the act of opening one’s chest and replacing one’s lungs can seem little better than a chore. In the company of others, however, it becomes a communal activity, a shared pleasure.

And then there are observations made within the story that are as applicable to humans as to cyborgs. I am sure human meditation enthusiasts will attest to this understanding-

Air is in fact the very medium of our thoughts. All that we are is a pattern of air flow.

He does leave us with this gripping message, simple yet no less profound-

“Though I am long dead as you read this, explorer, I offer to you a valediction. Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so. I feel I have the right to tell you this because, as I am inscribing these words, I am doing the same.”

You will find it extremely difficult not to be pulled into this universe so tastefully created by Chiang, that’s bound to leave you pondering, aching for more.

In an interview to Manifold, Chiang defines hard science fiction as something that spurs an endless debate.

Exhalation does just that.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson: Summary, Plot Analysis and Review

The Lottery`is a short story written by Shirley Jackson who’s an American author. First published in the New Yorker in 1948, the story is about a strange game of lottery that’s practiced in a village.

Touted as one of the most famous short stories in American literature and first published in New Yorker in 1948, this story’s journey was rocky in the beginning.

It opened to a tremendous negative response by the audience. People felt hurt and it received a lot of hate mails. It  was even banned at some places.

Wondering what so special about it?

Let’s jump right in!

The Lottery: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story opens in a village square on a bright and beautiful summer day. The village is small with about 300 people and has the usual small place charm.

Everyone knows everyone. Children running around, Wives catching up on the latest gossip and men surveying their children and talking about plantation and taxes before families start standing together in groups.

The families have assembled for the annual lottery event. This event takes much longer in other towns but the small size of this town works to the villagers’ advantage. The event gets over in no more than two hours.

Children, who have just gotten off school are running around with stones in their pockets, while some others arrange them in a pile on the ground.

A man called Mr. Summers runs the lottery because he has a lot of time at his disposal for the village.

He arrives in the square with the black box, followed by Mr. Graves, the postmaster. The black box is older than the oldest man in the village. Mr Warner attempts to get a new one but is thwarted in the name of tradition.

Mr. Summers jumbles up the slips of papers in the box. Note that at this point the reader is unaware of the content in those paper slips.

portrait of shirley jackson
Shirley Jackson – the author of The Lottery

Mr Summers and the postmaster made the paper slips the night before and locked it up in his coal company. As a prerequisite to the lottery, a list of families is made and members from each household are identified to be representing the family for the event.

Mr Summers is sworn in, albeit without the customary salute or song that’s used to characterize such events in the past.

A village woman Tessie Hutchinson joins the crowd late, visibly flustered having forgotten the day to be the lottery day. People joke about her late arrival in a playful manner.

Mr Summers confirms with the crowd about everyone’s presence for the event and makes sure that there is someone to draw for every family.

He then proceeds with a reminder about the lottery rules: he will read family names and the identified family heads will come and draw a slip of paper and no one is to look at their slips until every family has drawn.

While people continue to draw slips of paper from Mr Summers’ box, Mr Adams and old man Warner strike up a conversation about some other village taking on the lottery tradition, mentioning that some wanted to discontinue it.

Old man Warner ridicules the idea saying that it is as bad as going back to the caves and that it’s trouble and nothing else.

Everyone has finished drawing papers and now the family heads open the papers. Word quickly travels that Bill Hutchinson has got it.

Tessie starts complaining about the unfairness of the draw considering that her husband got very little time to draw a paper. Mr. Summers asks Hutchinsons if there are other members in their family. He confirms.

There are five papers now to draw from. One for each member of the Hutchinson family. Each member draws their paper, and opens their slips. Tessie receives a paper with a black dot on it. Mr Summers then instructs the villagers to hurry up.

All villagers grab stones and run towards Tessie, who is now standing in the middle of the crowd. She continues to complain about the unfairness of the lottery until she is hit by a stone on her head, and then everyone begins throwing stones at her.

The Lottery: Review & My Thoughts

The first time I read the story, I was shell shocked at the ending.

Although Jackson dropped quite a few hints about the lottery not being a traditional one that comes to mind when you see or hear this word. I was not prepared for the end.

I thought I read it wrong; but no, I read it right. She was stoned to death by people she knew, she gossiped with. Hell! Her own family!

The idea was very bizarre to me, and I was finding it hard to digest. It didn’t sit well with me.

Up until the absolutely unexpected ending, there were a few references in the story that I marveled at:

“It was clear and sunny, with fresh warmth of a full summer day”

I know I might be over-crediting this line, but summers are rare in the place I live and what bad could ever happen on such a nice summer day!

About how children shall always be children:

“The children assembled first, of course. School was recently over for the summer, and the feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them.”

How men taking a central role in a family is okay, but women doing the same is not.

“Wife draws for her husband, Mr Summers said. “Don’t you have a grown boy to do it for you Janey?”

I did see eerie signs but chose to ignore them, clues spread all throughout the story about lottery not being the traditional one: why was Tessie constantly complaining about getting the lottery? It’s lucky to win one and people want to win it, right?

We would instinctively trace it back to the dark ages if we ever hear of an incident like this in reality.

With all of the human rights commissions that we have now, yes, an act like this is not going to get unnoticed, and I sure would like to believe that they would play an instrumental role in curbing a horrible, inhuman practice like this.

But does that mean that we are not slave to tradition now in these times?

Mrs Hutchinson’s death is an extreme example of how societies can perpetrate all sorts of injustices for reasons that defy logic.

The targeted individual could be a different race, a different sex, follower of a different religion, of a different economic class, something that he or she can not control but has to pay the price for.

Just as villagers blindly follow tradition to stone Tessie to death, real life villains carry out atrocities without questioning the tradition or the widely held belief – however flawed it might be.

All this is to say that the ending of the story made me think. A LOT.

And that is the power of a great story. Publishing something like this in 1948! Shirley Jackson was undoubtedly way ahead of her times.

It pains me to think how much flak she received for this. Bombarded with hate mail in hundreds all through the summer when it was first published.

The story left me speechless.

Thank you, Shirley Jackson!