Fragmentation in “A Rose for Emily”

I’ve been posting some of the essays that I included in my senior portfolio. This particular essay was written in the spring semester of my sophomore year of college for my American literature class.

The events in “A Rose for Emily” are not told in sequential order. Instead, readers receive bits and pieces of events that occurred and have to piece together what order they happened in on their own. This creates suspense in the story and keeps readers actively thinking about the information they are being given. Readers have to piece together the events that they read in order to figure out what is happening with Emily.

The story starts out by stating that Emily, or Miss Grierson, has died. This is also the last event in the story. Right off the bat readers know that this story is focused on Emily’s death. They are not going to be surprised by the death later on in the story. However, the story goes on to recount different parts of Emily’s life before coming back to her death. Throughout the story readers are already aware that they are reading about a dead woman, even though it is not focused on again until the end of the story.

It is possible that readers will have a different response to Emily as a character if they know she is dead. Often times, people will feel more sympathy for someone after their death than they did while that person was living. “A Rose for Emily” presents Emily as an eccentric woman who is described as an “obligation” for the town as opposed to someone that people have fond feelings for. Without knowing her fate, readers might view her as a town nuisance and possibly find her an annoying person they would not want to associate with, but knowing that she is dead from the very beginning, readers may be more apt to care about Emily and feel concern, even as they find out about more unsavory aspects of her as a character.

The fragmentation of the story also provides suspense to readers. They are only being given bits and pieces of the story, and what they are getting do not flow together. This method means that readers cannot passively read through the story without thinking much about it. Instead, readers are forced to think critically about what they are reading in order to follow the events. They have to constantly be trying to figure out what order the events came in and what it all means. This keeps readers engaged in the story and more focused on what is happening.

Because of the fragmentation, readers are most likely forming predictions about the end of the story. Once they reach the conclusion, many will be surprised at what they find because they did not piece together that this ending is what the rest of the story was building up to. Not many would have expected an elderly woman to have a man’s dead body lying around her house, even if there had been an odd smell around her house. Now though readers can go back and reread in order to see all of the hints throughout the story that led to the ending. They are now encouraged to reread the story in order to place the pieces of information together even more accurately than before.

In a way it almost seems to represent Emily’s life. She was not well understood by most of the people in her town, just as the story cannot be easily understood by those who do not take the time to read it carefully. The people of the town only received bits and pieces about her, and it is these bits and pieces that readers receive through the narration of a townsperson. The fragmentation helps show how disconnected Emily was from everyone, and how she never seemed to have anyone who really understood her. Emily was a person who took time to understand, and no one in the town took the time.

“A Rose for Emily” is not a story that readers can easily skim through and expect to fully understand. The fragmentation helps show the complexity of the story of Emily’s life and leads to more careful reading. Readers are pulled in by the challenge presented to them to figure out what is going on and, after discovering that, to see how well it all fit together.

Learning

I enjoy learning new things. Sometimes, when I’m up to my neck in schoolwork, I can forget that I like learning, but even then, I may spend a break from my schoolwork by watching educational videos on YouTube or reading a nonfiction book. I genuinely like learning.

Sometimes I wonder, though, if I spend too much time trying to take in new information and not letting old information sink in. Learning, after all, doesn’t happen unless I can recall and use the information, which requires at least hearing it more than once. The vast majority of the time it also requires using the information, which in many cases I can be even less apt to do.

I do think I let it sink in at times. I read multiple books on a topic. I follow multiple blogs/websites on the same broad topic, and I’ll read articles they each post on the same thing (although in that case it might also be to see if they say anything different). I do make attempts to really learn things.

Of course, when it comes to doing, I can’t use all of the information I take in. Some of it doesn’t call for physical action, and I also can’t write essays about everything just to make sure I’ve got it. That would be a lot of essays to write in too little time.

But maybe that’s something I have to accept. I like taking in new information. It’s interesting. Maybe I won’t remember all of it, but hopefully, I’ll remember some of it, which is better than not having any of it at all.

Writing Romantic Relationships Scares Me Sometimes

I’ve been writing on a regular basis for around a decade (and sometimes posting that writing online, primarily through fanfiction), but I still consider myself a beginner. Sure, if we went back to my preteen self’s writing (which we won’t), then we’d see that I’ve come a long way, but there’s plenty farther to go.

One of the aspects of writing I still don’t entirely understand is how to develop a great romantic relationship from beginning to end. I think the reason this is on my mind a lot is because I’m so particular about how I like romantic relationships to play out in the media I consume. (I have a relationship archetype that I’m drawn to, although I do appreciate couples that don’t fit into that archetype.) I also admit that I can get judgmental when a relationship doesn’t play out in a way that I like, especially if it falls into particular tropes I despise.

You’d think that knowing all of this would give me insight when developing romantic relationships in my own writing. Plus, I’ve written relationships from their beginning to their “happy ending” and even beyond in one case. When it comes to the fanfiction I’ve posted online, I’ve had people compliment how those relationships were developed (although I can’t forget that, in the case of fanfiction, they’ve likely sought out a story about a pairing they already cared about).

For some reason, relationship development is one of the aspects of my stories that I question the most, which is saying something as I question almost everything. Whenever I’m developing a relationship, I’m never quite sure if I’m taking things too slow or too fast. Neither of which are what I want, but where is the perfect medium? I’m never too sure while writing.

On top of that, I always wonder if the readers will see the same chemistry between the characters that I do, or am I going to leave them wondering how I could have ever thought they worked together?

There are always so many questions. Many of them are likely fueled by how much personal preference drives the fictional relationships that people celebrate. Anyone who’s been within a hundred yards of a fandom shipping war know that no modestly sized fandom consists of fans that view the romantic dynamics in their favorite story the same way. If that’s taught me anything, it’s that I’m never going to write a romantic relationship that appeals to everyone.

That should give me comfort, but as with all things, I’m still working on having the confidence to know that I’m doing what’s right for my story even if that means that some people disagree.

A Magical World Inferiority Complex

When it comes to the magical world I’m creating for my fantasy novel, I have a bit of an inferiority complex. You see, I can’t not compare my created world to the wizarding world within Harry Potter. In my mind, Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, etc. are the quintessential fantasy world. That’s not to say I haven’t read about many other fantastic literary worlds over the years. It’s just that Harry Potter has always stood out as the paradigm.

Comparing my own creation to Harry Potter isn’t the smartest thing I could do, but it’s difficult to not sit back and find what I’ve created as inadequate in comparison.

My world is going to be different. There’s the fact that Harry Potter is considered a children’s book (despite the later books getting darker) in comparison to the young adult story I’m writing. There’s the fact that Harry Potter, while not high fantasy, is also not quite urban fantasy like what I’m writing.

They’re different. As they should be. I wouldn’t want to write something that was merely an imitation of Harry Potter. That would fail miserably. I don’t want to write Harry Potter 2.0, yet I can’t help but feel like there’s some magical essence to Harry Potter that my own world will never have its own version of.

Whether that’s due to insecurities or because my world is actually lacking in something, I doubt I could tell you without feeling biased.

Beliefs About Dating in Sure Thing

Note: I’ve decided to post some of the essays from my senior portfolio here. This is the one paper to make it into the portfolio that is from my first semester of college. It was written for my Written Analysis of Literature class. It’s unchanged from that class (except for the citation, which I had to change the URL for).

Sure Thing by David Ives is about Bill and Betty’s first attempts at getting to know each other.  They play illustrates how easy it is for things to go wrong when two people are getting to know each other.  Bill and Betty have to start over multiple times and correct their mistakes before they reach the point where they decide to leave the café together.

As the play progresses, Bill and Betty get farther and farther in their conversation before one of them makes a mistake.  At the beginning, Betty seems entirely uninterested.  The first several do-overs are the result of her not even letting Bill take the seat beside her.  Bill asks “Is this taken?” (1) multiple times and is turned down by Betty. Once she finally does allow him to sit beside her, it still takes several times before Bill is successfully able to get Betty to stop reading her book and focus on him.  Ives is showing that for anything to happen, two people have to at least be interested in each other.  In the beginning of Sure Thing, Betty does not seem to want to interact with Bill at all, and because of this, nothing can happen between them.

Once Betty finally begins to really talk to Bill, there is still a lot of room for each of them to make mistakes.  At first, the mistakes center around Bill asking Betty about what book she is reading.  The first time he asks, Bill responds, “Oh, Hemingway” (2) once Betty tells him that it is The Sound and the Fury.  A mistake as simple as getting the author of a book wrong requires that the two back track.  This shows how fragile things are at the very beginning of a relationship.  Bill and Betty have just met, and the slightest mistake can ruin things.

Ives seems to be showing how picky women can be about the men they are willing to give a chance when Bill is forced to start over several times after Betty asks about college.  It is not until Bill responds “Harvard” (3) that Ives does not make Bill start over again.  A simple thing such as that makes Bill lose his chances with Betty, and it is not until he tells her that he attended one of the best universities in the United States that the conversation continues.

Even once they have been talking for a while, small things still manage to derail Bill and Betty’s conversation.  Later in the play they have both gotten into the conversation, but when one of them says just one thing that the other does not like, the bell sounds and they are forced to start again.  Ives shows how important first impressions are because even once the conversation has started to come easily, mistakes can still be made.

By the end of the play, Bill and Betty have finally managed to make it through a whole conversation.  Betty responds, “Sure thing” (11) to Bill’s invitation that they go to the movies together.  After many times of starting over, the couple has finally managed to say all of the right things, and Ives has shown readers how easy it is to mess up an initial conversation with someone.  There are many chances to say the wrong things when meeting someone new, and this is shown in Sure Thing.

Works Cited

Ives, David.  Sure Thing.  <http://blanckd.yolasite.com/resources/Sure%20Thing%20(Ives).pdf>  27 May 2016.

My Senior Letter of Reflection

Last semester (roughly five months ago) I had to present my senior portfolio to my committee. Since I did pass my defense, I’d like to think that I achieved the purpose of showing my growth through the portfolio. Because this portfolio is the best representation of my growth as a writer throughout college, I’ve decided that I’d like to share at least some of it here.

I’m starting with my letter of reflection, the first document in the portfolio. The professors on my committee told me that I was too hard on myself in this letter, but I think having to re-read all your freshman papers will put anyone in that mindset. Whether I was too hard on myself or not (or whether I’d write this letter differently just several months later), this is that letter as it appeared in my portfolio.

In grade school, I was always considered a strong writer, but regardless of any real writing skills I may or may not have possessed, what the term actually meant was that I was the student that other students came for to receive input on the grammar and mechanics of their papers. I began to focus on those areas of writing far more than anything else as well because I came to believe that that alone was what qualified my papers as “good.”

As I went through high school, the situation stayed more or less the same. My love of both reading and writing was the same as it had been as a kid, and I was drawn to the honors English classes and, eventually, AP English. Even though my writing was always treated as “good,” I still felt self-conscious about my writing. I was scared of having any mistakes in my writing, but I was more worried about my classmates seeing those mistakes than my teacher. In my mind, my classmates finding my mistakes meant that my supposed writing skills would be seen as a sham.

I was still very much in that mindset when I started college at Marian. The idea of others reading what I wrote felt like a necessary evil in the classroom. I did not doubt it being necessary either. I knew it was an important part of growing as a writer, and I wanted that. There was a strong desire to better my writing skills through listening and learning from others. It was just that allowing people to actually read my writing was stressful, especially if I had to be anywhere near them while they did so. I always had this worry that my writing was worse than everyone else’s in the class, and although I knew it was an illogical fear, I struggled to shake it. That fear has been alleviated quite a bit over my years at Marian. The idea of others reading my writing can still make me a bit nervous, but it is nothing like I felt as a freshmen.

Now that I look back over my older papers, I think about how I felt while writing them.  I know there were so many times where I censored myself or did not take risks specifically because I worried how what I wrote would be perceived by anyone else who happened to read it. No doubt many of those things I could have done would have been a bad idea anyway, but some of them could have been good ones. I am always trying to not let my fear of writing something keep me from actually writing it. That is something that I am better at on certain occasions than I am at others.

Of course, I would like to think that my writing has grown in a number of ways while at Marian. Looking back at my papers, there are a number of things I wish I could change, but making each of the mistakes I have has helped me learn. That act of learning and growing many different ways as a writer is part of what has led to me being more comfortable with people reading my writing. I am not comfortable because I think my writing is so wonderful that the people who read it will not find mistakes. I am just more comfortable making those mistakes because I have internalized even more than in high school that writing is a process for everyone. I am never going to write something that would not face any criticism. Nothing I ever write will be incapable of being improved. I think that is the biggest lesson I have received as a writer from my time at Marian.

I chose to re-write the critical essay that I did because I was not satisfied with the way it was before. It was more than just the grade it got on it. I felt like there was something there that I could explore more than I already had, and I wanted to revisit A Midsummer Night’s Dream and try it. Over the course of re-writing the paper, I changed my thesis and kept almost nothing of the original paper. It was very challenging for me, but I am glad I did it even though I am still frustrated knowing that the paper could be better. I am not sure that I would have gone the route I did as a freshmen. The path of scrapping almost an entire paper for something like this would have felt too intimidating. Back then, I looked at papers that had been graded as finished projects, and even if I was going to revise one, going as far as to almost start over again felt next to impossible. My time here at Marian helped give me the drive to do things like that and challenge myself more in my writing.

Character Death: When Do You Use It?

How do you know when it’s right to kill off a character and when it’s unnecessary?

That’s something I’ve asked myself countless times. I’ve been working on a story for years, and it’s one of those stories where, if I were the one reading it, I would expect some sort of death. But when you’re the writer, you have to be the one to make that decision, and I’ve never been quite sure how to do that.

Despite accusations that writers like to kill off characters for fun or to upset readers, I don’t think that’s the case. I know death should have a purpose within the story, but over the years, it’s also something I’ve come to believe should happen within any genre fiction story. Over the years, I’ve been influenced to believe that it’s necessary.

At the same time, I don’t feel like I know how to actually use character death as a writer. I don’t know when it’s the right thing for the story. It baffles me no matter how much I think about it or how much I try to figure it out.

It’s become one of my biggest issues while working on this particular project. If I write a death, I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do or if I’m just adding it in because I think I need death. If I don’t write a death, I wonder if it makes the story too unrealistic or if I’m giving in to my own desire for all the characters to make it out alive.

I just can’t figure it out.