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Published by api-3781136
Formalistic Criticism toward Some of Us Had Been Threatening
Our Friend Colby by Donald Barthelme
Formalistic Criticism toward Some of Us Had Been Threatening
Our Friend Colby by Donald Barthelme

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Published by: api-3781136 on Oct 16, 2008
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Formalistic Criticism
Some of Us Had BeenThreateningOur Friend Colby
Donald Barthelme
Mehdi HE
The whole story was a kind of personal practice before the literarycriticism mid-term exam. A group of my friends and I chose this story, and wewrote our critics, then shared it in the group and discussed. What is writtenbelow is my note in 25 May 2006.Persian translation of this story is also available in this address:http://mehdi-he.com/2006/08/blog-post_03.html
Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby 
is ashort story by Donald Barthelme. It is about hanging a man,named Coldby by his friends. The setting of place is a city, inearly 20th century (considering the references to limousines)when there ARE laws, but there are still cruel punishments bygangs who have the power. It is a day in June. The story isremembered (and narrated) by a character, when they'vethreatened the guy, and eventually when they hung him inoutdoor, somewhere in a bank of a river. The language is simple,easy to understand, educated and formal. It is narrated by thefirst person point of view, therefore it is limited, but duringthe story, the behavior of the narrator (who is merely anobserver) shows its reliability. There are ten charactersmentioned in this story; Howard, Hugh, Magnus, Tomas, Victor,Harry, Paul, Hank, Elgar and Colby himself, but the onlynarrator is first person point of view; I. Colby is protagonistand his friends who decided to hang him are antagonists. Thetheme is about cruelty of a mafia, and their killing in order toobserving the rules. There is also a second theme available,which comes from the last sentence, and that is thepracticability of capital punishment.At the very beginning of the story we face to a grotesquesituation - where there is an odd situation that arouses horrorand disgust, with the sense of humor and far to believe ideas.From the beginning -and also in the title of the story- thereare words like “some of US” and “OUR friend” which bring thesense of familiarization, as we are a part of the story, althoughlater we see it is like a confession, and we are just addressees.In first six lines there is a connotation of a gang of childrenwho play games and exaggerate a lot. There is no specialimagery except a grotesque atmosphere, and heavy words thatare most likely words on a gang of boys. There are guys talking
and discussing about their friend, Colby, to hang him becausehe has passed the bounds and gone too far.The story goes on when the writer narrates this strangeevent in a cold blood manner which is a feature of grotesquetoo, and we -as readers- have no way to deny the event. Thereis also paradoxes, while they are hanging a man, they ask him to“be reasonable, and just select a simple music to play”, and theguy accepts and helps his friends, and also where they know itis “illegal” but they are convinced of their “moral right” to hanghim, and inviting people to come and see. Inviting people andhaving a ceremony includes drinking and the orchestra to playthe music, bring to the mind the idea of a party, as if thesepeople are a kind of god-fathers and have decided to warnother people by sacrificing their prey during a ceremony, i.e.hanging their friend in public.In the second page it becomes clear that there is nogame, and they are not children. This grotesque atmospherebrings a gothic -horror- one when we realize these men areadults; one is in a car-rental business and the other is anarchitect, and the like. So we get that they are serious in theirwords. Despite the tone, there is not a dark imagery in thestory; it is June and outdoor is all green.Then they talk of the kind of the wood for gibbet, and atlast they decide to use an oak tree instead. This imagery ofnature can have a connotation of a power which is in a wronghand. The nature that is free of vices is going to be used as amean of hanging. We have also imagery of the rain. Rain canwash the guilt, it purifies and they wish the weather to berainy, although at the end we are informed of no rainy weather,which makes this killing unforgettable and unforgivable.

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