Yasmin Bahat, 3.

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The Arena

We all go through different stages in life, and as we grow we move from one arena to the other. This is the natural way of life. Change is inevitable. Martin Golan’s short story “The Arena” written in 2008 deals with the different stages in life and the tragedy of losing a loved one. The theme of the story is the struggle between the past and the present, the darkness and the light, and the impossibility of moving versus the importance of doing just that. The short story portrays a father stuck between his past life and his present life. We follow the father’s fierce fight fo r letting go of his tragic past and moving on so he can live life to the fullest. His struggle is reflected in the two dimensional element of the story demonstrated with constant use of contrasts throughout the story. Throughout the story Golan uses every tiny contrast as a metaphor for the father’s internal battle, the fact that he is caught between two lives and is hindering his own possibilities in the future. The story takes place in the suburbs of New Jersey as we follow the father and his teenage son driving around town. The plot lasts approximately one hour and takes place in our modern society. The setting in the car is described positively. It is a beautiful, fresh and promising day. But this idyllic scenario slowly starts to crack as the father remembers his dead son Willie. No matter how nice the setting is the father feels very uncomfortable. His feelings are described this way in the text: “My life is burdened by the weight of this “dream”. It has always been like this, at least for some time, a beautiful morning with a happy, healthy child, and fear gnawing at my stomach.” (p. 1, ll. 31-33). This quotation illustrates the great contrast there is in the setting; a beautiful day ruined by the father’s feelings. The contrast shows the father’s struggle with his life. A struggle where he is always stuck in retrospect, never quite giving himself fully to the present. This aspect of his life is likewise portrayed here: “I sense that I am seeing not only ahead but also behind, that I’m glimpsing my future as well as my past.” (p. 1, ll. 18-19). He is aware that he is stuck in the past and unable to separate one life from the other. This way of living, in the present as well as in the past, is strengthened by the structure of the story. The story is chronological with numerous flashbacks of the father’s old life. Little things


a 28 Engelsk 07. ll. I enter a personal arena. 63-64). He seems to be living two different lives at once. a battle from the past. ll. 158). and every time he becomes so lost in his bittersweet memories that his son must force him back to reality: “”What in the world’s going on?” My son breaks in. 3. ll. It was a good life. This is exemplified with this quote: “As I wrench myself out of a dream it takes a moment to remember which life I’m in. The structure is in its own way a great contrast where Golan manages to illustrate the father’s struggle with moving on. the constant flashbacks show how deeply involved the father still is with his past life.03. Early are na leave their mark.” (p. In this excerpt from the text the importance of arenas to the story is exemplified: “Every time I’ve gone to the arena. because throughout the short story he alternates between being in the present and the past: “My mind skids back. There is a contrast in the way the father sees his son. They crop up in dreams that plague our nights and leave us uneasy on rainy 2 . l. In the end the father chooses a life with what he himself describes his “real son” (p. 4. but mentally he lives in the past with his dead son Willie. Physically he lives in the present. l. (p. 3. The structure is not the only use of contrast in the story. and we also had a child. Moreover. l. The most essential contrast is the one between the past and the present. because he is constantly looking back. It is hard for him distinguish one life from the other. 3.” (p. their trust”. a boy named Willie. with a different woman. In order to make the distinction stronger the story is filled with small contrasts.Yasmin Bahat. The contrast between the arena the father had with Willie and the arena he now lives in is likewise important. in the car with his son. 2. and it demonstrates how he quite easily forgets to enjoy the company of his second son sitting beside him in the car. An example is how the father defines his son’s fingers as “man-sized”. 4.” (p. this one or the last. The structure makes it easier to understand the father’s struggle. 141-142). This decision is illustrated by this quotation from the ending: “It’s time to go home” (p.” (p. Furthermore. 86). He is aware of continually looking back. because the structure and the flashbacks give the reader a greater understanding of the father’s victory. 94). their nativity. Additionally. Golan creates contrasts by using the term arenas. I can’t help it. it shows the change the father undergoes.2013 constantly make him think about the past and he is sucked back into another life and another time: “Before the life I have now I had another life. The arenas are symbols of different stages in life. 37 -38). 2. but he also describes his demeanour like this: “… staring with the eagerness of a child. 1. 50-51).it makes it more powerful when he finally lets go of the past. ll. His decision is strengthened by the story’s structure .

153-154). This situation in the Arena is crucial for the father’s progress: “They run with the timeless grace of boys chasing balls. The darkness symbolises the demons that haunt his past and in the end he learns how to move on. He manages to unite his past with his present. 14-17). instead of constantly looking back. but in the end it is the Arena that helps him let go. 2. 4. gestures that will continue no matter what happens to any of them ” (p. that I am. 4. Living in this particular arena of his life is the best way of living. because he gets to spend every moment with his loving family. He has yet to enjoy the life he actually has. it is okay that he will always worry and care for his son. He will always worry about his son because of what happened to Will. Or a dream. because he understands that he must stand aside as his son enters his own arenas. He has become a prisoner of his painful past and he is the only one capable of freeing himself from the clouded state he has been living in for so long. He finally understands that nothing can ever compare to living in the present. 65-68). at long last. In the beginning of the story Golan indicates that something will change in the father’s life: “We glide through the darkness that is not real darkness but the early morning kind. ll. In the end the light shines too bright to be subdued by the darkness. He describes the Arena as being a source for all the demons of his past. As the father thinks to himself in the end: “Previous arenas are nothing compared to this one. The way it dissolves in my headlights feels as if I am breaking through. seeing. When the darkness lifts he will be able to see. but as long as he lets go of the guilt and the sorrow of his past. The memories of the arenas of his past are a huge burden for him. 1. ll.a 28 Engelsk 07. 3.03.2013 winter afternoons.Yasmin Bahat. 150-151) He realises that some things are inevitable and he cannot protect his son form everything. 3 . ll.” (p. They’re visits back to arenas we were in. ll. they sneak up like the scream of and ambulance. which means that he now lives in the present with valuable lessons learned and the lovely memory of his deceased son. darkness about to lift.” (p. it is the only way of living.” (p.

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