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Bluffing – Gail Helgason

Genre: Contemporary realistic fiction

‘Bluffing’ deals with the relationship of two twenty – something people and an encounter they have with a
grizzly bear in Canada’s Jasper National Park. The story provides excellent examples of the use of
flashback and foreshadowing.

Technique: Flashback & Foreshadowing

1. A device that shifts the narrative from the present to the past, usually to reveal a change in
character or illustrate an important point.
2. A device that allows the writer to present events that happened before the time of the current
narration or the current events in the fiction. Flashback techniques include memories, dreams,
stories of the past told by characters, or even authorial sovereignty. (That is, the author might
simply say, "But back in Tom's youth. . . .") Flashback is useful for exposition, to fill in the reader
about a character or place, or about the background to a conflict.

 Shows a change in character or situation
 Builds suspense
 Exemplifies an important point
 Makes the story interesting
 Makes the scenes in the story unclear
 Creates confusion in the minds of the readers. The readers may lose track.

It refers to plot technique in which a writer plans clues that hints at what is going to happen later in the
plot. Foreshadowing is used to arouse reader’s curiosity, build suspense, and help prepare the reader to
accept events that occur later in the story.

 Arouses curiosity and builds suspense
 Prepares the readers to accept events that occur later in the story.
 Spoils the order of the story.
 Confuses the reader.
 Most often the clues of foreshadowing are not clear.

The story consists of five scenes, which alternate from the present, where Gabriella is waiting to see Liam
in the hospital, to the past scenes set three weeks earlier at a remote lake in Canada’s Jasper National
Park. Much of what happens at the lake is foreshadowed in earlier scenes.

The theme of the story is commitment. The language is modern, the characters realistic, and the style
is contemporary.

Conflict: Gabriella versus Liam - Man versus Man

Gabriella versus Gabriella - Man versus Man [Self]
Liam and Gabriella versus the Grizzly - Man versus Nature

Point of view: Third person limited. It is limited to Gabriella and anything known about Liam is filtered
through Gabriella’s perceptions.

Third Person Limited: Advantages

Third person limited is a much more familiar point of view to the modern reader. A single character's
viewpoint can carry the whole story, or viewpoint can switch carefully from one character to another. In

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third person limited, the narrative doesn't stray from the details of what the central character knows, feels
and experiences.
This is the most popular technique currently in use, and there are reasons for that: it's versatile and
doesn't distract from the story.
One thing to keep in mind when writing third person limited point of view is to keep a separation between
characters' narratives. It is usually best, when doing this, not to switch between characters who are both in
the same room, and to limit the total number of perspectives in the story.

Disadvantages of Third Person Point of View

Disadvantages to third person writing are few, but they do exist: first and most noticeably, if two
characters of the same gender are fighting or romancing each other, every sentence gets crowded fast.
"She grabbed her boots" – is our heroine grabbing her own boots, or trying to trip the villain? "He stroked
his hair" – is this nice young man putting the moves on his boyfriend, or grooming his own coiffure?

And these confusions lead to the clunky sentence constructions that often get red-lined in a writer's
workshop, because the author is tempted to put in an identifier on each sentence, so as not to use the
characters' names too often: the raven-haired chef, the bulky brawler. Avoid the temptation, if caught in a
similar quandary. There are other less distracting ways to show the difference between two characters:
"the other man" (taller man, slimmer man, or, if you're writing SF, go by species) or an elaboration of the
action: "She reached out and grabbed at the quickly moving boots."

Another difficulty of third person is that it does poorly at telling the stories of characters who are neither
male nor female. There are a few people like that in the real world, and more still on imaginary worlds. If
the main character in a story is one of them, consider telling the story from first person.

Setting: Jasper National hospital/park Canada.

Irony. A mode of expression, through words (verbal irony) or events (irony of situation), conveying a
reality different from and usually opposite to appearance or expectation. A writer may say the opposite of
what he means, create a reversal between expectation and its fulfillment, or give the audience knowledge
that a character lacks, making the character's words have meaning to the audience not perceived by the
character. In verbal irony, the writer's meaning or even his attitude may be different from what he says:
"Why, no one would dare argue that there could be anything more important in choosing a college than its
proximity to the beach." An example of situational irony would occur if a professional pickpocket had his
own pocket picked just as he was in the act of picking someone else's pocket. The irony is generated by
the surprise recognition by the audience of a reality in contrast with expectation or appearance, while
another audience, victim, or character puts confidence in the appearance as reality (in this case, the
pickpocket doesn't expect his own pocket to be picked). The surprise recognition by the audience often
produces a comic effect, making irony often funny.

Irony is the most common and most efficient technique of the satirist, because it is an instrument of truth,
provides wit and humor, and is usually at least obliquely critical, in that it deflates, scorns, or attacks.

The ability to detect irony is sometimes heralded as a test of intelligence and sophistication. When a text
intended to be ironic is not seen as such, the effect can be disastrous. Some students have taken Swift's
"Modest Proposal" literally. And Defoe's contemporaries took his "Shortest Way with the Dissenters"
literally and jailed him for it. To be an effective piece of sustained irony, there must be some sort of
audience tip-off, through style, tone, use of clear exaggeration, or other device.
Plot summary

Gabriella and Liam are living together in the same rented house, though not married. Gabriella is a teacher
who can’t afford to rent the house all by herself. The rent is high and for time being, she can make both
ends meet as, Liam is sharing the rent with her. However, Liam’s stay with her is uncertain as most of the
time he is away on hiking expeditions. Moreover, the time has come for Gabriella to sign a lease as a
tenant for one more year. The land owner holds her responsible for signing the lease. She needs
commitment from Liam to stay with her and share the rent for another one year at least. She is hesitant to
ask him directly in the crowded place where they are staying. Gabriella wants some privacy where she can
freely talk to Liam and know his further plan. So she arranges a hike with Liam to Jasper Lake.

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Liam is unpredictable and a difficult person to understand. Gabriella on the other hand is committed in the
beginning and wants to continue her living with Liam. But it is one sided. Their relationship can’t be strong
unless there is commitment from both the sides. At time Gabriella feels Liam is coming closer to her
through his activities such as giving astonishing surprises for her. She is encouraged further when Liam
consents to go for the hike along with her for the day.

The day they start hiking towards the lake, everything seems to be conducive. As they mount upward
towards the lake they are thrilled by the sight of the valley down below. Gabriella teaches Liam about wild
life, they see on the way. Liam, though an egoist starts learning a great deal about wild life, the day he
associated himself with Gabriella. The duo have few amazing experiences as they ascend: Liam bluffs and
discourages tourists the young tourists form going to the lake. The youngsters are frightened when they
are informed that the lake is infested with Grizzly bears. This was the false alarm given by Liam as he
didn’t want to be disturbed by anyone, once they reach the lake.
Both reach the lake by noon and settle down for lunch. Liam gives a pleasant surprise to Gabriella by
taking out some scrumptious food items from his lunch pack. Gabriella to intends to surprise him with egg-
sandwiches, she has brought. Gabriella is encouraged by all the favorable things she experiences at this
juncture. Just the, Liam discloses his plan to go to South Mexico along with Clive fro three months during
winter. This news shattered her dreams of signing the lease accord. Gabriella starts feeling helpless and is
angry. Annoyed, she simply walks away without uttering a word to Liam. At one instance she turns back
and spots Liam pursuing her. Gabriella doesn’t pay any heed to him and keeps on walking until she comes
face to face with a Grizzly bear standing just twenty paces away. Meanwhile Liam unaware of the situation
approaches from behind and calls her.

Gabriella cautions him not to come forward but to go back as slowly as possible. She freezes in the same
spot. The Grizzly watches her movements. Gabriella knows that if she runs, the Grizzly will come and
pounce upon her. At no cost she could afford to do this. Liam on the other hand, didn’t listen to her and
starts retreating. The bear instead of pouncing on Gabriella started pursuing Liam. She on the other hand
thought the bear was coming straight for her. Gabriella fell on the ground and bundled herself in order to
protect her vital organs, where upon she only felt the bear hurtling past her. The rest of the story remained
unknown to her until she met Liam.

Later she came to know that Liam had been attacked by the bear. He had been airlifted and hospitalized.
No major damage had been done to his vital organs. However his face was badly bruised with plenty of
cuts all over his face and body. Liam was under medication for three weeks. After three weeks when
Gabriella when to the hospital to meet Liam, his bandage was to be removed. Finally, when Gabriella sees
Liam’s face she was horrified by the sight and was unable to look straight into his face. Liam puts a false
smile on his face and says that had sacrificed himself for her. Gabriella on the other hand feels he is
bluffing. She too keeps smiling at him as long as she was present there. This she does in order to make
him believe that inwardly she is hurt and ha no faith in him. Gabriella pays backs Liam’s insincerity by
simply smiling as a mere formality.

The whole story boils down to the commitment, sincerity, and attitude of young couple before marriage.
Commitment plays an important role in the life of young couples. In this story we don’t see any
commitment either on the part of Liam or Gabriella. Such couples can never make their conjugal life

Study questions:

 Who is telling the story?

 Where does it take place?
 Who are the characters?
 How are they related?

 Is Gabriella to be trusted? What can we infer from her reports of Liam about her attitude to him?
 Discuss the meaning of the word ‘Bluffing’. What are some of the connotations of the word?
 What is the role of commitment in a relationship? How do people show commitment before
marriage? Is there commitment before marriage? Is there commitment without marriage?
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 What are some challenges that young couples face? How might they resolve these challenges?
 List and explain any examples of foreshadowing you can find in the story.
 How would you categorize Gabriela and Liam (flat, round, or stock, and static or dynamic) and why?

 Do the characters seem plausible? Why or why not?

 Find an example of “bluffing” in the story. What motivates the character to bluff?
 Do you think Liam tells the truth about his reasons for running from the grizzly? Why or why not?
 From what point of view is the story told?
 Consider how this perspective affects the story. Can you detect any bias? Explain.
 What are some things that would change if the story were told from Liam’s perspective?
 Compare and contrast the character of Liam and Gabriella.
 Discuss the technique employed by the author.
 Give your personal response to the story. You may want to consider some of these questions in
your response:
• Were you able to relate to characters or situations in the story?
• What did you like/dislike about it?
• What else do you know about Grizzly attacks, or other Grizzly stories (true or fictional)?
• What do you think might happen next if the story were to go on?

For Critical reading:

Elements Questions
• What is the climax of this story?
• List the ideas and situations that support the
Plot and conflict in the story?
conflict • Predict what will happen in the future to
Gabriella and Liam. Explain your prediction.

• In the first three paragraphs, what concrete

information do you learn about Gabriella?
Character • Sketch the character of Liam?
• What can you infer from the story about their
Point of view • What is the literary term for this point of view?
• Describe the setting of the story?
• How does the setting influence the story?
• Explain how the title is important to
Symbols understanding the future of Gabriella and
• Explain the theme of the story?
• What is the role of commitment in family
Theme relationship in the modern world?
• What is the nature of commitment in modern
• What is ironic about meeting of the two

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