“THINGS THAT FLY”, DOUGLAS COUPLAND 1 Re-read the story looking for specific clues as to what may have
happened in the narrator’s past to make him so upset. Describe your feelings. Though the writer hasn‟t directly stated, it is very obvious that the narrator is emotionally destroyed and has probably been through a rough divorce. The narrator is upset with the norms of the human life and wants to escape. His thoughts and actions represent the state of an escapist who find facing the reality difficult and thus tries to hide away into the subconscious or by embracing solitude. Both these aspects of escapism are evident in the narrator‟s life, who is fond of the flying objects and has a desire to fly away himself so as to be free. The narrator specifically sought this freedom because he seemed to have undergone something that had seriously affected his psyche: ―My brains felt overheated. So much has happened in my life recently‖ Though there could be several reasons behind this state of the narrator however a rough divorce seems the ultimate reason behind this disturbed state of mind and heart of the narrator. In the story it is very obvious that the narrator is struggling with a bad break-up with a profound sense of loneliness and that too while reflecting upon Superman‟s death. ―And then I got just plain lonely and just so fed up the badness in my life and in the world and I said to myself "Please, God, just make me a bird -- that's all I ever really wanted -- a white graceful bird free of shame and taint and fear and loneliness, and give me other white birds among which to fly and give me a sky so big that if I never wanted to land I would never have to." The narrator here might be implying the theory that the animals, especially birds are better than humans as they observe mutual harmony and understanding more than us, the humans. Whereas that is not the case, the humans have the capability to achieve much more than birds. Man has the power, ability and sense to do as he wills, whereas all animals lack this sense. If at any postion in life a grave accident or incident occurs it does not mean that one starts finding refuge in
impractical or impossible outlets rather one should have the courage to face the reality and get past it by looking at the brighter side of life, for there always is one. 2 How do birds and Superman function as symbols in the story? What meanings do they have for the narrator? “Things that fly”, is a combination of depressed imaginations of an escapist. The narrator has mixed some melancholic interpretations of his broken down world with the badness around him or the sins committed by man. Throughout the short story, “Things That Fly” Douglas Coupland refers to birds and Superman; or in other words there is a recurrent theme of “things that fly” in the story. Upon analysis, these references to birds and flying objects symbolise the desires of n escapist. For instance in the story when the narrator asks God to ―just make me a bird – that’s all I ever wanted – a white graceful bird free of shame and taint and fear of loneliness‖ he is demonstrating that birds, or anything else for that atter with the privilege to fly, are truly free; they ―are a miracle because they prove to us there is a finer, simpler state of being which we may strive to attain‖ The symbolism goes so far as to imply that perhaps humans have devolved, as opposed to evolved, from animals. That humans have become creatures that are inferior to those of the skies. Perhaps when we look to heaven, to God, we are really looking to the birds, and “things that fly,” and that is what we strive to become. That is why humans have ―I have always liked the idea of Superman, because I have always liked the idea that there is one person in the world who doesn’t do bad things. And that there is one person in the world who is able to fly‖ The reason why Superman is idolized is because he has achieved this state that is devoid of humanly worries and arbitrary possessions, in other words Superman is free.
―people are interested in birds only in as much as they exhibit human behaviour- greed and stupidity and anger- and by doing so they free us from the unique sorrow of being human.. Humans are tired of having to take the blame for the badness in the world‖ 3 The story begins and ends at nearly the same point in time. Has the narrator learned anything through the process of his story? Are there any clues that indicate he has found a possible solution to his despair? The story‟s multiple references to “things that fly” create a philosophical discussion based on the symbolism of flight and escapism. The narrator has recently experienced an emotional shock in his life and thus want to find solace in something, “things that fly”. He is so sick of the life he is leading and the world around him that he wants to escape into someplace where even the shade of humankind is unreachable and he idolises birds and other things that can fly for this reason: Birds are a miracle because they prove to us there is a finer, simpler state of being which we may strive to attain The narrator is so mesmerised by the act of flying that he takes up looking at birds as a pass-time activity and whenever he sees a bird or anything that can fly he starts longing for a life like that object / bird. This desire to be able to fly is basically to escape the miseries and drawbacks of human life. He is guilty of whatever wrong he has done and is also sick of all the wrongdoings that occur around him and just wishes to escape into an unreachable world: If only I could be a whooping crane and was able to float and fly like them, then it would be like always being in love No matter who or what he sees flying, he is more than willing to take up their life, to become like them and forget the sorrows and miseries of his human life because he now acknowledges that man is a statue of sins. Likewise when the thought of Superman came to his mind, he again entered the escapist mode and started desiring a similar privilege to be able to fly because according to him when a person will be able to fly, he would realise that this life and its materialism is all temporary and there are more important things to contemplate over in the world:
There is one person in the world who doesn’t do bad things He wants to escape subconsciously as well: I myself often have dreams in which I am flying… Needless to say it is my favourite dream Though the most favourite escape of the narrator is flight, he nonetheless is awe-struck by all sorts of states of being that enable him to be anything but human. This indicates how fed up the narrator is of his life. And I was glad for this activity because there is something about the animals that takes us out of ourselves and takes us out of time and allows us to forget our own loves. Till the end the narrator remained entangled in his desires to escape, to develop wings or gain the power to be able to fly in just anyway as long as it promises to make him go away from his current human life, another moment of which is hard for him to bear: And then I just got plain lonely and fed up of the badness in my life and in the world and I said to myself ―please God just make me a bird– that’s all I ever wanted – a white graceful bird free of shame and taint and fear of loneliness
Consider the narrator’s voice and level of language; consider the line-drawings that accompany the story. What do these stylistic elements convey about his character or attitude?
Postmodernism has been the central tool of Douglas Coupland for the creation of a story that is insightful as well as engaging. By using structure, symbolism, tone, diction, and numerous other tools, Coupland has acquired a postmodern opus. Postmodernism can be defined as something untraditional, or even revolutionary or rebellious. Postmodernism comes at the spot where modernism has departed, and the author uses anarchic construction and casual tone while conveying a message or story. One of the most common feature of postmodernism is the
combination of cartoons and philosophy, because this means the author is ignoring the classbarriers of rich and poor and writing in a completely new dimension. In this story, Coupland wrote in an informal tone while still representing exceptionally complex matters. The casual diction and line drawings both represent a conversational tone in addition to a contribution to the postmodern school. The diction of Coupland is displayed in the first paragraph of the story where he notes: ―having just woken up from a deep deep sleep on a couch shared with pizza boxes and crushed plastic cherry yogurt containers‖ This informal diction represents the mind-set of the author, who instead of using academic slangs or structured formality preferred a children story type narration. Coupland uses a writing style for his stories which is far from the modern planned and orderly writing methods. Instead the author follows a disordered structure with no coherence between the paragraphs and parts. Rather than confusing the readers, this method engages them more. This is because the conventional writing style is followed by most writers and is often boring for the readers. The unconventional method of writing followed by Coupland makes reading it interesting. . For example, the flow of the first and second paragraph is like a boat floating through ice: ―let me describe what happened today‖ This dialogue ends the first paragraph, and is immediately followed by ―today went like this: I was up at noon; instant coffee‖ In the above dialogues, there is a slight connection but even if one of them would have been omitted, the meaning would not have changed the readers since the relationship between the two paragraphs was almost inexistent. Conversely using such a writing style using mayhem makes the story readable and provides room for imagination and questions for the readers. In the end of story, use of “Things That Fly” embodies in an untraditional way the principles of postmodernism and conveys a meaning. The tone, use of symbols, casual articulation, following no structure all makes children‟s‟ story, a piece of well written art.
HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS – ERNEST HEMINGWAY 1- Re-read the story carefully looking for clues about what “operation” the couple might be discussing. What evidence can you find to support your answer? In the story Things That Fly, the two characters, the American and Jig are talking about abortion. The man (the American) is trying to convince the woman (Jig) to undergo an abortive operation, for he thinks that the reason behind the prevalent discontentment between them is due to the prospect of a baby. He believes that an abortion will free them of all and any type of responsibility and will help them return to their previous lives. The male character seems possessive about his lady and does not want to share her with anyone, including the baby. He believes that having a baby might lead them to fall apart and is therefore trying to convince Jig to drop the baby. He tries to convince her that the abortion is a highly insignificant and minor operation and that it will be over in no time. When Jig protests against it and considers having the baby, the American says: "That's the only thing that bothers us. It's the only thing that's made us unhappy." Whereas Jig was bored of the monotony in their lives and wanted to embrace the new change that was coming towards them in the form of a baby. According to Jig, all they had done in their lives was see things and have drinks: ―That's all we do, isn't it—look at things and try new drinks?" Jig is guilty and unconvinced that what if the abortion was a mistake and they would never be happy afterwards however on the persistence of the man, Jig finally gives in. She asks him if he guarantees that their relationship or lives will not be affected: ―If I do it you'll be happy and things will be like they were and you'll love me?... if I do it, then it will be nice again?.. I f I do it you won't ever worry?" On constant reassurance, Jig has somewhat started reconsidering her option of abortion. Though the male protagonist believes that this operation will solve all their problems, it is evident that they have deeper issues than the prospect of a child.
How does the symbolism in the description of setting relates to the major dilemmas
in the story? There are numerous symbols employed by the author, eminent amongst them are the following: Hills like elephants: The reference of Jig to white elephants could symbolise the baby. The American was rejecting the idea of white elephants because he did want to raise the baby while the girl saw an extraordinary addition to her mundane and predictive life in the form of a baby. The view was similar to the choice that the girl faced; abortion or to have the baby. The disparity between barren valley and the white hills in her view were same as the difference between sterility and fertility. The girl was at a crossroads, on one side was green beautiful hill while on the other was emptiness and a brown dessert. The girl then started walking towards the end of the station moving towards the greener view, trees and fields along Ebro. Beyond Ebro, were the hills and when she saw the river, she said to herself ―And we could have all this...And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.‖ This dialogue of Jig indicates her desire to have a baby. Barren surrounding: Aside the hills, the rest of the setting provide symbolism that expresses conflicts and tension in the relationship of the couple. The description of the surrounding is depressing and barren which can be related to the state of the relationship of the American and Jig. The landscape includes a railway station in the barrens of a desert with no greenery or shade. This scenery indicates the infertility, barrenness and desolation of the couple's life. The relationship of the two is as sterile as the landscape surrounding them. Railway Lines
The view on either side of the train track represented the choice faced by the two main characters in the story. It was a line on one side of which was a vast barren land while on the other was green beautiful trees and fields. The dilemma of pregnancy was being compared with the two views differently by the two characters. The girl and the American like the lines of the train track were parallel yet did not meet at a point. They did not know if they would stay together for long or will move away with time. However at the moment, they were together and thus it is in a way similar to the relationship between the American and Jig. Railway Station The greener view on one side of the station represented life, a beginning, a life, the baby while the other arid side represented death and debauchery. The author, Hemingway uses the setting of the story to represent the crossroads in a relationship. The railways station was just a stopping point for the two characters the girl and the American man and not the final destination. They were at a point where they had two opposite and very different choices and had to choose one. They also had to decide if they should go together continuing their relationship or go alone on different paths. 3 Hemingway is famous for his “iceberg” style of writing in which nine tenths of the story occurs beneath the surface of the words and only one tenth is directly explained. In this story he gives no names, descriptions of character, nor any explicit indications of what the characters are talking about. Explain how this style of writing might be a fitting way to deal with a story like this, and more effectively convey the feelings of the characters by not directly stating them. Hemingway‟s story “Hills Like White Elephants" depicts his use of omission or theory of ice berg in which the story is presented by its subtext. For example, the author has not used abortion word in the story even when one character is convincing the other for it. This style of writing lets the reader interpret the story differently according to his or her thinking. Some readers especially those reading it for the first time might not find it anything more important than a conversation between two characters that were waiting for train on a station. Every reader will not interpret is as two people deciding to go different ways and talking about a decision of baby or abortion.
Hemingway though his style gives only the important details and leaves rest to the imagination and interpretation of the readers. This style is said to be similar to an ice berg. The ice berg covers a large ice mass in an ocean similar in his style; Hemingway does not use dialogues and words to convey the unstated tension in the moment. Hemingway like other journalists avoids the irrelevant and surplus details but only focuses on the main event. He mostly writes short stories pointing or hinting at the main point only and more of a surface story. This way the real meaning and lesson is not obvious but depends on the interpretation of the readers. The core of the story for Hemingway lies under the surface. He provides several hints as he did in “Hills Like White Elephants” and does not give the main details. He does not write about the occupation, names or appearance of the characters but just the important details related to them such as their disjointed conversation, different thinking and them being in a relationship. He does provide enough information to explain the situation e.g. the girl Jig refusing to accept American‟s suggestion of abortion. Through the dialogues of the characters he explains their different visions and different ways to look at life and their relationship. The conclusion of the story is not at all clear and is criticised by several literary critics. The outcomes can be several with some being more likely such as Jig taking the train for Madrid and going for abortion and others like giving birth to the child. The author started the story by describing the landscape and view of the Ebro view and then Jig‟s poetic smile. The author uses several symbolic expressions rather than being direct and detailed. Here indirectly what Jig implies is that the American lacked the insight required to see what the baby would behold if allowed to become part of their lives. The author uses the smile of Jig several times that represents the conceit at the core of the argument. For fertility the author has used the symbols like green fields, trees and hills, the baby as white elephant etc. Later when she stops smiling, it implies that she might just go for abortion and would avoid the green hills and life.
DRESSING UP FOR THE CARNIVAL- CAROL SHIELDS
Each character sub-story in Carol Shields’ story is a variation on the same thematic
ideas. Making reference to three of the characters in the story, explain the connections you see from character to character that point towards the overall theme of the story. Carol Shield‟s story has some twelve sub-story characters, who are comical in nature but mainly because of Carol Shield‟s masterly ironical style of writing, they look serious and engrossed people. These characters are utterly obsessed with their own being and often do things that are otherwise foolishly hilarious. The most common feature of all these characters is their powerful imaginative flight. They keep dreaming and indulging in illusions while doing things. As they think, they become oblivious of the world outside and care too less for what others would think about them. With some under-confidence in their sub-conscious, they try to attach extraordinary importance to themselves and to what they do. In the first sub-story, the character of Tamara behaves strangely. She is not bothered about the weather outside; she would wear dresses that she opts to wear of her own free will. Shields puts it likes this: ―She never checks the weather before she dresses; her clothes are the weather, as
powerful in their sunniness as the strong, muzzy early morning light pouring into the narrow street by the bus stop, warming the combed crown of her hair and fueling her with imagination‖. The Borden sisters, another duo of characters, also remain unmindful of the changing season. They keep wearing on their chest the plastic cards that reflected their participation in a winter sport – the Ski in the Happy Valley. Shields observes: ―The Bordens wear them all over town, at the shopping centre, in the parking lot. It's spring, the leaves are unfolding on the hedges in front of the post office, but the
Borden girls, Karen and Sue, still carry on their bodies, and in their faces too, the fresh wintry cold of the slopes, the thrill of powder snow and stinging sky‖.
Yet another character is Mr Gilmann. His daughter-in-law poses him a lot of indignity by inviting him every month to dinner of „leftover‟; still he buys her three or four bunches of yellow daffodils and then very strangely carries them all day along: “He takes them along to the bank, the drugstore, to his appointment with the foot
specialist, his afternoon card club at the Sunset Lodge‖. These characters have so many commonalities: they are self-centred, egotistical and doggedly in demeanour. They pursue what pleases them most. They do not care too seriously about the onlookers or the social propriety of their acts. They are individualistic and hilariously awkward people. They indulge in loud thinking and self-talking, lost in their illusions as if they were all going to attend a freak show or a circus – indeed, a carnival. A wide range items that these characters carry along relate them to
a carnival. The list includes a bouquet of daffodils, a mango, an English pram, a violin case, a football etc. These are not merely testamentary pieces. These are deliberate expressions, pointing at carnival preparations.
Take one character’s story and write a paragraph in which you conduct a close-
reading. This means focusing on the author’s use of specific words, images symbols, literary devices (like metaphor, simile, hyperbole, etc.) or other elements to convey an idea / theme. Carol Shield‟s character, Tamara, is a powerful, imaginative and an overly passionate person. Her ability to describe is exceedingly rich and covers even some of the minutest details. Describing her own skirt, she recounts:
―The yellow cotton skirt with the big patch pockets and the hand detail around the
hem. How fortunate to own such a skirt. And the white blouse. What a blouse! Those sleeves, that neckline with its buttoned flap, the fullness in the yoke that reminds her of the Morris dancers…‖. The writer makes, through her character, a beautiful wordy picture, making excellent use of visual and tactual senses. She lays special emphasis on yellow colour that
symbolizes joy, happiness, idealism, and imagination. She uses the jargon of a typical fashion designer while describing her dress. The expressions, „big patch pockets’, ‘the hand detail
around the hem’, ‘neckline with its buttoned flap‟, „fullness in the yoke‟, „string of yellow beads, etc speak of the author‟s insight into apparel designing. Carol Shield includes some beautiful adjectives to embellish her thoughts. Tumbled sleep, muzzy early morning light, narrow street, combed crown, sandaled foot, passionate woman, vibrant woman, etc. all depict her rich flair for fanciful words. She also makes good use of interjections. “Yes! The cotton skirt”, “What a blouse!”, etc. reveal the intensity of her emphatic expressions. All these adorning words and phrases provide a lead-in for a festive mood that is associated with a carnival.
What is the “Carnival” of the title? What aspects of a carnival could be used to
describe this story? The carnival, as used in the tile, is a metaphor for life. The dressing up by different characters is symbolic of a carnival. The celebration of life and the oozing force of life prevail all along the stories. A number of surprises and contrasts, with utmost refusal to shame tell Carol Shield‟s dexterity in putting things in juxtaposition to each other. Shields's writing, suggests a paradigm modernism characteristic which indicates a supra-reality beyond the common senses of the characters. This supra-reality is deeply concerned with
representation and figuration or the order of the world. This mode however is enmeshed with a characteristic of postmodernism: it does not concern with re/presentation, rather it presents a world through parallel fiction realities. Defying the conventional short story plot and structure, the story “Dressing Up For The Carnival” is constructed upon two rhetorical devices, hypotyposis and seriation. The narrator chooses a spring day in a North American city and put side by side a dozen scenes made even more dynamic and vivid by using the present tense, grounded in the here and now, focussing in turn on characters from different backgrounds, ages, and genders, having different characteristics without any interconnection. The only linking thread is the proclamation made in the opening sentence: "All over town people are putting on their costumes" As the indicated by the selection of the theatrical term, the bits and pieces that the characters take up are more than accessories. These include a mango, a football, a bouquet of daffodils, an English pram and a violin case. The tone is set by the opening sequence where a young woman, Tamara, is dressing up for work in an highly non-functional way. Without bothering about the weather, she chooses a yellow skirt and white blouse, along with yellow beads, a straw belt, bone sandals, earrings, and bare legs. The outfit can be regarded as a carnival-esque concealment or disguise, or a form of transgression of conventions and social codes, yet by setting it within the multiple segmented framework, Shields pushes it to an ontological statement. The pieces that follow vary the protagonists as well as the accessories in a metonymic fashion. Roger, an average man, has bought a mango out of impulse for the first time ever in his life, and is carrying the exotic fruit in his hand, all the while that the chant "Mango, mango" of the free indirect discourse becomes a mantra. The everyday prosaic scene of a man on the street rushing back to office after the coffee break is ordinary till the character gives his actions celebratory touch, which invites laughter: ―he freezes and sees himself freshly; a man carrying a mango in his left hand. Already he's accustomed to it; in fact, it's starting to feel lighter and drier, like a set of castanets which has
somehow attached itself to his left arm. Any minute now he'll break out into a cha-cha-cha right here in front of the Gas Board. The shrivelled fate he sometimes sees for himself can be postponed if only he puts his mind to it. Who would have thought it of him? Not his ex-wife Lucile, not his co-workers, not his boss, not even himself‖ The amalgam of words such as Gas Board and cha-cha-cha, suggests that the character sees himself in a performance, that being is a representation. From Roger doing cha-cha-cha, to Wanda walking an empty pram to the home of her employer while soothing the imaginary baby in a gesture she has been practicing in her dreams, or Mandy striking a pose at the traffic signal as she rushes to the field with the football helmet of her adulated older brother, star halfback, all these characters imagine life as a show, and represent themselves to themselves and others on the stage of the world. 4 Describe the style of the language used in the story: focus on specific techniques the author uses: vocabulary, tone, voice, tenses etc., How is Shields language appropriate to the subject or theme of her story? In Dressing Up for the Carnival, Shields parodies the very aesthetics in which she grounds her writing. The short story indicates the writer's characteristic combinatory strategy comprising irony, paradox (highs/ level), or oxymoron (level roller coaster) with the powerful metaphoric figures (which are dominantly alimentary as well as carnivalesque in nature) in order to withhold the referential language function and enable a contemplation state. Having overturned with light irony the journalistic mixture of faddish colloquialisms, truisms, and facile metaphorical style, Shields's extra-diegetic narrator then goes on to proclaim: ―The ordinary has become extraordinary. All at once - it seems to have happened in the last hour, the last ten minutes - there is no stone, shrub, chair, or door that does not offer arrows of implicit meanings or promises of epiphany‖ The flow of the story with its enumeration, imply an open-ended amplification, an infinity of possibilities to be envisioned and celebrated, is interrupted by a parenthesis figure, which is not only self-reflexively foregrounding the enunciation process, but also ridicules literary fashions
through hyperbole. Yet, this is precisely what Shields has offered to her readers: through chairs and doors, stones and shrubs, figurations of culture and nature or objective correlatives, she transforms objects into symbols, signs or emblems of an ontological stance. Shields reconfigures universal aesthetic and metaphysical concerns, all the while questioning the ontological existence of reality outside representation. The short story of Carol Shields, Dressing Up for the Carnival, can be studied from the angle of masquerade and fantasy, and then one can judiciously ground the critical discussion that the author makes an analogy between her vision and writing mode with the subjunctive mood of grammar: Out of the organized world of homely things, one constantly slides into the organized world of representation and language. Rather than faked confrontation and artificial crisis, Shields has pursued the real mystery of the self along with of the other and itself the creative process. The story, based upon everyday life, is full of metaphors. At the heart of the metaphorical network are the vestimentary and alimentary dynamics that affect as well as are affected by the given sociocultural reality.
The Shining Houses – Alice Munro 1 Although the main conflict of the story is between Mr Fullerton and the young couples, the protagonist is Mary. Why does the author focus her story on this character and the moral decision she makes at the end? What moral or main idea do you take away from the end of the story? In the story "The Shining Houses", Alice Munro has adopted Mary's point of view for narration of the story and how the events unroll. While keeping an outsider‟s or a third person‟s vision, Mary views how younger generations and older generations fall apart. The story revolves around the theme of “traditionalism versus modernism” in the society. Mary observes that in a present days‟ communal setting, there are two types of people, one who are practical, traditional and old fashioned (Mrs Fullerton) while on the other hand there are the modern citizens who like to embrace changes for the sake of development and advancement and for this purpose they may easily disregard the feelings or convenience of others (the young couples): ―that house is bringing down the resale value of every house on this street. I’m in the business, I know.‖ Alice Munro aimed to represent her thoughts and for this purpose she created a protagonist whose personality and values would reflect the righteousness that most of the younger generation lacks. Mary ends up in a conflict with her neighbours but she cannot be regarded as “defeated” for she turned her back towards her neighbours and walked away in a self-righteous way. This proves that the protagonist Mary is an open-minded, fair person, but somewhat powerless nonetheless. Mary is open-minded in this context that she understands the values of both the parties: the new community as well as Mrs Fullerton. Amongst all the characters only Mary has the insight and will to ―explore Mrs Fullerton’s life as she had once explored the lives of grandmothers and aunts‖
Alice Munro portrays Mary as a different individual than the others around her for she smiles openly to everyone whereas the others whose “faces are applied, smile in a rather special way” and when Mary decided to stay out of the petition business, the rest of the community perceived Mary “as a conversational delight”. Though the personality and values of Mary contradicted with the ones of her neighbours, she still kept herself open to all sorts of situations. Mary has a fair person in this regard that she does not just go with the flow rather she believes in doing the right thing regardless of what the majority is doing. Alice Munro might have religiously allegorised her name with the Mother of Jesus, Virgin Mary. Mary has similar motherly attributes which are evident at the time when Mary defends the “never-changing” neighbourMrs Fullerton, against the women of the community who: ―wear nylon and skirts, their hair fixed and faces applied‖ Mary realises that Mrs Fullerton should be given the right to stay in her home, because it is only human to give everyone a chance to live regardless of their cast, creed or age. The fair personality of Mary argues with the beliefs and values of the neighbours: while Mary is fair in respecting human rights, the young community is fair to their association of "shinning houses."• Mary is although courageous in the way that she is the only one who stands up for defending Mrs Fullerton, she is powerless while arguing with her neighbours. All Mary could do was listen to her neighbours speak in their "self-assertion", and remained powerless and had "no argument"•. “She was trying desperately to think of other words, words more sound and reasonable than these; she could not expose to this positive tide any notion that they might think flimsy and romantic, or she would destroy her argument. But she had no argument. She could try all night and never find any words to stand up to their words, which came at her now invincibly from all sides: shack, eyesore, filthy, property, value‖ The last point of Mary while refusing to sign the petition is: ―There is nothing you can do t present but put your hands in your packets and keep a disaffected heart‖.
Examine the descriptions of the new houses and of Mrs Fullerton’s house. What kinds of imagery are used? How are these descriptions symbolic?
The story of The Shining Houses brings forward a contradiction between two ways of life: one is the “unaccommodating” and elderly way adopted by Mrs. Fullerton, who is regarded by the supporters of the other community as untidy “her clothes slatternly-gay, dime-store brooches pinned to her ravelling sweater”. She is associated with almost a primordial subsistence agriculture being carried out on a mountainside where ―[there are] uncut forest and a jungle of wild blackberry and salmonberry bushes‖. According to the protagonist Mary, the life of Mrs Fullerton can be defined as an investment of ―a pure reality that usually attaches to things which are at least part legend‖ In contrast to Mrs Fullerton are the inhabitants of the new invasive suburb aiming to bring order, advancement, a supermarket and coloured plumbing to the area. A typical Monrovian situation is created here when Mary is caught in the centre of the conflict as she is sympathetic towards Mrs Fullerton but socially belongs to the other party. ―[Mrs Fullerton’s] house and its surroundings were so self-sufficient, with their complicated and seemingly unalterable layout of vegetables and flower beds, apple and cherry trees, wired chicken-run, berry patch and wooden walks, woodpile, a great many roughly built dark little sheds, for hens or rabbits or a goat. Here was no open or straightforward plan, no order that an outsider could understand; yet what was haphazard time had made final. The place had become fixed, impregnable, all its accumulations necessary, until it seemed that even the washtubs, mops, couch springs and stacks of old police magazines on the back porch were there to stay.‖ While on the other hand the younger community‟s houses were described like this: ―The new, white and shining houses, set side by side in long rows in the wound of the earth‖
The suburbanites, who are a group of professionals and executives are gathered at a social event and collecting signatures of everyone on a petition that requests the allowance of a lane to be constructed in the area. This lane would cut through the property of Mrs Fullerton and oust her from the home she had been living in for fifty years. They would thus succeed in getting rid of Mrs Fullerton and her home which according to the younger generation is “something like savagery”. The hypocrisy and complacency are odious and the method of the younger generation is brutal and curt, but according to them ―It’s simple and it’s legal‖. 3 Why did Munro chose to call her story, “The Shining Houses”? Considering her presentation of the young couples who inhabit the new houses, and Mrs Fullerton in her older home, how might the phrase “shining houses” be ironic? The individual from the older generation, Mrs Fullerton is an outcast for the rest of the community. She however self-sufficient is an individual who may not be able to fit in with the younger neighbours. Regardless of this obvious diversion in the society, Mary keeps a balance in her social interactions with her community members. When socializing with Mrs Fullerton, Mary gave the elder lady and her story credence however Mary was also aware of the dividing line between the two generations. She practically felt it when moving from Mrs Fullerton‟s home back to her side of the society: ―When Mary came out of this place, she always felt as if she were passing through barricades‖ This was the feeling experienced by Mary when she left Mrs Fullerton's offbeat house and entered the subdivision's uniform houses area where she and others of her generation resided. However Mary noticed that Mrs Fullerton was very much like her house; different, self-sufficient and long lasting whereas the houses of the younger generation were exactly like them: wellpainted, clean, and “shining” yet hollow from within. The new, white and shining houses, set side by side in long rows in the wound of the earth. She always thought of them as white houses, though of course they
were not entirely white. They were stucco and siding, and only the stucco was white; the siding was painted in shades of blue, pink, green and yellow, all fresh and vivid colors. Mrs. Fullerton and Mary's neighbours had different beliefs and values and largely because of the generation gap between them. The Mary's neighbours were described as selfish and shallow and were called the “shining houses”. They have beliefs that lead them nowhere but towards darkness and destruction. This is also the main theme of the story that the future generations follow the cycle and have different beliefs and strengths. The strgeths of the new generation were their anger and self-assertion which further accelerates their movement towards destruction. Mary's neighbours welcomed the sacrifice of the self for appearance and their similar subdivision. ―all this soundness and excellence seemed to be clearly, proudly indicated on the face of each house‖ Mary did not care that by not signing the petition she would have helped Mrs. Fullerton stay and not driven out. She stood up for what she thought was right and thus she did not lose. She similar to other people in Garden Place and being from the younger generation did not talk much to the elderly people. Her house was no different than the others around it and she knew different people who lived on both sides of it. She listened to the two sides, her neighbours as well as Mrs. Fullerton and then decided to support Mrs. Fullerton. She did not care about being popular or being the topic of gossip and made herself clear that she did not care how things appear. This way she was different from other people living in Garden Place. She did not feel the need for conformity to something she did not support and what her social group was doing.