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In “The Green Man” by Jeanette Winterson the theme is about man’s fragile masculinity. Throughout the story various things happen that display the main characters masculinity being shattered and mocked. The first sign we see of this in the story is the characters pride in his grass. It is a very stereotypical man thing to be proud of. In many stories and TV shows it is often a joke played out a lot. When a mans lawn dies or is under poor care it is usually seen as a major fault in the man. The horse being brought home at the end of the story opens up the possibility for the lawn to be ruined. Another thing I noted was the push of sex throughout the story, and given the theme I see is fragile masculinity it seems to go hand in hand.  Men tend to be drawn to sex and temptation, which I believe is represented by the gypsies.  Despite the main characters caution and frustration with the gypsies, he is almost put into a trance like state in their presence. Almost to prove that the main character is secure in his own masculinity I noticed how he emphasized drinking wine over beer like it was some kind of accomplishment. Overall the character continuously tries to prove his masculinity but fails again and again. Having to maintain an unrealistic persona of society expectation can lead to only downfall and disappointment.

While reading Can Xue’s “The Child Who Raised Poisonous Snakes” I felt the connection between the child and the snakes was similar to the struggle parent have over allowing their child to grow older. Sha-yuan told his parents he was able to appear to be near his parents when in reality he was else where.

Hadn’t we watched him with care? “I was not always with you, don’t be fooled by superficial appearances,” he said in his usual casual tone.

At first I had expected to be over-bearing-helicopter-like parents, given their constant eye they had over Sha-yuan, the parents even told the narrator that he had been with them every day.

The snakes he brought back with him and hid is said to have caused health problems in his parents, due to the stress and discomfort of the animal in their home.

One day I saw Sha-yuan’s mother coming out of the air-raid shelter with a hoe in her hand. She looked wan and sallow… She was almost bald, and she walked like an aged woman. Behind her appeared Sha-yuan’s father, an old man who couldn’t stop blinking one eye.

During this time the parents believe he has stopped bringing home the snakes, due to the lack of snakes they stop keeping as watchful of an eye on their child. One afternoon they had left the gate unlocked, which is when the child disappears. I interpreted the gate as being Sha-yuan’s passage to adulthood, which is why they cannot find the child. The passage of time Sha-yuan, parallel to his parents, had caused him to become unrecognizable.

The narrator I had found peculiar throughout the story due to the way he would talk about the family, as opposed to, to the family in some cases. Because the story end with the family and the narrator questioning where the child went makes me believe that perhaps the narrator is an officer or detective of some kind.

 

First and foremost, this story confused me thoroughly. Just when I believed I knew what was occurring, the next paragraph would throw me a curveball. Despite this, however, I feel as though I may have an understanding of one theme of this story. This story portrays the confusion of being an adult.

What happened to those bright days when the sun was still rising? Soon it will be Midsummer and the light beginning to die back, imperceptibly at first, a few minutes a day, and then the gradual forcing back indoors earlier and earlier, helpless against the dark” (Winterson 633).

This quote shows the helplessness that many adults feel when realizing the world is not as it seemed when they were children. The main character is a father in an unhappy relationship and he lives off of his daughter’s love and caring for the lawn. It is his place in the family; making sure the lawn, or superficial parts of their lives, are manicured and look presentable. This man is so stagnant in his life that he finds the slightest happiness from random things.

“He has been a well-behaved child,” his mother explained to me. “The only trouble with him is that he should never be allowed outdoors.” (644)

When I began reading Can Xue’s The Child Who Raised Poisonous Snakes, I believed the story would be about a child with over protective parents, but the parents were not overprotective since they let Sha-yuan on the beach with the rowdy children of other beach-goers. As the story went on, I began to think Sha-yuan has schizophrenia, a personality disorder that can change the ability of the effected’s thought processes, feelings, and behavior.

“Nothing, very quiet. But the situation will change completely after nine o’clock in the evening.” (645)

Still, as the story continued, schizophrenia did not seem like a disorder that Sha-yuan was a victim of. The end of the story left me confused and unsatisfied. I would not be confuse and would be satisfied if there was more to the story.

“The parents stopped watching Sha-yuan’s behavior as if they had lost interest and become oblivious. But they appeared anxious and from morning till night they checked their watches constantly. Obviously they were waiting for something. ‘Waiting for their deaths,’ Sha-yuan said. He tapped his belly, which was flat. There was no sign of anything inside.  According to Sha-yuan, it had worked out fine. Nobody suspected that he raised snakes anymore. But in fact, the leopard can’t change its spots.” 

If my parents had given up on me every time I started acting strangely or said stuff that could be considered out of the ordinary, I’m sure I would’ve lost my parents when I first started talking. I rambled on from having dragons as imaginary friends to plotting murders and drug rings out of hotels. Sometimes they would laugh, other times they would look at me strange, but more often than not, they would edit my plans and make them more believable. Of course I never hid poisonous snakes in an air-raid shelter, but I was never put in a situation where I could have started.

Although my parents never gave up on me in my strangeness, Sha-yuan’s parents eventually did. After seeing that talking and travel did nothing to help their son in his beliefs, whether they were true or not, they simply lost hope and gave up on redemption or assistance. I understand that appearance is held in high regards in Chinese culture, so I appreciate how long they managed to attempt to help their son despite his antics. however I can not condone how they simply let him fend for himself out of their wariness. If they truly believed that there were no other options to help their son, they could have turned to more professionals. Giving up should never be an option when your child is saying he keeps snakes in his stomach. Especially if that fact is proven true.

To honour. To mock. To fear. To hate. To be fascinated. To laugh out loud. (629)

In Jeanette Winterson’s short story, “The Green Man,” the main character is trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. He goes back and forth between things that do not relate and brings them back to his regular life. Winterson tells this story through the mind of the main character, so like the minds of you and me, things are not always linked at the same time. But the main problem with the main character to me is whether or not he wants to stay with his wife and daughter.

I love them both, sincerely I do, and I can’t explain how you can love a thing and want to be parted from it forever. (632)

He goes on and on about how gypsies are coming and how they are bad people. There is a fair in town that the gypsies put on and one of the gypsies is selling horses. An circumstance happens with that gypsy and the main character but the wife and daughter do not see. But the readers come to realize that the gypsy parts in the story could be a dream. This whole story happens in the mind of the main character so no one really knows how other people interact with him other than the way he perceives it.

“To honour. To mock. To fear. To hate. To be fascinated. To laugh out loud.” (629)

This was a complex story, mainly because it was filled with so many switches in the narrator’s train of thought. I felt that this added a sense of realism in the narration. By switching the narrator’s train of thought, it mimics how people, often in situations of stress, think and feel. Other than this very specific narration style, I was completely perplexed by the plot of this story, and maybe that was the point. Maybe we as the reader understand as much as the main character did of his own life, and the direction of his life. The opening sentence summarizes the feelings I had while reading this short story, and the narrator had while moving through this story.

“The Green Man” tells the story of a man struggling with feelings of emasculation, dissatisfaction, and even fear as he realizes his daughter has reached an age of potential sexual awakening. Winterson also portrays the appeal between “wild and tame” in the dynamic between the gypsies fair and the repressed suburban setting the narrator comes from, adding another layer of conflict within him. Winterson has created an incredibly strange story that comes across as very surreal but blunt, which I believe makes it easier for readers to pinpoint and follow the symbols and events that effect the narrator most.

This story comes across as a bit sad, in that the narrator is in a loveless marriage and feels emasculated by his wife- and by women more capable than himself. He mourns the loss of love between himself and his wife while also harboring resentment and guilt for the ways in which he’s aroused by the wildness of the fair and women he sees. The affair he has seems to serve as an expression of these feelings, deepening his shame and dissatisfaction with his life and marriage. A moment of freedom he takes to escape the painful domesticity he lives in. Despite thinking this way, and wishing to be separated forever from what he loves, he believes changing his life won’t ease miserable feelings.

The narrator’s actions result in a deeper sense of fear when his attention turns to his daughter. He recognizes his behavior as inappropriate, immoral, and perverted, resulting in a natural desire to protect his daughter from such things, especially as she grows older. There’s a strange placement of sexuality in the horses present in this story, and the daughter’s relation to sexuality itself. In the beginning of the story, before the husband becomes our narrator, we’re told:

Well known is it that young girls love horses, loving the wild underside of themselves, loving the long neck and hot ears of animal seduction.

But the gypsies are coming and his daughter is thirteen. (Winterson, 629)

This entire passage sets the reader up for an understanding of the narrator’s struggle: his fear for his daughter’s loss of innocence, as his own loss years ago resulted in an incredibly miserable present for himself. He rushes to his daughter when he finds her on a horse, led by a group of men and “slithering a bit on the bare back.” (Winterson, 635) The horse seems to symbolize his issues with sexuality and his loss of control, and when he projects this onto his daughter it results in an intense need to remove her, and himself, from the situation entirely.

“The Green Man” presents stereotypical concepts of emasculation and unhappiness in relation to marriage and domesticity. Despite being predictable, I don’t think this took away from the surreal twist Winterson uses on an unfortunately common dynamic in society. The surrealism in this story seemed to better emphasize incredibly real problems and damage this dysfunction can cause.

“We dont care if he will be somebody.” the mother said. “Both his father and I are only ordinary people. How is it that we should have a son who is involved in such a shameful business? Raising poisponous snakes, that’s frightening.””

In China, the idea of “Concept of face” has been apart of their culture for generations and even today, this concept shapes how people in China interact with each other. The concept of face is the idea that your reputation not only affects you but your entire family and the people you associate with. In “The Child Who Raised Poisonous Snakes” by Can Xue,  The main character Sha-yuan is obsessed with snakes at a young age to the point that he finds poisonous snakes and hide them in a box and collect them.Then as he gets older he decides to start eating snakes in order to catch and keep them. While Sha-yuan was going through all this his parents did little to help him so he could get better for himself. As we see in the above quote the only reason they decided to take him to the doctor and take him on trips as the doctor instructed was not for the safety and the well-being of Sha-yuan, but so that he would seem more normal and not take part in shameful activities.

“where did you get the name Sha-yuan?” I asked abruptly. “I’ve been wondering about it myself. Nobody ever gave him that name. where did it come from?” the mother said, looking confused.(649)

I too wondered where this name came from, as it felt as if “The Child Who Raised Poisonous Snakes” by Can Xue played off the name Sha-yuan. However, because the story was translated into English I thought maybe the meaning of the name lost its power. As such I searched the meaning of Sha-yuan to see what it meant in Chinese. Turns out that Sha -yuan is the Chinese name for a particular herb in the Astrgalus family. A species of plants that are known for hosting larva inside them. Weirdly paralleling Sha-yuan hosting the snakes inside his body. It also so happens to be a natural remedy to chronic fugue, which might be part of the humor of the name.

However, I believe the reason Can Xue used the name Sha-yuan comes more from the Chinese personality analysis. A horoscope like interpretation of a name, relying on the number of letters in a name and where each letter of a name is analyzed with a set meaning. But in the name sha-yuan there are multiple letters that contradict each other. Which I find like Sha-yuan’s strange behavior and constant change of mannerism.

Jeanette Winterson’s “The Green Man” about a man’s mid-life crisis.

“The Night in Question” by Tobias Wolff, is written through 3rd person narrative about the death of Benny Bolling, the son of Janice and Mike Bolling who died because he deliberately disobeyed his father and went to the mechanical room, where his father could not reach him in time to tell him to leave before he had to let down a bridge for a train to pass through, leaving his father in a desperate situation, where he has to decide to save his son or save the people on a train. Should he save his son? His son who is only one life and disobeyed him and went to the mechanical room, where he can’t hear his father and will surely die, due to all the machinery in that room moving and shifting as the bridge comes down. On the other hand, he can save the train full of people who as we see in the following quote are perceived to be not worthy of saving based on society views on how people should act.”There is the false witness.There is the bribe-taker.There is a woman who abandons her husband and children for her own pleasure” (Wolff,641). Mike Bolling is approached with this decision without this knowledge and based on his own view of life he decided to save the lives of many over the lived of one, so he pulled down the bridge killing his son in the process.

 

“The Night in Question” by Tobias Wolff at its core represented the difficulty in making choices. Whether they be simple decisions or complex ones that require a great deal of thought, some things are not easily decided. As a person who is painfully indecisive and emotionally charged all of the time I can understand the difficulty.  The choices that we make in life more often than not end up defining who we are as individuals. We always want to be sure of the choices we make to ensure that we are limiting the amount of regrets we have at the end of our life. Clearly that is impossible and as humans we second-guess and over analyze a lot of things, especially when life comes to a cross roads. Usually when I am asked a difficult question a gut feeling tells me the answer but more often than not I ignore that bounce back and fourth between the options even if I know the answer should be clear. I am a emotionally impulsive person and it tends to bite me on the butt, my emotions drive my choices ninety-nine percent of the time, the tiny one percent legitimate rationale that in all honesty plays a small role. Is it good or bad that I and other people are driven by emotion to make choices?

“For her brother she’d fought neighborhood punks, snotty teachers, and unappreciative coaches, loan sharks, landlords, bouncers. From the time she was a scabby-kneed girl she’d taken on her own father, and if push came to shove she’d take on the Father of All, that incomprehensible bully. She was ready.” (642)

The truth of the matter is, is that we cannot predict what we would do in stressful situations such as the train incident. All she proves is how much she loves her brother and that she hopes that her love would prove powerful enough to prevent him from dying in a situation similar to the train. We all, at one point or another, ignorantly predict the choices we would make. This is only ignorant because it is undermines the choices that real people had to actually make. We could not even begin to imagine what they were thinking, feeling, or deciding in these moments of pure chaos. They did the best they could given the situation they were in. Frances clearly loves her brother and has gone through hell and back in order to protect him. Those were the choices she made, and other people in similar situations may not have put their lives on the line in order to protect a sibling. I am “ride-or-die” when it comes to my brother, and I would do anything for him but I have never needed to protect him from an abusive parent so it would be difficult for me to say that I would. I hope I would, and I hope I would be strong enough to stand up for him but that is all I can do, is hope.

“The Night in Question” by Tobias Wolff ventures through father-son relationships as well as life-changing decisions.  Frank and Frank Senior had a negative father-son relationship in which Frank Senior was abusive to Frank starting when he was just a little kid. Mike and Benny seem to be the epitome of a father-son relationship.  Mike spends quality time with Benny and genuinely cares for him; Mike would do anything for Benny out of love. As Frank is practicing his sermon by telling of the story when Mike had to choose between Benny and the rest of the passengers on the train, it is a parallel for when Frances had to choose between watching her father beat Frank or do something about it. Frances chooses to attack her father while he beats Frank which immediately results in a “split lip and a ringing sound in her ears.” (639) After this first time of standing up to Frank Senior as he is abusing Frank, Frances then begins to constantly defend Frank out of love. Both Mike and Frances had to make a life-changing decision, being to choose passenger’s lives over your son’s life or to watch your father abuse your brother or not, which would change their lives from that point on.

*get personal with it, add what you think, what do you feel-why do you feel that way*

*add point of view*-> the story is about Frances and her fighting for her brother while he tells the tale of Mike and Benny which Frances cannot fathom putting aside her relation with her brother for strangers

643 – unaccountable joy Frances feels by protecting Frank because she loves him there is no greater joy than to protect him

Frank’s life has been so messed up that he finds relief in religion in an escape but Frances believes that she can still protect him

Frances is deeply threatened/deeply fragile, she has had to fight for her life and for her brother

She has given everything for her brother

 

“I’m down in the mill, Frank. I’m stuck in the gears and here comes the train with Mother Teresa and five hundred sinners on board, whoo whoo, whoo whoo. Who, Frank, who? who’s it going to be?” 

This story makes it very clear that Frank has two main receivers of love in his life: his love for his sister and his love for religion. In this story, we see how both of them play two different but equally important roles in his life. He attends church regularly and repeats the sermons he finds particularly exciting, and he has a clearly strong and almost dependent relationship with his sister and how much she used to and does take care of him in life. When posed with the question above, Frank has to pause and take everything into consideration. Yes it is his sister, but she is just one person compared to five hundred and one, despite the fact that most of them are made out to be bad people.

Just like in the story he was telling to Frances, we never find out his answer. We’re never told whether or not Mike chose Benny or if Frank chose Frances. We can probably give a guess about either outcome, but we are never told for sure one way or another.

To this day her husband had not forgiven Frances for what he called her complicity in that nightmare. But her husband had never been thrown across a room, or kicked, or slammed headfirst into a door. No one had ever spoken to him as her father had spoken to Frank. He did not understand what it was to be helpless and alone. No one should be alone in this world. Everyone should have someone who kept faith, no matter what, all the way. (639)

This passage shows the relationship between Frances and her brother, Frank, in Tobias Wolff’s “The Night in Question.” Frank was abused as a child by their father, and Frances would be there for Frank when it seemed that no one else was. I feel like this contradicts the story that Frank tells within the one that Wolff tells. In Frank’s story, he says, “He will not leave us alone. He is with all of you, as he is with me.” (641) Frank is saying that no one is ever alone but in the passage above, it says that, “No one should be alone in this world.” (639) This quote infers that people are alone, and that they shouldn’t be alone but in Frank’s mind, no one is alone, ever.

Throughout the story, the readers can tell that Frances is not as religious as Frank. She seems to think more about the emotional side rather than the religious/reasoning side that Frank does. At the end of the story, Frances asks if Frank would save her. While Frank does not give an answer to Frances, she knows who is answer is going to be, or she hopes she knows. She can see him trying to come up with a reasoning answer as to why he would choose who he did, the answer would have to reflect what he believes. But yet, we do not ever know what his answer would be, we can only hope that he will choose the right one, which ever one that may be.

They were hoping for a whole houseful of kids, but the Lord decided to give them one instead, a very special one… Benny came out in high gear and never shifted down.

Families containing a child with special needs is not something one plans for. This quote from Tobias Wolfe’s “The Night In Question” stands out to me the most because, despite the fact Frank didn’t sound similar to Benny, many children with special needs experience abuse similar to what Frank experienced with his father, Frank senior. While Frank may not have been a child with special needs, the inability for one person to understand another draws tension between the parties. I assume that Frank senior may have gotten along better with Frank if he was more like Benny, instead of being described as “plain in speech, neither formal nor folksy, so spare and somethings harsh that his jokes sounded like challenges or insults.” (2) Another reason could be the fact Frances, Frank’s sister, was able to understand Frank’s difference in personality, which Frank senior could not. However, Frances’ ability to understand Frank could stem from her desire to have her father’s attention, which was spent mostly on grooming Frank into his ideal son. Frances’ father sabotages her marriage, invades her home, and causes trouble at her work (3). Her ability to understand her sibling creates tension in her life with her father, but also breaks his attention from Frank’s inability to change, to focus on Frances’ direct disobedience in caring for Frank during their father’s abuse, once their mother dies.

This story expresses a question often presented to people of Christian faith: Would you risk your loved one for complete strangers? Pastors often preach that one should love others as their God did; allowing his own son to be killed so that others could be saved from sin.

The main characters of this passage show how one might question this rhetoric and how one might accept it wholeheartedly. Frances, the sister of the main character, questions it by saying,

I don’t care if the Almighty poked a gun in my ear, I would never do that. Not in a million years. Neither would you. Honest, now, little brother, would you grind me up if I was the one down in the mill, would you push the Francesburger button?” (Wolff 642)

Due to being abused by their father, Frances feels as though Frank telling her a sermon about risking your own family for others is a slap to the face. She protected him from their father’s violent outbursts and would do anything for him. She would even risk her mariage. The fact that Frank believes what she did is selfish grates on her nerves and makes her feel as though he isn’t even remotely appreciative of the shelter she provided from being abused. In response to her anger, Frank says:

Don’t put me to the test, Frances. It’s not your place.” (Wolff 642)

After the type of life Frank had, he is most likely trying to make sense of it by finding comfort in religion. He wants to believe God has a reason for everything that happens and that there’s a plan. Like all people who have lived through painful lives filled with regret, Frank wants an answer.

 

 

And at this moment, when Mike has nowhere to hide and nothing left to tell himself, then he can hear, and he knows that he is not alone, and he knows what it is that he must do. It has been done before, even by Him who speaks, the Father of All, who gave His own son, His beloved, that others might be saved.”

Wolff’s “The Night in Question” demonstrates how there is a fine line between an act that is just and an act that is good. Is it just that Mike, the father in Frank’s story, sacrifices his son in order to save people on a train who may not be worthy of saving? Is it just that Ben, Mike’s son, who is innocent in this world, has to die in order to save the lives of so many corrupt people? Is Mike’s decision good in either case?  Justice is something that is “owed” to a particular person(s). As a worker on the drawbridge station, Mike “owes” safety to the passengers on the train because it is their right to feel safe on public transportation. Does Mike “owe” safety to his son? Although this question may seem obvious–of course Mike owes Ben his safety, he is his father– it becomes a little more complex when one thinks about how morality or “goodness” does not normally permit someone to act unjust even for the sake of the greater good. While the story that Frank, the narrator, tells about Mike and Ben is meant to serve a higher purpose in explaining the Lord’s incomprehensible love for man-kind, I find it interesting to think of it in a more worldly context as well.

Frances didn’t mind a fight, and she especially didn’t mind fighting for her brother.

The end of Wolff’s “The Night in Question” shows how Frances, Frank’s sister, represents Jesus or Christ. Throughout their lives, Frances has always protected Frank from “neighborhood punks, snotty teachers and unappreciative coaches, loan sharks, landlords, bouncers.” (642) Frances has always taken the brunt when it comes to protecting Frank in hostile situations. It seems as though Frank has based the story of Mike and Ben not only off of the scarification of God’s one and only son, Jesus Christ, but also off of Frank’s own life with his sister, Frances. Like Jesus, Frances has sacrificed her own happiness in life in order to protect her brother. In a way, Frances is also like Mike in Frank’s story–she has sacrificed her own happiness (like how Mike sacrifices his only son) for the greater good of protecting her brother, who cannot stand up for himself.

It’s okay, Franky. I’m here.

The last two sentences of the story are so beautiful because they are references to the psalm 118:6 in the Bible, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”  Frank has his own interpretation of the psalm, “He will not leave us alone. He is with all of you, as he is with me” which also relates to how Frances has never left Frank alone or indefensible. The “mere mortals” in psalm 118:6 are depicted in Frank’s story as the passengers on the train as well as the people who have treated Frank unjustly in his own life. What can mere mortals do to Frank when he has the undying love and protection of his sister?

I’m not religious in the least, but my mom was raised Baptist (very intensely Baptist) and ended up leaving the church completely in her twenties. My mom and I have had many conversations about God and religion- how some people utilize religion to find purpose and stability in their lives, or a moral code- any number of reasons. I remember talking to her a few years ago about “The Sacrifice of Isaac”- my mom hates this story, and Frances reminded me very much of her reaction and feelings. Like Francis, my mom didn’t care if there was more to the story, or that, ultimately, Abraham didn’t sacrifice his son, what mattered to her was the idea of a God who would demand that of a parent.

Wolff’s “The Night in Question” is certainly not about religion, but it does utilize it to portray how a sister reacts to the loss of dependency she and her brother shared. Throughout the story, Frances hints at how wild and destructive her brother used to be, however this is a sharp contrast to the well put-together man Frances is visiting. She’s clearly put off by the change in her little brother, noting how he speaks differently, dresses differently, yet is ultimately a steadier presence.

“I had to change. Change the way I thought about things. Maybe I sound a little different too.” (Wolff, 642)

Frances and Frank come from a past of abuse, one where Frances fought tooth and nail to protect her little brother from an angry father. In this instance, it created a very close relationship bordering dependency on each other- Frank more manipulative of it, whereas Frances uses it to feel needed, perhaps even greater than herself. The change in Frank signals a change in their relationship, and his belief in God is a threat to the power and capability she believed she had. In the passage above, I believe this most clearly displays Frank’s acknowledgement of the abuse he faced and how he came to peace with himself. Frances, however, clings to anger, relishes in the fight, and her brother no longer needing her is crushing. So she challenges his faith, almost as if she is trying to remove the force in his life she perceives as a threat to her place in it.

She could still taste that smoke and hear her father’s steps on the stairs, Frank panting beside her, moving closer, his voice whispering her name and her own voice answering as fear gave way to ferocity and unaccountable joy, It’s okay, Franky. I’m here. (Wolff, 643)

In a way, I think God’s presence in Frank’s life has, in Frances’ point of view, become the bullying, abusive, figure of their father and yet another reason for her to protect and fight for him.

I myself have been in the shoes of Frank, and I have experienced people like Frances, who are ready to fight till the end. It is in those moments that every single word that comes out of your mouth matters the most. Though what I feel Tobias Wolff has captured the best in  his short story “The Night in Question” is the moment true faith is challenged. I’ve seen it many times: the anger antagonizing words, the threatening look of challenge that makes you want to rush your answer, by giving a simple book straight reply. It makes your heart pound and your muscles tense as you know this is the make or break point of the conversation. It matches perfectly with the climax of this story on pages 641-643.

However, what makes this story so true to life, is the fact that Mr. Wolff wrote the story with the understanding that the one who’s faith is being challenged is Frances, not Frank. You can tell this is the case as Frances jumps to defended herself and her past actions with words such as:

“Not in a million years. Neither would you. Honest, now, little brother, would you grind me up if I was the one down in the mill, would you push the Francesburger button?”(642)

An action that you find even little children do when they try to shift the blame onto someone else or when middle-schoolers’ try to assert that there in the right. Frances’ over eagerness to prove herself right along with her internal reflection of her past actions, show that it is her faith being shaken.

In the short stories by Belle Boggs, they are all set in a rural setting. Even though two of the stories, “Deer Season” and “Election Day,” do not explicitly say where they are set (county or state), the reader can picture the ruralness of the story. But in her stories “Good News for a Hard Time” and “Homecoming,” they are bothering set in King William County, Virginia. King William County is a smal county along the Mattaponi River, which is named after the Native American tribe, Mattaponi. King William County is the county that Belle Boggs grew up in and it is a place she seems to use for settings in her short stories a lot.

“Skinny, who was not skinny at all…” 

This passage came form both “Homecoming” and “Good News for a Hard Time.” I found it interesting how Belle Boggs wrote “Homecoming” and “Good News for a Hard Time” as stories that ran parallel and at the same time as each other with a moment of intersection when Skinny is introduced. To me, the parallelism in these two stories created for more interesting reads. While in “Homecoming” we know nothing of Bruce, as he is only in the story for a sentence or two, we read about his life in “Good News for a Hard Time.” The same goes for Skinny in “Good News for a Hard Time.” Readers do not get to know much about Skinny in the story while he is one of the main characters in “Homecoming” and influencers in Marcus’ life.

Rather than talking about one of Belle Boggs’ short stories I would like to address how she connected “Good News for a Hard Time” and “Homecoming” so that they both have the same setting, the rural county of King William, Virginia. This county just so happens to be the county that Belle Boggs grew up in, and it would not be surprising if parts of her short stories were inspired by events she personally witnessed. However, I find it appropriate that both stories share a common setting and a personal connect to the author. As it makes Belle Boggs story telling more complete, allowing the two short stories to truly become just one story with multiply perspectives, similar to the style that Belle Boggs choose to write “Deer Season” in.

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