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“Girls clung to my stand, like the shipwrecked to their raft, and I could do no wrong.”

In the “The Lifeguard,” by Mary Morris, the story’s theme is about ego and pride. In the beginning of the story we meet the main character and narrator Josh Micheals, who appears to be rather full of himself. Josh talks about the many girls that admire him, the gifts he receives, and the envy older people hold for his youth. One area in particiular where we see just how much he believes that the world revovles around him is when he is convinced that Mrs. Lovenheim does nothing but watch him. In addition to that Josh also braggs about how he has seen everything there is to see during his time at the beach, despite only being 18. He is the sterotypical young person who believes his youth will last forever and that nothing bad could ever possibly happen. Young people often have inflated egos, especially when they grow up good looking, being overly praised for mediocre things. As a result of his inflated ego I believe that Josh feels entitled to the things he believes he deserves. For example when Josh takes Peggy to the drive in movie and he decides he needs to know about the death of Peggy’s brother and asks about it in a rather rude fashion. While Josh may have completed the life guard training course, he was foolish enough to believe that that alone could prepare him for anything. He held pride in false achievements, all he has is a title and some sunscreen on his face.

 

That was when I saw Ric Spencer, running across the burning sand, waving his arms in an awkward way. He ran forward, then back, then  forward again, like a dog wanting to play catch. He kept waving, shouting, then rushing back again. Then, Mr. Potter, whose own failing heart kept him pacing the shore, came puffing to me. “A child,” he said with surprising composure. “Over there,” pointing to the Spencer umbrella (429). 

I believe the climax starts here, on page 429, when Ric Spencer’s daughter chokes on a grape and everyone, especially the girl’s father Ric Spencer, on the beach starts freaking out. In the paragraph before the passage above, Josh Michaels, the narrator, thinks someone is drowning based on everyone’s screaming and shouting. This most likely brought thoughts of when the only person to reportedly drown at this beach, died. When the narrator goes to save the little girl, he can’t. To everyone’s surprise, Mrs. Lovenheim, the woman who Josh Michaels had felt had been watching him all summer, came and saved the child. Not once did she speak to anyone throughout this entire encounter. I say this is the climax of the story because I feel it changes the way the narrator sees Mrs. Lovenhiem differently.

“The Lifeguard” by Mary Morris is a first-person narrative. The narrator, Josh Michaels is a lifeguard during the summer at Pirate’s Point. He comes off as a very egotistical person, who only sees his job as a way to have fame. We see this in the following quote:

 

“So I loved to stroll along the beach among the girls that wanted to have me, old men who wanted to be me”(427)

 

Josh Michael’s job is to keep his eyes on the ocean and make sure all the visitors are safe. Due to his large ego and his need to have women want him ,He lets his guard down for only an instant and focuses on a frequent visitor named Cindy,Causing him to seem unprepared for the life or death situation of a child’s drowning. Once he realizes what’s going on ,he rushes off without his first aid kit and has to be told by an ex-lifeguard to run back and get it.

Once he gets his first aid kit, he tries all the techniques he learned to save the child ,but it wasn’t enough ,and with the swift help of a civilian by the name of Mrs. Lovenhelm, the child was saved. During that scene, Josh Michaels realizes that his job is much more than just looking good and getting girls; his job is about saving lives.

The story “The Lifeguard” shows perfectly just how a single instant can change someone’s whole life. From the start when Billy drowned because his father needed to take a phone call to Josh when ruined his date with Peggy by asking about said drowning, every event in the story takes place in a single moment and imitates how fast real life can happen. Even Josh’s perception of being a lifeguard changed in an instant after Becky almost choked and died because of a grape on his watch even after he had given four years of his life doing it. He’s heard the stories, but since his experience consisted of mainly watching after people and setting up umbrellas, the harsh reality that people can die on his watch shook him harder than he was ready for. If it wasn’t for that, I’m sure he would’ve stayed that way and I’m sure his perception of Ms. Lovenheim would’ve remained the same as well.

If I had to choose an underlying theme of the story, it would be that comfort creates complacency and complacency creates mistakes. Billy died because his father was comfortable enough to leave him alone unsupervised at the edge of the water and he was swept under. Josh asked about Billy on his date because he felt comfortable enough to do so and thus caused it to end on a terrible note. He also almost let Becky die because he didn’t know what to do when she was choking, and the situation arose almost immediately after he allowed himself to get distracted by Cindy. That’s also an example of correlation not causation, but he was still overly frazzled when it did happen and he wasn’t prepared for it.

“The Lifeguard” is a pretty big wake up call to how easily life can shift entirely in response to one mistake. Injury, death, and ruined reputations are three main topics that come along with the mistakes made in the story, but it does prove that life happens too fast to let one mistake gain the potential to cause something bad to happen. In the end, Josh is left a new man with a different outlook on life and how fragile it is.

“Years have passed since that day on Pirate’s Point, and I am old now, perhaps as old as Mrs. Lovenheim was then, and I’ve never seen the water or the umbrellas of summer the same way again.” pg. 431

It only takes one event to change the world.

I watched them curiously, these people whose life had been irrevocably altered with the sweep of a wave.

Morris’ story “The Lifeguard” is a coming of age story that shows how true character is developed through hands-on experience. This story also shows how quickly one’s life can be altered at any given moment and how one must always see the beauty in what one has before it is gone.

Josh Michaels, the protagonist of the story, is a young man who spends his last summer before college as the head lifeguard at Pirate’s Point. He is arrogant; as he says, “She was warm and alive, and I knew I could have almost anything I wanted with her” (428). He believes that he is admired by everyone on the beach and goes so far as to state that older men yearn for the days when they too looked as physically appealing as he does. Josh’s friend and former head lifeguard, Ric Spencer, says to him, “Man, you don’t know what it is. You don’t know what you’ve got…You’ve got all this. It’s yours” (427). Josh is so self-centered that he does not understand what Ric means when he says this. He is not able to look around and see beauty in places that are not centered around himself.

Josh seems to have it all: the body, the girls, the friends, and the perfect job. However, when he is faced with a situation in which someone’s life is in his hands, he doesn’t know what to do. Ric’s daughter, Becky, chokes on a grape and would have died if it were not for Mrs. Lovenheim, who performs the Heimlich maneuver on Becky. As mentioned on page 430, “Ric stood shaking, his life altered.” Ric’s life had changed in a single moment due to his lack of attention towards his daughter. The intense situation leaves Josh restless and unable to sleep, so he travels to Mrs. Lovenheim’s house to thank her for her courageous act. As he speaks to her, he begins to weep and realizes that, for once, he does not have control over his composure. Mrs. Lovenheim consoles him for a moment, then, just as quickly, she leaves him alone on her front porch. She did not feed his ego; she only showed him comfort. In that moment, Josh’s life is “altered with the sweep of a wave.” Josh understood what it felt like to not be the center of attention and understood that there are bigger matters in the world than his need to feel wanted. In the last sentence, the narrator says, “I’ve never seen the water or umbrellas of summer in the same way again.” This sentence shows how one’s outlook on life can change dramatically once one has been put into an intense situation.

I find Mrs. Lovenheim’s name allegorical. After she saves Becky, Mrs. Lovenheim’s purpose in the story is to console and comfort others. In the German language, heim is a word for “home,” and when Mrs. Lovenheim consoles Josh at the end of the story, he wishes that she would never let him go. To me, Ms. Lovenheim’s name sounds very similar to love’s home.

I’ve seen monsters rise from the belly of the deep when it’s only a big fish leaping into the air. (p. 427)

Mary Morris’ short story “The Lifeguard” addresses the theme of death through the protagonist’s job of a lifeguard. The lifeguard, who is prepared for disasters that can occur within the ocean, even takes precautions to avoid experiencing lifeguard mirages by engaging with the girls of summer. The girls keep him from fixating on the ocean, and give him a momentary break of attention. Eventually, he asks a girl to the movies, which leads him into asking about her brother, who drowned in the ocean. His excuse had been to make sure it doesn’t happen again, in reality he wanted to know what it was like to die, from someone who was closer to experiencing death than he was at that time.

I was head lifeguard on the beach at Pirates Point. I don’t think real pirates ever landed there, but the name made me think that strange and mysterious things could happen right where I lived. (p. 425)

The quote from page 427 correlates to the pirates mentioned on page 425; pirates often experienced sea mirages, causing them to see sea monsters and beasts in the water. Soon the lifeguard finds himself unprepared when they do happen on land, and eventually breaks down due to his inability to understand death and prevent it.

It was the first time I felt what it was supposed to feel like to be in the arms of a woman, not the girls whose breath steamed my car on Saturday nights. But it was not her body I felt, though I liked the feel of it, it was not her sex, though I was aware of it. Rather, I felt myself longing for something I could never have, and I wanted her to take me back, fold me inside of herself as she’d folded Becky that afternoon. (page 431) 

This coming-of-age story is about a young boy who is finally realizing that he needs to pay attention to people and things that are not what they seem, like Mrs. Loveheim and Becky on the beach. Josh’s ego is relevant in the story when he talks about the girls whom are constantly all over him and wanting his attention. Mrs. Lovenheim who is a woman in the town that goes to the beach everyday and watches Josh’s every move, and Josh would notice. She never hid the fact that she was paying attention to him, this makes it seem as if she wants him to know what she is doing. When Sally was on the beach and she choked on the grape, Josh doesn’t know how to help the girl and everyone around him is convinced that she is dead. That is when Mrs. Lovenheim gets up from her usual spot and brings the girl back to life. Josh realizes that she is not what he expected her to be like and he goes to her house late that night to thank her. When she takes Josh into her arms, he realizes that he wants to feel the way that felt. He doesn’t want to feel like how he does when he is with the girls because they don’t mean anything. This was the last night he saw Mrs. Lovehheim. He does not know what happened to her or where she went, but he still thinks about her after all the years. The incident on the beach, makes Josh look at the beach differently than it did before. He may pay more attention to people, and things, who are around him.

In the story “The Lifeguard,” is told in first-person retrospective. The lifeguard is telling the story of his last summer before college. The lifeguard is self-centered at the beginning of the story.

“I was eighteen then. I wore zinc oxide on my nose, a whistle around my neck. No. 4 Coppertone covered my body. I could lift a girl into the air with each arm, and I loved to walk the beach, a girl dangling from each bicep. Girls clung to my stand, like the shipwrecked to their raft, and I could do no wrong.” ( p. 424)

There is some foreshadowing in this story. Ric Spencer, the former lifeguard, failed to save Billy Mandel when he was younger. The narrator almost has the same thing happen to him.

“I dashed back back to my stand, grabbed the first-aid kit, and raced, my own feet searing in the sand. I made my way through where the crowd had gathered and saw Becky Spencer, her face puffed, her mouth open but no sound coming, her eyes in a fixed stare, turning as blue as the sea I’d set my sights on, and I knew this was the the color of Billy Mandel when he’d been tossed back the shore.” (p. 429)

The narrator is saved from the guilt of losing Becky due to not paying attention by Mrs. Lovenheim. She saves Becky with the Heimlich maneuver.  This story shows how your life can change in a single instance.

I’ve never seen the water or the umbrellas of summer in the same way again. (431)

Mary Morris’ story “The Lifeguard” is about events changing our perspective. The narrator and main character, Josh Michaels, begins the story by flaunting his ——– what he thinks to be — superior status to the beach-goers. He braggs about how “firm” and “bronze” his body is, how girls want to have a piece of it, and how old men wish they could have it. Josh Michaels fits the stereotypical definition of a lifeguard with his amazing looks. All is well during the summer until little Becky Spencer is in dire need of help and Josh’s skills are put to the test. Josh tries everything that he had been trained to do, but Becky is still choking. When all faith is lost and people think that this is the end for Becky life, Mrs. Lovenheim interrupts the chaos and saves Becky’s life. Josh knew Mrs. Lovenheim to be a quiet lady who kept to herself all summer, but after she saved Becky Spencer’s  life he had a new found appreciation for her. Similar to the experience Ric Spencer, a former lifeguard,  witnessed with the tragedy of Billy Mandel, Josh is able to realize that all it takes is a blink of an eye for something to go terribly wrong. Becky Spencer’s choking incident made Josh more cautious when he was on duty and it allowed him to focus more on the job at hand, making sure everyone is safe, instead of being a self-absorbed teenage boy.

In “The Lifeguard,” Morris suggests that one’s age has less to due with years passing and more to due with life experiences. The narrator says, “I loved my body that summer. I loved its firmness and its bronzed skin. But mostly I loved the way it was admired.” (427) By all accounts, he is physically mature, as most boys are at eighteen years old. His strength and physical maturity cannot help him in a moment of chaos because he “had done everything [he] had been trained to do, and nothing could bring Becky Spencer, her mouth gaping in a silent, breathless hole, back to life.” (430) His biceps, youth, and training could not save Becky because the narrator needs experience. Mrs. Lovenheim protects him from losing a child, the narrator’s greatest fear. Yet the narrator does not seek more wisdom from Mrs. Lovenheim; he wants her comfort the way a child wants comfort from their mother. Similar to a parent, she comforts him for a moment, but “release[s] [him] back into the world,” into the real world so he can go to college and grow old, “perhaps as old as Mrs. Lovenheim was then.” (431) The narrator tells his story with the knowledge he has gained these moments, which could have happened in an instant or taken decades to cultivate, but regardless, it is through his life experiences the narrator can tell his story with wisdom and perspective.


 

I felt myself longing for something I could never have, and I wanted her to take me back, fold me inside of herself as she’d folded Becky that afternoon.

But then she let me go. I grabbed at her trying to hold on, as if her arms could save me from what came next. (Morris, 431)

Mary Morris’ “The Lifeguard” is a coming-of-age story about an eighteen-year-old boy, Josh Michaels, who also serves as an unreliable narrator. Josh is confident, somewhat self-centered, and very accustomed to getting what he wants without much effort. However, through all his posturing and youthful arrogance, Josh constantly looks for something deeper. While girls are flocking to him and he relishes in all the attention he receives, he seems to be constantly bothered- bored and dissatisfied.

When Ric Spencer tells Josh he has it all, his immediate response is, “What is it, Ric? What’ve I got?” He reaches a point of frustration as he realizes that there are people who are envious of him, when in reality there’s very little remarkable about Josh and what he does. His community’s wistfulness is based entirely on a past of what they believe to be glory, and as they’ve aged they’ve let themselves go, choosing instead to cling to and mourn their youth. Later in the story, Josh has an opportunity to acknowledge this and choose not to follow this pattern.

There is one character Josh places importance on, and who we later learn embodies the maturity and the guidance Josh yearns for. Mrs. Lovenheim, “old” from Josh’s point of view and left by a husband after two miscarriages, arrives at the beach at the same time every day with a book in hand. What sets Mrs. Lovenheim apart is Josh’s perception of a quiet obsession she has for him, and the regret and shallowness that doesn’t seem to exist within her as it does the other characters’ Josh describes.

After Mrs. Lovenheim saves the child Josh failed to, he finally approaches her. As Mrs. Lovenheim shows a capability Josh had believed only to be within himself, Josh’s ego begins to crumble. The near loss of Becky Spencer, his inability, and the realization that he is not, in fact, all-powerful or noteworthy fundamentally changes Josh. Just like Ric, Josh recounts his youth as if life ends when you grow up, and he quickly becomes just as nostalgic.

Years have passed since that day on Pirate’s Point, and I am old now, perhaps as old as Mrs. Lovenheim was then, and I’ve never seen the water or the umbrellas of summer in the same way again. (Morris, 431)

The saying ignorance is bliss is something society has come to accept as true. However, in Mary Morris’ “Lifeguard,” uses this saying ironically, as ignorance becomes bathos. The following is the anticlimax that ignorance has brought about.

Sally Spencer, who’d once dug her nails into my arm during horror movies of my youth, now did so again. “you’re a Lifeguard,” she said matter-of-factly. “you’re supposed to know what to do.” But I’d done everything I’d been trained to do, and nothing could bring Becky Spencer, her mouth gaping in a silent, breathless hole, back to life. (430)

The dark comedy of this short story is not of just the narrator’s own inexperience with life and death, but rather the communities. They are happy not understanding or talking about the tragedies so close to them, such as the death of Billy Mendel. They find it sickening and even outcast those that do understand the pain of knowing, in the case of Mrs. Lovenheim. Only to be trifled by the very tragedy they tried so hard to ignore, and saved by the person they outcast. It’s this tragic irony, that surrounds the anticlimax, that makes it clear that ignorance is not bliss.

Then Mrs. Lovenheim turned to me where I stood, first-aid kit dangling in my hand like a lunch box. I felt as if she were about to say or do something, but instead, without a word, she moved past me back to her umbrella, collected her things, and left” (430).

These two sentences really summed up the quiet and stoic heroism of Mrs. Lovenheim. I believe Josh was so used to empty girls who would just throw themselves at him that he was amazed and in awe of a perfectly capable women who could do something he could not. He felt helpless when he had to save the child but strange Mrs. Lovenheim, who always did the same thing everyday and who lived out her days unceremoniously, became the savior of little Becky. It is my guess that he yearned so deeply for Mrs. Lovenheim’s touch because he was bereft of female contact that didn’t involve pure lust. Perhaps he felt a connection much deeper than the flesh when it came to Mrs. Lovenheim. He could identify with this woman who had her life changed drastically by the actions of one person. He felt as though his life was changed forever due to the near death of Becky and the sudden intrepidity of the woman whose life was halted halfway through.

Before the almost tragedy involving his daughter, Ric Spencer was a man who very obviously missed his glory days as a lifeguard. Even after Billy Mandel’s death, he was still caught in the mindset of the Ric with a taut swimmers body and thick, blonde hair. Throughout the story, it was as though he yearned to go back to those days and live out life without his daughter and wife. It took his child actually choking for him to get snapped back to reality and fully realize that he does not need to envy Josh Michaels’ life.

This is a story depicting the complicated nature of human beings. It shows that a person can have everything in someone else’s eyes but still not be happy.

 

“In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” by Amy Hampel, has many Allusions, but one stands out the most and that is the sign language chimp. It stands out not because its mentioned multiple time, but because it has a deeper connection with what’s going on. It becomes a symbol within the story, as it reflects the reactions of the narrators sick friend. This can be shown through the following quote.

“Did you know that when they taught the first chimp to talk it lied? That when they asked her who did it on the desk, she signed back the name of the janitor. And that when they pressed her, she said she was sorry, that it was really the project director. But she was a mother, so I guess she had reasons.” Pg. 40

This quote mimics the reaction that sick friend has. As both the sick friend and the chimp want to shift the reality of what’s happening in order to preserve the time they have with those they love. For the chimp, its lying to its retainers, for the sick friend it’s distractions to keep her illness off the narrators’ mind.

She wants every minute, I thought.  She wants my life.

In the short story by Amy Hempel the reader encounters two young women who remain unamed. One woman is clearly sick in the hospital, and the other woman I believe is meant to be the “supportive” friend. Despite these rolls the characters are meant to maintain there is a hint of resentment throughout the story. The woman who is meant to be the supportive friend to me seems uncomforatble with the role she is needed to fill. In the story we hear her talk about how she has fears, which seems like a subtle disregard for the seemingly non-existant fears of her dying friend. Naturally the woman who is dying does have fears and wants to cling to life. Not just any life but the life she was meant to have with her friend who is still healthy. The healthy friend I feel is struggling with guilt and frustration in regards to not knowing how to handle the soon arriving death of her friend. Therefore all she can talk about is useless trivia to pass the time in the most insignificant way possible. It isn’t till the end of the story, when the sick friend has died and the healthy friend is once more talking about the chimp does she feel the true pain in her friends passing.

“Tell me things I won’t mind forgetting,” she said. “Make it useless stuff or skip it.”

I began. I told her insects fly through rain, missing every drop, never getting wet. I told her no one in America owned a tape recorder before Bing Crosby did. I told her the shape of the moon is like a banana — you see it looking full, you’re seeing it end-on. 

The camera made me self-conscious and I stopped.”

Amy Hemple’s “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” starts in medias res when the narrator is told by an originally unknown girl to talk about useless information. We find out later in the story that these two girls are best friends. In the third paragraph, we find they are in an Intensive Care room, but we aren’t told the name of the place until page 30 when the narrator says, “We call this place the Marcus Welby Hospital.” As readers, we are never told why the Best Friend is in the hospital, but we do find out at the very end of the story on page 39 that she was buried in a cemetery.

Amy Hempel’s “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” begins in medias res. Beginning the story in the middle of the action gives the reader insight into the reoccurring idea of the story– fear of the inevitable. The narrator, a loyal companion to her sick and dying friend (also the protagonist and referred to as Best Friend), tells her friend strange and seemingly meaningless facts about the world. The sick friend does not want her mind to linger on grievous thoughts, like death, even if death is her inevitable fate. To pass her time, she sits and listens to her friend ramble on about frivolous matters. It is ironic that the sick friend says that she is not afraid of anything, but the narrator is constantly in fear of her friend dying. There is foreshadowing on page 34 where the narrator says, “Was I the only one who noticed the experts had stopped saying if and now spoke of when?” (34). This small moment shows how the sick friend is going to inevitably die. The reader is not knowledgeable of the sick friend’s fear of dying until the narrator says, “I see fear in her now, and am not going to try to talk her out of it. She is right to be afraid” (34).

On the morning she was moved to the cemetery, the one where Al Jolson is buried, I enrolled in a “Fear of Flying class.” “What is your worst fear?” the instructor asked, and I answered, “That I will finish this course and still be afraid.”

I see this passage as a metaphor for the narrator’s view on her own life after seeing her friend pass away. To me, this passage says, my worst fear is living out my life, and at the end of it, still being afraid of death. The friend’s “Fear of Flying” could represent her fear of living her best life while knowing that one day, she too will inevitably die.

 

But the beach is standing still today. Everyone on it is tranquilized, numb, or asleep…They pose” (4).

This passage shows that the main character can sense the hollow feeling of the people on the beach. They almost identify with going through the motions just to get through the moment. The teenage girls put on suntan lotion and the protagonist can see that they want to leave the discomforts of their day behind and forget about what worries they might have to spend a day under the sun without a care. The protagonist approves of their carefree nature and realizes this is what they are feeling in the moment. They want to be like the sunkissed girls.

 

If one had to choose a singular mood that encompasses the entirety of this story, I would choose denial. It keeps the Best Friend from spiraling into depression at her situation and keeps the narrator from doing it for her. The trivial bits of information we receive as we read are one of the coping mechanisms they’ve settled themselves into to keep reality away. The more absurd the fact the better.

“Who cares whether or not it’s true? In my head there are bath towels swaddling this stuff. Nothing else seeps through.” -Pg. 39

These lines mean the most in the way that they show that the best friend and the narrator were trying to keep away reality so much that now she doesn’t know how else to deal. The narrator hasn’t come to terms with the fact that her best friend died. She’s coping in her own way, the way they made up to keep from falling apart.

Amy Hempel’s “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” starts in medias res and is narrated in first person through the main character: a young unnamed woman, occasionally referred to as “the Best Friend.” The narrator struggles with her friend’s illness and impeding death, and often uses sarcasm to evade the subject when it comes up, or chooses to remove herself from the situation entirely. Through the narrator’s perception of the world and her situation, we learn that she is cautious, that she finds the idea of fearlessness perplexing, and that she has difficulty facing grievous events.

Throughout the story, she also continuously comes back to a chimp who had been taught sign language, which seems to be a symbol for the narrator herself. When first taught to sign, perhaps the chimp’s first translatable act of freewill, she lies, and when losing her baby, the chimp again is able to express this grief through language. The chimp’s behavior foreshadows the narrator’s, but also allows the narrator to better acknowledge her own sorrow.

“And when the baby died, the mother stood over the body, her wrinkled hands moving with animal grace, forming again and again the words… fluent now in the language of grief.” (Hempel, 40)

 

Throughout Amy Hempel’s story, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” there is a conversation that is revisited that compares the life of Al Jolson to that of a lab test chimp.

“Did you know that when they taught the first chimp to talk, it lied? That when they asked her who did it on the desk, she signed back the name of the janitor.And that when they pressed her, she said she was sorry, that it was really the project director.–”(30)

This shows that the chimp and the woman are similar in the way that they are both living a caged lifestyle, where are told what they can and cannot do. All the woman can do is stare from her window and wonder about everything beyond her room. She has been in that room so long and has lived her life according to what others tell her to do. This leaves us as the reader to wonder what she wants out of life. We confirm this in the following quote:

“For two beats I didn’t get it. Then it hit me like an open coffin. She wants every minute, I thought.She wants my life.”(36)

“Tell me,” she says, “about the chimp with the talking hands.What do they do when the thing ends and the chimp says,’i don’t wanna go back to the zoo’? (32)
-While Mrs.Jolson is asking the question, indirect reference to the previous conversation about the talking chimp, she is also giving the reader the assumption that she is talking about her own life. Since she is not allowed to leave her room and dreams of leaving it.She constantly thinks about what would happen if she killed herself.

“She grabs the bedside phone and loops the cord around her neck. “Hey,” she says, “the end of the line.”(31)

This confirms that she at least thinks about killing herself and she knows ways of doing it, Being in the room is making her mad and she can’t psychologically be in that room and not be able to leave on her own accord.

“ In the course of the experiment, the chimp had a baby. I imagine how the trainers must have thrilled when the mother, without prompting, began to sign to her newborn. Baby, drink milk. Baby, play ball. And when the baby died, the mother stood over her body, her wrinkled hands moving with animal Grace, for me again and again the words: Baby, come hug, Baby, come hug, fluent now in the language of grief. “(40)

This quote references the relationship of Miss Jolson and the protagonist, the main character tells Mrs.Jolson about their experiences and feels a great deal of grief for her death.

Amy Hempel’s story “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” follows a central idea of a chimp. First introduced by the speaker telling her friend about the first speaking chimp on page one.

“Did you know that when they taught the first chimp to talk, it lied? That when they asked her who did it on the desk, she signed back the name of the janitor.

The chimp symbolizes their friendship that had faded after a diagnosis with cancer. The speaker feeling guilty over the space that entered the relationship, and lying about her reasoning on being so distant. Once the friend passes, the speaker references the chimp for a final time on page ten.

I think of the chimp, the one with the talking hands.

In the course of the experiment, that chimp had a baby. Imagine how her trainers must have thrilled when the mother, without prompting, began to sign to her newborn.

Completing the Chekhov’s gun concept, the speaker expresses the guilt she feels by her inability to talk to her friend, as more than a cancer patient. The sign language used by the chimp symbolizes the ability to tell the speaker’s friend what she feels, without the use of words.

I wanted her to be afraid with me. But she said, “I don’t know. I’m just not.” She was afraid of nothing, not even of flying.

This story by Amy Hempel is very different from other short stories. She doesn’t give the readers any names for the characters except “The Best Friend”, “The Good Doctor”, “The Bad Doctor”, and Gussie. I feel like the author wanted us to focus more on what is actually going on with the characters rather than the names of them. Throughout the story, the reader can sense the pain or depression that the narrator is feeling. They constantly talk about how they want the other girl to feel really happy and how they would do anything for her. When the friend died at the end, the narrator finally faced their fears. They didn’t want to do it when the friend was alive because the friend didn’t have fears, they were not scared of anything. The narrator was scared that the friend was going to die and when she did, she faced her other fears to try and see if she could get over them.

In the story,”In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried,” the narrator is afriaid of death and refuses to accept that her friend will die. Even when her friend does die, the narrator refuses to visit the grave or attend the funeral. The narrator fears death and dying alone.

On the the morning she was moved to the cemetery, the one where Al Jolson is buried, I enrolled in a “Fear of Flying” class.
“What is your worst fear?” the instructor asked, and I answered,”That I will finish this course and still be afraid.”
In this passage, the narrator enrolls in a “Fear of Flying” class. She wants to face her fear of death in these lessons.

In the story “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried,” Amy Hempel suggests that losing a close friend can feel like losing a limb. At the start of the story, the reader is not given any context, setting, or background for the characters (in medias res). The narrator tells the story as it happens, and as they are thinking, so that the reader can grasp pieces of the plot at a time. This choppy narration hints at the loss and emotion the narrator feels about losing her friend, relating it to being scared to death. Through this writing style the reader can comprehend the level of grief the narrator feels.

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