Thursday, October 16, 2008

Short Story Parabolic Mirrors

Two portrayals of men whose lives have been devastated by tragedy- one whose son has fallen in war, one who relives losing his innocence, are found within The Fly and Blow-up. Katherine Mansfield’s The Fly narrows the reader’s field of vision to the observation of small details. The boss in the story is still distraught, regardless of the six years passed since his son’s death. It’s the petty action, the torturing of the fly, that shows what turmoil the boss still experiences.
He plunged his pen back into the ink, leaned his thick wrist on the blotting paper, and as the fly tried its wings, down came a great heavy blot.
The scale of this torture, a fly, a struggle in a drop of ink, are symbolic of the magnitude of the bosses defeat. He is rendered small, so much so that even his well of anger has been relinquished to an inkpot. This portrayal of a deep wound through a tiny ubiquitous object is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf’s treatment of blades of grass on the lawn at ‘Oxbridge’ in her essay A Room of One’s Own. Both authors are able to transform innate objects into receptacles of profound emotion, creating literary worry dolls.
Woolf uses internal dialogue to draw a shockingly honest picture of a broken psyche in much the same way that Julio Cortazar does in Blow-up. The parabolic mirror image of the character’s own view of himself is confused, broken by time, doubles back on itself, even to the extent that on seven occasions he refers to himself in the third person. Unlike in Mansfield the reader steps inside the picture with Blow-Up, rather than watching through a window.
… If I am I or what actually occurred or what I’m seeing (clouds, and once in a while a pigeon) or if, simply, I’m telling a truth which is only my truth…
The characters thoughts become the readers, as that is all she is given. Yet the view is still constrained, in this case by the characters own emotional limitations.
The girls were in Belgium last week having a look at poor Reggie’s grave, and they happened to come across your boys.
The readers view of the boss in Mansfield’s work is framed in finite space, the emotional trigger of one twenty-two word sentence in one tiny moment of time brings forth six years worth of the bosses misery.
Much like Hobbes’ atomist theory, all events can be broken into tiny particles that make up our experiences as humans. Both authors revealed to us that life is lived in what is small; a blade of grass, a single snapshot, a drop of ink, or a sentence uttered by a close friend. Regardless of the scope of the view, life is in the details. -MM

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